The link between Vitamin C and heart disease came to the public's attention in the 1990s when Linus Pauling put forth a controversial theory that treating patients with Vitamin C and lysine would minimize or even cure narrowed arteries that cause heart attacks.
Pauling, an American scientist who won the Nobel Prize twice, once for chemistry and once for peace, believed heart disease and other illnesses could be tied to a chronic Vitamin C deficiency, Medical News Today reported
. He recommended high Vitamin C doses to dissolve plaque buildup in the arteries.
But even backed by Nobel Prizes, medical science labeled him a quack for his theories on Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, and it's only in recent years that the tie between heart disease and Vitamin C has been explored. Although conclusive research is not available, and WebMD cautioned that Vitamin C
should not be considered a treatment to prevent or cure heart disease, some promising studies have shown benefits of taking the vitamin.
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Here are six ways Vitamin C has been shown to help the heart and possibly help to prevent heart attacks:
While calling the data on ascorbic acid and heart disease "mixed," WebMD also cited some studies that showed Vitamin C, combined with Vitamin E, "might slow the progression of atherosclerosis." The studies showed a benefit in smoking and non-smoking men, but little benefit for post-menopausal women.
A study published in the journal Clinical Investigation and Reports found that Vitamin C
improved what researchers called "flow dependent dilation" in patients with chronic heart failure. This means ascorbic acid helped arteries dilate under stress to improve flow and hence oxygen carrying ability.
A recent Colorado study found that taking 500mg of Vitamin C daily had the same effect in obese, sedentary people as exercise in decreasing the amount of a protein that causes blood vessels to narrow, Forbes magazine said
. The medical community has cautioned that doesn't mean you stop exercising and replace activity with Vitamin C. "The only way to decrease the risks of being sedentary and obese is to eat healthier and to get moving," Forbes said.
Studies have found that low Vitamin C levels can cause increased blood pressure and atherosclerosis, which is the buildup of plaque in arteries, the University of Maryland Medical Center said
. Although that doesn't mean Vitamin C can cure those conditions, it does mean people should make an effort to get enough Vitamin C in their diets through fruits and vegetables.
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A European study published in July 2015 found that high blood concentrations of Vitamin C from eating fruits and vegetables was linked to a 15 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease, Science Daily reported
Study participants who took 500 mg of Vitamin C daily had lower concentrations of C-reactive protein, or CRP, in their blood, but this was only for those patients who began the test with elevated CRP levels. In the last decade, CRP has been accepted as a "powerful predictor" of heart disease and diabetes, a University of California, Berkley, press release said
. But the release noted that this research was announced just days after an eight-year study found no evidence that vitamins C and E cut heart attack or stroke risk.
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