March 8, 2011

051 Heart Health and Vitamin C [22 February 2010]

Dr. Gifford-Jones’ article on vitamin C and atherosclerosis (The Star-Phoenix February 13, 2010:E11) provided me with this week’s topic. He outlined evidence for the theory that vitamin C deficiency is a significant factor in the formation of hardening of the arteries which leads to heart attacks and strokes. It reminded me of a book (that I found on the bottom of my “to read” stack) in which this theory is developed in detail: “Why Animals Don’t Get Heart Attacks…But People Do!” by Matthias Rath M.D. 4th Edition, 2003.

The theory is that most animals do not experience atherosclerosis because they are capable of producing their own vitamin C, which humans and a handful of other species are not. Goats, for example, normally produce 13g of vitamin C daily, increasing to 100g under stress. The Vitamin C Monograph on Health Canada’s website lists the current RDA for adult males as 90mg (0.090g) of vitamin C, and also notes reassuringly that “Vitamin C deficiency is rare in North America”.

Vitamin C is essential in the production of strong healthy collagen in connective tissue which includes the walls of blood vessels. When the collagen is weak, lesions can form which the body repairs with plaque “band-aids” composed of calcium and cholesterol. When the plaque grows large enough to block blood flow to the heart or brain, we experience heart attacks and strokes. Similarly Rath argues that chronic nutrient deficiencies in artery wall cells reduce their elasticity causing high blood pressure.

Rath lists several studies – both animal and human – supporting the vitamin C deficiency atherosclerosis theory. An epidemiological study of 11,000 Americans over 10 years found that 300mg vitamin C daily, compared with the typical American diet of 50 mg, reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 50% in men and 40% in women, and increased life expectancy by 6 years. A Canadian study found atherosclerosis decreased in 30% of patients receiving 1.5g vitamin C for a year compared with 0% in the control group. The most interesting animal study came from the U of Carolina, Chapel Hill, working with mice in which the researchers were able to shut down the gene that synthesizes vitamin C, making them equivalent to humans. When these mice were fed a low vitamin C diet they soon developed weakened arterial walls, atherosclerosis, and, significantly, developed high cholesterol.

Gifford Jones expressed frustration at the response he received from the medical community. One cardiologist called his presentation “hog wash”. The Canadian Medical Association Journal refused to publish his article because “there was no scientific evidence to support” it. To see his explanation for this attitude, drop by and pick up a copy of his article, or read it here:

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

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