Environmental toxicity, nutrition, and gene interactions in the development of atherosclerosis

Bernhard Hennig, Elizabeth Oesterling, Michal Toborek

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


There is substantial evidence from epidemiological studies that the pathology of cardiovascular diseases is linked in part to environmental pollution. Many environmental contaminants, and especially persistent organic pollutants, are risk factors for atherosclerosis because they may exacerbate an underlying disease by altering gene expression patterns. Many mechanisms and signaling pathways associated with the pathology of "modern" diseases are similarly modulated by poor dietary habits and environmental pollutants. Many genes induced in diseases associated with vascular dysfunction such as atherosclerosis are oxidative stress-sensitive, suggesting that an imbalance in cellular oxidative stress and antioxidant status is a critical underlying factor. One of the emerging issues in modern toxicological sciences is the modification of environmental toxicity by nutrients. Evidence is emerging which suggests that antioxidant nutrients and related bioactive compounds common in fruits and vegetables protect against environmental toxic insult to the vascular endothelium by down-regulation of signaling pathways involved in inflammatory responses associated with vascular diseases such as atherosclerosis. Thus, the concept that nutrition may modify or ameliorate the toxicity of environmental chemicals may have implications for understanding the complex interaction of environmental toxicity and disease development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)162-169
Number of pages8
JournalNutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Supported in part by grants from NIH/NIEHS (ES 07380) and the KY AES.


  • Atherosclerosis
  • Environmental toxicity
  • Gene-environment interaction
  • Nutrition
  • Persistent organic pollutants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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