Vitamin C and cardiovascular disease: a systematic review


Ness AR




J Cardiovasc Risk


BACKGROUND: Laboratory studies suggest that antioxidants, such as Vitamin C, are important inhibitors of atherosclerotic lesions. Most epidemiological reviews have considered all antioxidants together. This review seeks to clarify the current state of knowledge specifically concerned with vitamin C. METHODS: All ecological studies, case-control studies, prospective studies and trials in humans that examined the association between vitamin C intake or blood levels of vitamin C and cardiovascular disease were included. Relevant references were located by MEDLINE search for articles published from 1966 to 1996, by an EMBASE search for articles published from 1980 to 1996, by searching personal bibliographies, books and reviews and from citations in located articles. RESULTS: For coronary heart disease four of seven ecological studies, one of four case-control studies and three of 12 cohort studies found a significant protective association with vitamin C intake or status. For strokes two of two ecological studies, none of one case-control study and two of seven cohort studies found a significant protective association. For total circulatory disease, two of three cohort studies reported a significant protective association. CONCLUSIONS: The evidence, albeit limited, is consistent with vitamin C having protective effect against stroke whereas the evidence that vitamin C is protective against coronary heart disease is less consistent. The lack of an association for coronary heart disease could be explained in terms of there being a true lack of effect, dietary measurement error, a threshold effect, and effect of seasonal variations in intake, an interaction with other dietary constituents or a relatively short duration of follow-up.