Protective Effects of Vitamin C in CHF





Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Vitamin C Cardiovascular Disease
Professional Data: Vitamin C Cardiovascular Disease


Nearly 5 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with congestive heart failure, or CHF.1 This condition occurs when the chambers that carry blood to and from the heart become weakened. These chambers are unable to keep up with the blood flow the body requires to get oxygen and nutrients. When the body is depleted of these necessities, side effects such as fatigue and breathing difficulties can occur. Possible underlying conditions that could trigger CHF are high blood pressure, diabetes, past heart attacks, and coronary heart disease, among others. Some individuals may have CHF without awareness of any other present condition.

Over the last several years, scientists have begun researching a cytokine, (a small protein involved in cellular communication and behavior), called tumor necrosis factor (TNF). This immuno-regulatory substance, found in our cells, has been associated with causing inflammation in the body. Congestive heart failure patients have elevated levels of this cytokine.2 This substance causes apoptosis, or cellular destruction, to the endothelial cells in the vascular walls. A group of researchers have recently conducted a study on the possible effects of vitamin C in suppressing cell apoptosis in CHF. This study occurred at the University of Frankfurt in Germany. The objective was to investigate the antioxidative properties of vitamin C against the effects of TNF. In a randomized, double blind study, CHF patients were administered vitamin C or placebo.

The conclusion of the study revealed that patients that received the vitamin C had reduced plasma levels of apoptotic microparticles compared to the placebo group. However, vitamin C did not affect serum levels of TNF. The authors concluded that administration of vitamin C to patients with congestive heart failure suppressed the endothelial cell apoptosis. This may contribute to a possible benefit of vitamin C in CHF.3


1. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health. Congestive Heart Failure in the United States: A New Epidemic. 1996.
2. Petretta M, et al. Circulating levels of cytokines and their site of production in patients with mild to severe chronic heart failure. American Heart Journal. Dec 2000;6(140).
3. Rössig L. Vitamin C Inhibits Endothelial Cell Apoptosis in Congestive Heart Failure. Circulation. Nov 2001;104:2182.