Life Extension Update
Reduced plasma vitamin C levels linked with greater BMI, body fat percentage, and waist circumference
A report published in the July, 2007 Journal of Nutrition described research conducted by Arizona State University which found that men and women whose vitamin C levels were low had a greater body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference than those with higher levels of the vitamin.
Carol S. Johnston, of Arizona State’s department of nutrition and her associates recruited 35 men and 83 women aged 20 to 60, of whom 24 percent were categorized as overweight and 54 percent as obese. Height, weight, body fat mass and waist circumference were measured, and dietary questionnaires were evaluated for the intake of macro and micronutrients. Blood plasma samples were analyzed for vitamin C and adiponectin, a protein secreted by adipose tissue that is lower in obese than nonobese individuals. Having a low level of adiponectin is a risk factor for coronary artery disease, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. The decline of adiponectin in obesity is caused by an alteration in gene expression induced by oxidative stress.
The research team discovered that higher levels of plasma vitamin C were associated with lower body mass index, body fat percentage, and waist circumference. Plasma vitamin C was related to the women’s adiponectin levels after controlling for vitamin C supplement use and age, however, this association disappeared after controlling for body mass.
In an additional experiment in which 20 obese men and women were placed on a vitamin C deficient lowfat diet and given 500 milligrams vitamin C or a placebo for 8 weeks, both groups lost weight and experienced an increase in adiponectin. However, the authors note that a larger trial found that three grams per day vitamin C was associated with greater weight loss than a placebo after six weeks, “hence, the outcome of our trial may have been limited by a small sample and the level of supplementation.”
It is not known whether obesity lowers vitamin concentrations due to increased oxidative stress, or whether the vitamins affect the accumulation of lipids in fat cells. Earlier research conducted by the team found a significant reduction in fat oxidation during exercise among individuals whose plasma vitamin C levels were inadequate. Vitamin C is needed for the body’s synthesis of carnitine, which, when impaired, is associated with a decrease in the oxidation of fat and an increase of lipid accumulation in muscle.
“Plasma vitamin C was inversely related to adiposity, particularly in women, and this association was independent of body mass and age,” the authors conclude. “Because one-third of Americans have marginal plasma vitamin C concentrations, this is an important observation, worthy of further investigation.”
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