Vitamin C deficiency is linked to a higher risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease (CVD), according to a recent review.
Published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, the article also suggests that vitamin C may help regulate blood pressure, reduce arterial stiffness and decrease the amount of cholesterol in the blood.
The link between vitamin C and cardiovascular disease
Vitamin C, a water-soluble micronutrient, is hailed for its potent antioxidant effects, which allow it to reduce inflammation. This natural immune response, once dysregulated, contributes to the development of chronic diseases, such as CVD, cancer and macular degeneration.
To understand the cardioprotective effects of vitamin C and the mechanisms underlying them, the researchers examined epidemiological and cohort studies on vitamin C and its role in CVD prevention.
Most of the observational cohort studies that looked at the relationship between cardiovascular risk and vitamin C intake reported varying results. Still, all the studies agreed that having low plasma concentrations of vitamin C elevates a person’s risk of CVD.
Some studies, on the other hand, focused on the effects of vitamin C on certain markers that help determine heart health. These include arterial stiffness, endothelial function (blood pressure regulation) and lipid profile.
According to a review of randomized controlled trials (RCTs), vitamin C supplementation helps reduce arterial stiffness, which is caused by atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a consequence of poor diet and physical inactivity, which triggers cholesterol buildup in the arteries. If left untreated, atherosclerosis can lead to intense chest pain, fatal blood clots and heart attack.
In a separate study, researchers analyzed the effects of vitamin C on blood lipid levels and found that vitamin C supplementation leads to a small reduction in total blood cholesterol levels. The study involved participants aged 52 years and below.
Vitamin C had also been found to increase the levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good” cholesterol, in diabetics. (Related: Very high levels of HDL (good cholesterol) can increase your risk of heart attack and death, concludes study.)
Meanwhile, other studies have found that vitamin C impacts both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in a positive way. Some studies even reported that vitamin C helps protect the endothelium — the tissue that lines the interior of blood vessels — from damage caused by oxidative stress.
All things considered, while there isn’t enough proof that vitamin C supplementation can help reduce CVD risk, what is clear is that increasing your vitamin C intake can improve markers of heart health, such as blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels.
8 Essential nutrients and antioxidants for heart health
Proper diet and nutrition is important for the maintenance of good heart health. Besides vitamin C, these essential nutrients and antioxidants can help you keep cardiovascular disease at bay.
- Fiber – Fiber inhibits the absorption of excess sugar and cholesterol in the gut. It also helps regulate blood pressure and reduces inflammation.
- Omega-3 fatty acids – Omega-3 fatty acids help relieve inflammation, prevent blood clots and reduce the amount of bad cholesterol in the blood.
- Monounsaturated fats – Monounsaturated fats also help reduce bad cholesterol.
- Folate – This essential B vitamin helps relieve arterial stiffness.
- Quercetin – Quercetin is a plant pigment known to have anti-inflammatory properties. It helps minimize cholesterol buildup and regulate blood pressure.
- Lycopene – Lycopene is an antioxidant that also happens to be a plant pigment. It is said to have protective effects against high blood pressure and cardiac inflammation.
- Magnesium – This mineral protects against high blood pressure and arrhythmia. High levels of magnesium are also linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Plant sterols and stanols – These plant compounds compete with cholesterol in the bloodstream. When ingested regularly, plant sterols and stanols help reduce bad cholesterol levels.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. To lower your risk of heart disease and other chronic conditions, eat a well-balanced diet, exercise regularly and make sure you get enough vitamin C every day.