C and Cardiovascular Disease

Previously by Margaret Durst: Immune Builders

Vitamin C deficiency is thought to be part of the underlying cause of cardiovascular disease. Humans do not have the ability to make vitamin C; they must get it though their diet. Vitamin C is essential to the formation of collagen which is the glue for specialized tissues that hold us together, such as skin, cartilage, tendon, and bone. Vitamin C is also responsible for maintaining strength in the blood vessels. Scurvy is the condition that results when we are deficient in vitamin C. Symptoms of scurvy include poor wound healing, bleeding gums, edema, extreme weakness and “pinpoint” hemorrhages under the skin.

One of the interesting theories on atherosclerosis is that we may have developed the ability to deposit lipoproteins (plaque) along our artery walls to increase our chances of surviving during vitamin C deficient times. In other words, arterial plaque may be what kept us from bleeding to death during long winters when we had less access to foods rich in vitamin C.

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Fibrinogen and apoprotein are the two groups of proteins that normally accumulate at injury sites in the arteries to carry out repairs to damaged artery walls. The apoproteins have a natural affinity with fat and become lipoprotein A which can repair damaged or leaky blood vessels. However, this also increases the risk of heart disease by building up deposits on the artery wall. In fact, of all the factors that can be measured, a person’s level of lipoprotein A is the best indicator of risk of arterial plaque.

Deficiency of vitamin C raises blood levels of LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and lipoprotein A while lowering the beneficial HDL cholesterol. Conversely, increasing vitamin C intake lowers LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and lipoprotein A levels while increasing the good HDL cholesterol. Vitamin C also inhibits excessive cholesterol production and helps convert cholesterol to bile.

One study showed that a daily 500 mg of vitamin C led to a reduction in atherosclerotic deposits within two to six months. Another interesting fact supporting this theory is that heart attacks and strokes are more common in the winter than in the spring and summer when vitamin C rich fruits are available.