Vitamin C Pills May Protect the Heart

Adding a vitamin C pill to your diet may be a good way of preventing heart disease, new research suggests. Vitamin C has certain properties that, in theory, could protect the heart from damage. Still, studies examining the effects of vitamin C have not consistently shown that it offers any benefits for the heart.

The new findings, which are published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, are based on a study of 85,118 women. At the beginning of the study, the women were surveyed about vitamin use and the foods they ate. They were then followed for 16 years to see if they developed heart problems.

During the study period, 1356 women developed heart disease, lead author Dr. Stavroula K. Osganian, from The Children’s Hospital in Boston, and colleagues note.

After taking into account the women’s age, whether they smoked, and other factors, the researchers found that the risk of heart disease dropped as vitamin C intake increased. Women who used vitamin C pills were 28% less likely to develop heart disease than women who didn’t.

However, there appeared to be little benefit from consuming foods rich in vitamin C without also using supplements, the researchers point out. When vitamin C supplements were not used, the amount of vitamin C consumed in foods had little effect on whether heart disease occurred.

The results suggest that use of vitamin C supplements may protect against heart disease, Osganian said in a statement. However, it may be that vitamin C pills are not actually beneficial, but rather people who choose to use such pills may simply represent a healthier segment of the population, he added.

Vitamin C pills need to be compared with inactive “placebo” pills to prove that vitamin C protects the heart, Dr. Balz Frei, from Oregon State University in Corvallis, notes in a related editorial. However, comparative studies like that are “prohibitively expensive and impractical” and “we may never know with certainty whether” vitamin C is useful in preventing heart disease.

SOURCE: Journal of the American College of Cardiology July 16, 2003 (distributed by Reuters Limited.)

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