: Vitamin C Lowers Elevated Marker of Inflammation
Good old vitamin C - plenty of which is found in oranges - made
its name in the 1980s largely due to the efforts of two-time Nobel
Prize winner, the late Linus Pauling. Part of that early excitement died with him. However, it may soon
be back in the news. Maybe in an even bigger way.
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient. It is required for a range of
essential metabolic reactions in all animals and plants. It is produced internally by almost all organisms, humans being
the most well-known among them. Its deficiency causes the disease
A study carried out by University of California, Berkeley,
researchers found that supplementing with vitamin C reduces C-
reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation linked with an
increased risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
The trial leader, Berkeley professor Emeritus of Epidemiology and
Public Health Nutrition, Gladys Block, and team randomly allowed 396
nonsmokers to receive 1,000 milligrammes of vitamin C, 800
international units vitamin E, or a placebo for two months. They
were measuring and tracking serum C-reactive protein levels during
the treatment period.
No effects for vitamin E were observed. There was also no effect
for vitamin C among those with desirable CRP levels. However, for
participants with elevated C-reactive protein (defined as 1mg per
litre or higher), vitamin C lowered CRP by 0.25mg per litre compared
to the placebo. This reduction is significant.
"This is important; treatment with vitamin C is
ineffective in persons whose levels of CRP are less than 1mg per
litre, but very effective for those with higher levels," stated Dr
Block. "Grouping people with elevated CRP levels with those who have
lower levels can mask the effects of vitamin C.
"Common sense suggests, and our study confirms, that biomarkers
are only likely to be reduced if they are not already low."
She pointed out that a trial reported earlier this week in the
Journal of the American Medical Association, which found no
association between supplementation with vitamins C and E and the
risk of stroke or heart attack, failed to screen participants for
CRP elevation. This is an important determinant of those who might benefit from
In another recently reported study (the Jupiter trial), Harvard
Medical School researchers showed that statin drugs reduced
cardiovascular disease and death in individuals with normal lipids
and elevated CRP.
The trial found a 37 per cent reduction in CRP associated with
statins compared to treatment with a placebo. "One of the strengths of the Jupiter trial is that only
peoplewith CRP levels greater than 2mg per litre were enrolled," Dr
"Researchers found very important effects of lowering CRP in
people who had high levels to begin with."
"Major studies have found that the level of CRP in the body
predicts future risk of cardiovascular disease, including myocardial
infarction, stroke and peripheral artery disease, as well as
diabetes," Dr Block stated. "Some believe CRP to be as important a predictor of future heart
problems as high levels of LDL and low levels of HDL cholesterol."
Clearly, there is need for more study in this area. Some
researchers have recently suggested that people with elevated CRP
should be put on statins as a preventive measure.
For people who have elevated CRP but not elevated LDL
cholesterol, the data from University of California, Berkley
suggests that vitamin C should be investigated as an alternative to
statins, or as something to be used to delay the time when statin
use becomes necessary.
It is back to good old vitamin C. Nature wins again!
* Datuk Dr Rajen M. is a pharmacist with a doctorate in holistic
medicine. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Date: Nov 24, 2008