Vitamin C is in the news again, that new research shows it lowers blood pressure with doses of a modest 500 mg a day. Plenty of prior research shows that Vitamin C also lowers ldl cholesterol and blood pressure AND raises hdl cholesterol.
The advantages to taking Vitamin C instead of statins are clear:
- Vitamin C helps the body produce the valuable CoQ10 instead of deplete it (CoQ10 is needed for energy generation in cells and is an antioxidant)
- Vitamin C is very inexpensive, even high quality versions, relative to any medication
- Vitamin C has no side effects, particularly in the doses suggested
- Vitamin C also has other health promoting properties, including being an antioxidant helping cool inflammation
- Vitamin C is correlated with improved immunity, improved eye and skin health, improved cardiovascular health, and improved longevity.
Vitamin C isn’t just to prevent scurvy, which is a sign of severe deficiency. Scurvy is related to the inability of the body to synthesize good collagen for skin integrity. But increased vitamin C also helps produce high quality collagen, which helps delay onset of wrinkles. Linus Pauling, the Nobel Prize winning chemist claimed that inadequate Vitamin C leads to early onset atherosclerosis. Doctors back before Vitamin C and other vitamin therapies were well accepted had scoffed at Professor Paulings claims, but he outlived them by far, still publishing papers at the age of 92, and lived to 93.
Vitamin C is also involved in the metabolic pathways for carnitine, which helps supply muscles with energy. It’s essential in the production of collagen for maintenance of scar tissue, blood vessels and cartilage. It is essential in the production of neurotransmitters, specifically in the synthesis of norepinephrine. And it helps modulate tyrosine, which is an important amino acid for thyroid hormones.
While more recent research shows that blood pressure is slighly lowered with an intake of 500 mg Vitamin C a day, the results on cholesterol are varied. In a recent article in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition
Vitamin C functions as a regulator of the catabolism of cholesterol to bile acids in the guinea pig and has been demonstrated to be an important factor in lipid regulation of the guinea pig, rabbit and rat. Correlation studies in humans have shown an inverse relationship between vitamin C intake and cardiovascular disease mortality.
Which clearly shows cause and effect. Other research shows a neutral result, meaning reduction in cholesterol levels were not found, but neither were elevated cholesterol levels. If one is already taking statins, further improvement is not expected. Tests where positive results were found is where cholesterol levels were elevated and subjects were not taking statins, the most promising results were found. For example, in the American Journal of Epidemiology
When compared with men with high plasma ascorbic acid levels, men with low levels to marginally low levels had an increased prevalence of coronary artery calcium
This means, higher levels of vitamin C (ascorbic acid), plaque deposition in the arteries is less likely because a lower level of coronary artery calcium. That is, your arteries will stay clear, keeping blood vessels more supple and blood pressure lower.
So, should you down lots of vitamin C? Vitamin C supplementation is fine: positive results are found with only 500 mg daily. But eating 6 or more servings (about a half a cup) per day with your modest supplement is even better. Why? There are synergistic compounds such as carotenoids, bioflavanoids, and other phytonutrients that promote health. This also may be the cause for the sporadic results in nutritional studies. The problems with these studies are numerous because most of it is done by either survey, blood test, and/or even by going over old studies and extracting new values out of them.
It is clear that those that take vitamin C and eat produce, also tend to take better care of themselves, exercising, drinking enough water, and resting, along with not smoking or drinking excessively. Ideally, this is the lifestyle that will promote good health, keep your brain and memory intact longer, and improve longevity. Without that, at least Vitamin C is an outstanding antioxidant and helps promote CoQ10 production, needed for energy generation in cells. Heart patients tend to have low CoQ10 levels.
In summary, vitamin C should be part of the first line of defense for health. It is often thought of only as an immune booster but it is clear that it does much more. For heart patients, Vitamin C lowers ldl cholesterol and blood pressure while raising hdl cholesterol. In addition, it helps boost CoQ10 levels, helping heart patients further.