Vitamin C supplementation could provide exercise benefit

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The 14th International Conference on Endothelin: Physiology, Pathophysiology and Therapeutics held in Savannah, Georgia last month was the site of a presentation of the finding of a cardiovascular benefit for supplementing with vitamin C similar to that elicited by exercise in overweight and obese adults. The discovery could be of benefit for those who fail to engage in recommended physical activities on a regular basis, as is the case with over half of those who are overweight or obese.

Blood vessels in those who are overweight and obese exhibit increased activity of endothelin (ET)-1, a small vessel-constricting protein. Higher levels increase the susceptibility of the vessels to constriction, which affects blood flow and elevates the risk of vascular disease. Although exercise is known to reduce ET-1 activity, many individuals find it challenging to find time for it in their busy schedules, or have physical limitations that reduce their ability to participate.

Postdoctoral research fellow Caitlin Dow, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Colorado compared a regular walking program to the effects of 500 milligrams timed-release vitamin C per day in 35 sedentary, overweight or obese men and women for three months. They determined that supplementing with the vitamin decreased vasoconstriction due to endogenous ET-1 activity as much as walking does.

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Meta-analysis concludes that supplementing with vitamin C is associated with lower blood pressure
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In a review published on April 4, 2012 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers from Johns Hopkins in Baltimore report a reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressure associated with vitamin C supplementation.

For their analysis, Edgar R. Miller III and his colleagues selected 29 randomized clinical trials conducted between 1996 and 2011 that involved the oral administration of vitamin C for at least two weeks. Average pretreatment systolic blood pressure ranged from 117 to 175 mmHg, and diastolic from 73 to 97 mmHg. The dose of vitamin C used in the studies varied from 60 to 4000 milligrams per day, with a median dose of 500 milligrams daily.

In a pooled analysis of the trials' participants, vitamin C supplementation was associated with a 3.84 mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure and a 1.48 mmHg reduction in diastolic pressure. When trials involving patients with hypertension were analyzed, reductions averaged 4.85 mmHg and 1.67 mmHg. Mechanisms posited for vitamin C in reducing blood pressure include an increase in a cofactor for endothelial nitric oxide synthase (which increases the production of nitric oxide), and improvement of endothelial function of brachial and coronary arteries.

"This meta-analysis is the first quantitative review of randomized trials evaluating the effect of vitamin C supplementation on blood pressure," the authors announce. "In short-term trials, vitamin C supplementation reduced systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure. Long-term trials on the effects of vitamin C supplementation on blood pressure and clinical events are needed."

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Health Concern

Atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease

The cause and progression of vascular disease is intimately related to the health of the inner arterial wall. Blood vessels are composed of three layers. The outer layer is mostly connective tissue and provides structure to the layers beneath. The middle layer is smooth muscle; it contracts and dilates to control blood flow and maintain blood pressure. The inner lining consists of a thin layer of endothelial cells (the endothelium), which provides a smooth, protective surface. Endothelial cells prevent toxic, blood-borne substances from penetrating the smooth muscle of the blood vessel.

However, as we age, a barrage of atherogenic factors, if left unchecked, damages the delicate endothelial cells. This damage leads to endothelial dysfunction and ultimately allows lipids and toxins to penetrate the endothelial layer and enter the smooth muscle cells. This results in the initiation of an oxidative and inflammatory cascade that culminates in the development of plaque deposits.

Vitamin C inhibits damage caused by oxidative stress. In cigarette smokers, daily supplementation with 500 mg vitamin C significantly decreased the appearance of oxidative stress markers (Dietrich M et al 2002). Another study showed that supplementation with 500 mg vitamin C and 400 IU vitamin E daily reduced the development of accelerated coronary arteriosclerosis following cardiac transplantation (Fang JC et al 2002).

Vitamin C's benefits seem especially profound in people who suffer from both diabetes and coronary artery disease. One study demonstrated that, in this group, vitamin C significantly improved vasodilation (Antoniades C et al 2004).

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