Vitamin C and Circulation in Smokers.




American Heart Journal

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Vitamin C corrects the world's oldest known nutritional deficiency, the disease scurvy. It was first isolated by Albert Szent Gyorgyi in 1928. Today, scientists know that humans are one of the few species that cannot manufacture vitamin C in the body. Humans must depend on diet or nutritional supplements as the source of this vitamin. The best sources of vitamin C are fresh fruits, especially citrus fruits, strawberries, cantaloupe and currants. Fresh vegetables, especially Brussels sprouts, collard greens, lettuce, cabbage, peas, and asparagus are also good sources.

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that is stored in many tissues throughout the body, but the adrenal glands contain the highest concentration. Vitamin C has been heavily researched for its role in a long list of functions in the body. First, it is involved with the production of collagen and elastin, which are necessary for the health of skin, tendons, joints, bones, teeth and blood vessels. Second, vitamin C functions as an antioxidant, thus helping to limit damage to the body from free radicals. It also enhances the antioxidant activity of vitamin E.

A small study published in the American Heart Journal investigated the role of vitamin C in the circulation of smokers. Because of the oxidative stress produced by smoking, coronary endothelial function is impaired resulting in poor circulation. This study involved 13 smokers and 12 non-smokers as the control group. Coronary blood flows were measured at rest and when an intravenous chemical increased the blood flow. The participants ingested 2 grams of vitamin C and the blood flow was measured at baseline and 2 and 4 hours after ingestion. The results showed that blood flow was significantly better in the non-smokers than the smokers. After the vitamin C, the blood flow increased in the smokers, but not in the non-smokers. The authors concluded that oral vitamin C can help coronary microcirculation in smokers as well as help restore the oxidative damage that occurs in smokers.1


1. Teramoto K, et al. Acute effect of oral vitamin C on coronary circulation in young healthy smokers. Am Heart J. Aug 2004;148(2):300.