Do You Know Your CRP Level?
It Could Save Your Life
In the last few years, researchers have become increasingly interested in a particular protein in our blood known as C reactive protein (CRP). This protein is an excellent marker for inflammation in the body.
During periods of inflammation, the CRP level will invariably rise in the bloodstream. Cardiologists have become increasingly interested in this protein as another potential marker and risk factor for the development of heart disease. There has been more and more data coming out that heart disease, in part, may be related to inflammation within the blood vessel walls supplying the heart. There have been a number of recent studies indicating that there seems to be a correlation between the CRP level and the potential risk of heart disease.
So strong is this association that recently, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Heart Association have recommended that patients with intermediate risk of coronary heart disease might benefit from a measurement of CRP. There was even a recent study published in the journal of Coronary Artery Disease in September 2004 indicating that in a case-controlled study of over 900 participants, those individuals in the highest CRP quintile (group) were 2.35 times (235%) more likely to have hypertension than those in the lowest quintile.
High-sensitivity C-reactive protein (known as "hs -CRP") may even signal heart disease risk in those with no symptoms. This was illustrated by the Mayo Clinic-conducted Stroke Prevention: Assessment of Risk in a Community study (SPARC) study, which was recently published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The SPARC study involved participants undergoing transesophageal echocardiography (TEE), which involves transmitting sound waves to display heart-related images, and then recording images of the lining of the aorta (the heart's main pathway for moving blood away). In addition all participants in the study had measurement of their serum hs-CRP levels taken. Higher hs -CRP levels were expected for those with chest pain or other heart-related symptoms. However, the researchers found that even among those who felt healthy, high CRP levels indicated a risk for developing arterial plaque, which may increase the risk of a heart attack and other cardiovascular events.
Knowing that you have an elevated CRP level, potentially putting you at increased risk of cardiovascular conditions, might be very frustrating and upsetting. However, there is something that can be done from a natural standpoint to lower the CRP level. In the current edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers explored the effects of a high fat, high cholesterol diet on a series of twenty-one baboons. CRP levels were measured. The animals were then given supplemental vitamin E, anywhere from 250 to 1,000 IU per kg in their diet. Over the next two weeks, the CRP levels dropped from 0.91 down to 0.43 mg per dl.
When the baboons were given additional supplementation with coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) at 2 g per kg, this further reduced the serum CRP level to approximately 30% of baseline. This data was statistically significant, indicating that it was unlikely that these results occurred by chance.
In another study published last year in the American Journal of Medicine, it was noted that individuals given a daily multi-vitamin for six months lowered their CRP levels to a statistical degree compared to other individuals given a placebo.
There was a prior study published in the Journal of Nutrition last year indicating that vitamins C and E in a series of patients did not affect CRP levels. However, I would point out that the participants were only given approximately 270 IU of vitamin E a day. Another study published a few years ago out of the University of Texas, Southwestern Medical Center indicated that supplementation with 1,200 IU a day of vitamin E significantly lowered levels of CRP.
In a study published in the Nov 15, 2001 edition of the American Journal of Cardiology, Danish researchers reported a direct correlation between CRP levels and the severity of atherosclerosis. Furthermore, they suggested that CRP levels can be reduced by frequent consumption of fish, or fish oils containing omega-3 fatty acids. Their study involved 269 patients referred for angiography (a technique employing X-rays to view blood vessels with the help of an injected substance) because of suspected coronary artery disease. Besides undergoing angiography, the patients had their CRP levels measured and were also tested for the levels of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in their granulocytes (a type of white blood cell). They also filled out a questionnaire about their fish consumption. The researchers found that patients with one or more coronary arteries blocked by 50% or more had significantly higher CRP levels in their blood than patients with no significant blockages. They also observed an inverse (reversed) correlation between CRP levels and the level of DHA in granulocytes. The level of DHA in granulocytes, in turn, was closely related to fish consumption. The researchers concluded that DHA has an anti-inflammatory effect, which results in lower CRP levels, and suggest that fish consumption may decrease the risk of coronary artery disease.
The medical literature strongly suggests a strong correlation between elevations in CRP and inflammation in the body. It stands to reason that consuming powerful antioxidants, including standardized grape seed, green tea and turmeric, may likewise lower CRP levels, although I have not seen any studies to confirm this.
In order for these newsletters to be effective, I feel that it is extremely important to offer the reader information that they can act upon.
It is my thought that merely giving them the data without any recommendations is not providing an adequate service. I remain extremely proud of the products produced by Nutraceutical Sciences Institute (NSI) and recommend them quite frequently to my patients in my office practice. The Synergy multi-vitamin line of products from NSI typically provides several hundred units of vitamin E in the best form, natural mixed tocopherols, plus CoQ10. Natural vitamin E is up to 3X more effective when compared to the synthetic type. We also offer additional supplemental turmeric, grape seed, green tea, fish oil, vitamin E and CoQ10 as stand-alone products in softgels and/or capsules. The quality is of the absolute best pharmaceutical-grade, and the value is superior -- in many examples saving you 50% or more when compared to other brands.
The next time you visit your doctor, you may want to discuss the issue of C reactive protein and have your level checked. Quite clearly, if you have a history of heart disease or risk factors for cardiovascular disease, I would recommend that you have your level checked sooner, rather than later.
By Allen S. Josephs, M.D.
Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Neurology
Italics and paragraph spacing were added. Printed with permission and my thanks. His suggested products are offered off this site, and that is where I get 9/10 of my nutrients due to true published wholesale cost and quality. See Wholesale Vitamins and Nutrients.