Life Extension Update
Higher levels of vitamin C associated with reduced gastric cancer risk
A report published in the November, 2006 issue of the journal Carcinogenesis found that having higher serum levels of vitamin C was associated with a reduction in the risk of stomach cancer.
For the current study, researchers evaluated data from participants in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), which involved 23 centers in 10 European countries. Two hundred fifteen participants with gastric cancer (including 199 cases of gastric adenocarcinoma and 16 gastro-esophageal junction adenocarcinomas) were matched for age, gender, and other factors with 416 subjects who did not have cancer. Stored blood samples were analyzed for plasma vitamin C and antibodies to H.pylori, a bacterium whose presence has been implicated as a major gastric cancer risk factor.
Although no association was found between gastric cancer risk and intake of vitamin C from diet as reported by the participants, having higher plasma vitamin C levels was associated with a lower risk of the disease. Participants whose plasma vitamin C was in the top one-fourth of subjects had a 45 percent lower risk of gastric cancer than those whose levels were in the bottom fourth. The effect did not appear to be confined to a particular site or subtype. The benefit of higher vitamin C levels was greater among those who consumed high more red and processed meats, which increase the production of carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds.
The authors suggest that vitamin C's involvement in gastric cancer prevention may be due to its ability to affect cell growth, an antibacterial effect against H. pylori, or the vitamin’s well-known antioxidant property. Another possible mechanism is the ability of the vitamin to inhibit N-nitroso compound formation in the stomach. The lack of a protective association with dietary vitamin C could be due to the failure to take into account efficiency of uptake or bioavailability from food, which can affect plasma vitamin C levels.
“This nested case-control study is one of the largest prospective analyses of the association of plasma and dietary vitamin C levels with gastric cancer risk ever performed on Western European populations,” the authors announced. They suggest further studies to pinpoint the mechanism of vitamin C’s action against gastric cancer, and to determine possible interactions with H.pylori infection and smoking.
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Vitamin C intake has been found to speed resolution of upper respiratory tract infections in young people. Students who supplemented with hourly doses of 1000 mg of vitamin C for six hours and then three times daily thereafter exhibited an extraordinary 85% decrease in cold and flu symptoms compared to those who took pain relievers and decongestants for their infectious symptoms.
These benefits of improved healing are not limited to children and young adults. Elderly patients that were hospitalized with pneumonia or bronchitis showed substantial improvement following supplementation with vitamin C. In a study of women with nonspecific vaginal infection, locally administered vitamin C significantly improved symptoms and led to a reduction in bacterial count.
Vitamin C’s strength in countering bacterial infection was further demonstrated in a study of the dangerous breed of bacteria known as Helicobacter pylori, or H. pylori. Chronic infection of the stomach with H. pylori contributes to gastritis, stomach ulcers, and even deadly gastric cancer. In an epidemiological study, however, high intake of the powerful antioxidant vitamins C and E was associated with an astounding 90% reduction in the risk of developing stomach cancer. Lending additional support to these findings is another study showing that infection with H. pylori was a major risk factor for gastric cancer in patients with low vitamin C intake, but not in those with high vitamin C intake. By protecting against infection with H. pylori, vitamin C may thus help to prevent potentially fatal stomach cancer as well as other painful gastrointestinal complications.
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