The Bad News
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of mortality in the United Sates, responsible for 1 out of every 4 deaths in the US, and 1 in 3 world wide. Statistically, this means you probably know someone with CVD.
A danger of cardiovascular disease is the formation of vascular plaques that block arteries or break off, resulting in a stroke or heart attack.
The Good (and fascinating) News
Vitamin C plays an important role in preventing and healing cardiovascular disease.
The importance of Vitamin C
The question is: Why do we create plaques (which can lead to stroke or heart attack)?
The answer may be based in our inability to make Vitamin C. Unlike many other vertebrates, humans lack a critical gene to make Vitamin C. We share this inability with other primates, guinea pigs, and some bat, bird, and fish species.
Vitamin C is necessary to make collagen. Collagen is the main structural protein of connective tissue, "gluing" cells together. When collagen is strong, blood vessels can withstand damage from high blood pressure pressure, high cholesterol, and other tissue damage.
If collagen breaks down, connective tissues weaken. For example, Scurvy is a disease of poor collagen formation. Symptoms include weakness, bruising, bleeding from the skin, poor wound healing, and gum disease. It has been long known that Vitamin C cures Scurvy.
The link between collagen deficiency and plaque formation
When the collagen in the cardiovascular system weakens, the cells lining our blood vessels become inflammed and leaky. This inflammation leads to a cascade of events that starts with infiltration of cholesterol particles and white blood cells into the inflammed area and ends with immune-based fatty deposits forming plaque.
If the cascade of inflammation does not start, plaques are not formed.
Mice don't normally have cardiovascular disease. However, when mice genetically engineered without the Vitamin C gene were fed a Vitamin C deficient diet, they suffered similar scurvy and cardiovascular disease symptoms. Interestingly, the study also showed a small rise in cholesterol levels as Vitamin C levels decreased.
Sub Acute Scurvy leads to Cardiovascular Disease
A meta research analysis indicates that Vitamin C plays an important role in improving blood vessel health for patients with arteriosclerosis, diabetes, and heart failure.
What does this mean for you?
Eat Vitamin C daily. Since your body does not make Vitamin C, you must make sure to consume foods high in Vitamin C. By eating food-based Vitamin C, you get the added value of other heart healthy minerals and nutrients.
- Guava Kiwi Strawberry Oranges Papayas
- Broccoli Brussel Sprouts Cauliflower
- Green and Red Peppers
- Dark Leafy Greens
- Sweet and White Potatoes
- Tomatoes Winter squash
On days you don't eat food-based Vitamin C, consider a quality Vitamin C supplementation.