Connecting Vitamin C to Cardiovascular Health*
The scientific literature is clear: low levels of vitamin C can affect heart health.* Vitamin C supports heart health via several important mechanisms*:
- Antioxidant activity*
- Supports the health of the endothelium*
- Supports nitric oxide production of the endothelium*
- Supports healthy vascular smooth muscle cells*
- Supports healthy collagen production*
- Supports healthy lipid profiles*
In an interview featured in Element magazine, naturopathic cardiologist Daniel Chong, ND explains research on this connection:
“ The idea that vitamin C may be a key component in cardiovascular health was first conceptualized by Linus Pauling and Matthias Rath in 1990. Humans are one of the few animals on the planet that are unable to make vitamin C. They are also one of the few animals to develop cardiovascular disease. The only animals that have heart attacks like we do are guinea pigs, and they don’t make vitamin C either.”
Chong continues: “Vitamin C is required for collagen production. Pauling and Rath suggested that vitamin C insufficiency weakens blood vessel walls which triggers a biological repair process leading to plaque formation. They noticed that one of the most effective repair molecules to be mobilized during the process was lipoprotein(a) [Lp(a)]. They observed an inverse relationship between production of Lp(a) and vitamin C levels, and proposed that Lp(a) might act as a surrogate to protect the blood vessels when vitamin C levels decline. “
“The Dr. Rath Research Institute then developed a mouse model to imitate human metabolism. The mice were genetically altered to lose the ability to produce vitamin C and at the same time gain the ability to produce Lp(a). Mice were placed on a consistent diet with varied amounts of vitamin C (in the form of ascorbic acid).”
The study results showed that mice consuming less vitamin C produced more Lp(a). Also, the production of Lp(a) paralleled the development of atherogenic plaques. Even more exciting is that the researchers were able to achieve a level of vitamin C where the mice had no plaque formation at all. “
Vitamin C is a nutrient vital to human health. As integrative practitioners know, determining how much vitamin C to recommend can be highly individualized, based on a person’s age and health status. “I don’t feel many of the human studies of vitamin C supplementation have been useful in estimating the amount that’s sufficient to support cardiovascular health because they rarely use dosages of more than 1,000 mg per day,” explains Chong. He says this is inconsistent when compared to amounts produced endogenously in animals. “For example, goats produce a baseline amount of vitamin C of a few thousand milligrams per day when they’re healthy and not under stress,” says Chong. “Interestingly, when they are exposed to stress of any kind, goats increase production of vitamin C to over 10,000 mg per day.”
All experts agree that when taking vitamin C, regardless of the dose recommended, it’s always best to consume multiple doses throughout the day versus one large daily dose. This mimics nature, says Chong, who often recommends 2,000 mg per day. “Some patients may need more, depending on their diet and lifestyle,” says Chong.
Cook, S. (in press), Nutrients for Heart Health, An Interview with Daniel Chong ND. Emerson Ecologics Element, The Heart Health Issue. 2019;
Cha J, Niedzwiecki A, Rath M. American Journal of Cardiovascular Disease. 2015;5(1):53-62.
Moser MA, Chun OK. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2016;17(8):1328.
Osganian SK, Stampfer MJ, Rimm E, et al. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2003;42(2):246-252.