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Vitamin C, Hearth Health and Oxidation

Many people think that vitamin C is an unimportant nutrient, but nothing could be further from the truth. Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is an antioxidant. It was first made famous by the work of Linus Pauling, two-time Nobel Laureate who pioneered much of the research on the health benefits of vitamin C, particularly with Heart Disease.

There are two types of cholesterol, and even more sub-categories. HDL has been described by experts as good cholesterol and LDL has been described as bad cholesterol. Think of HDL like garbage trucks and your blood vessels as major roadways. One of the reasons that doctors and dietary experts promote higher levels of HDL is that HDL transports cholesterol particles back to your liver for disposal in a process called reverse cholesterol transport.

During inflammatory conditions involving oxidative stress, HDL becomes pro-atherogenic rather than athero-protective.  In addition to taking measures to raise your good cholesterol, what else can be done to help prevent or treat heart disease? Lets start by making sure the good and the bad cholesterol does not become oxidized. Consuming foods that have high levels of antioxidants would be a good start, but supplementation may be an option too.

Vitamin C is one of those antioxidants that have been shown to have protective properties.  This good HDL has been demonstrated to be susceptible to oxidation, which can prevent its cardio-protective properties. However, a study in the Journal of Nutrition has shown that Vitamin c inhibits oxidation in human HDL. MORE

A study from the University of California showed that participants that consumed about 500 milligrams of vitamin C supplements per day saw a 24 percent drop in plasma C-reactive protein (CRP) levels after two months. According to the lead author of the study, Dr. Gladys Block, “C-reactive protein is a marker of inflammation, and there is a growing body of evidence that chronic inflammation is linked to an increase risk of heart disease, diabetes and even Alzheimer’s disease.

In fact, according to the Journal of the the American Heart Association,  “Low levels of vitamin C in the blood are linked to a more severe form of peripheral artery disease, an often painful condition in which the leg blood vessels become blocked.”  Dr. Sydney Bush has documented reversal of atherosclerotic plaque with Vitamin C supplementation. Retinal photography was taken of his patients prior to vitamin C which revealed artery disease. After supplementation Bush saw that softer atheromas were reversed.

Here is findings from a reputable journal on the protective effects of Vitamin C and heart disease…

Epidemiology, 1998 May, 9:3, 316-21
“To examine the relation between serum ascorbic acid level and the prevalence of cardiovascular disease, we analyzed data from 6,624 U.S. men and women enrolled in the Second National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. We calculated odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals to estimate the relative prevalence of cardiovascular disease, defined as self-reported coronary heart disease or stroke, or a diagnosis of peripheral vascular disease based on physical examination. Serum ascorbic acid levels were independently associated with prevalence of coronary heart disease and stroke; a 0.5-mg per dl increase in serum ascorbic acid level was associated with an 11% reduction in coronary heart disease and stroke prevalence. We also analyzed the relation of ascorbic acid, grouped into low to marginal, normal, and saturation serum categories, to cardiovascular disease. Compared with participants with low to marginally low serum ascorbic acid levels, we found a 27% decreased prevalence of coronary heart disease (95% confidence interval = 10-41%) and a 26% decreased prevalence of stroke (95% confidence interval = 3-44%) among participants in the highest serum ascorbic acid category. Serum ascorbic acid levels were not consistently associated with prevalence of peripheral vascular disease. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that increased ascorbic acid intake may decrease the risk of coronary heart disease.”

If you are not supplementing with vitamin C, make sure you are eating vitamin C rich foods such as broccoli, tomatoes and tomato based products, strawberries, citrus fruits, bell peppers and dark leafy greens. In fact, a serving of Kale has 120 mg (200% DV) of vitamin C.