New Research: Vitamin C And Cardiovascular Health

Researchers in the UK, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Australia teamed up to examine the effects of vitamin C in relation to blood vessel health.

The results of the original investigation, titled Is vitamin C a booster of the effects of dietary nitrate on endothelial function? Physiological rationale and implications for research, were published in the academic journal Nutrition in February 2023.

Epithelial cells & nitrates

Epithelial cells are among the body’s most common. They cover both the inside and outside surfaces of your body, including skin, blood vessels, major organs, and even the urinary tract. Millions of tiny epithelial cells are packed together to create the smooth surfaces we usually associate with those tissues.

They protect the inner functions of the body by acting as a barrier to microbes and dirt. Yet, they’re also so flexible that you can stretch them in many different ways as you move.

The endothelial cells are the specific type that line the blood vessels. The endothelium is a thin membrane made up of these cells which lines both the blood vessels and the heart itself.

That’s not all of it, but the takeaway is: they’re crucial, and their ongoing health is absolutely crucial to your overall health. Atherosclerosis and many cardiovascular diseases begin with a dysfunction of the endothelium.

Nitrates are naturally occurring chemicals found in air, water, and soil. They are also used as food additives. They are also found, in varying amounts, in many vegetables and meats.

Nitrates are involved in key functions in the body, including reducing blood pressure, preventing platelet clumping, and protecting blood vessels. Dietary nitrate is often prescribed for:

  • Improving high blood pressure related to aging;
  • Suppressing inflammation;
  • Preventing ischemic heart disease by increasing blood flow.

It may also reduce the plaque that leads to atherosclerosis.

Vitamin C adds to the effect

In the new study, the researchers note that both vitamin C and dietary nitrate are associated with the production of nitric oxide in the body, a compound that is crucial to the process of what is called vasodilation. Vasodilation is the way the tiny inner muscles of the blood vessels contract and relax to restrict and increase blood flow respectively.

However, very little study has been done on the effects of using both together. That’s the gap this study aimed to fill. After analyzing the results of 90 studies, they came up with a series of hypotheses deserving further investigation.

They include:

  • Various ways that vitamin C may enhance the action of nitrates, as well as the conversion of other nitrates to nitric oxide;
  • This could occur through pathways that decrease oxidative stress, even as they increase the bioavailability of nitric oxide from the nitrates consumed as food;
  • It could enhance the function of the endothelium, and have protective properties.

It’s a promising direction for further study. In the meantime, there’s no doubt that consuming vitamin-C rich citrus fruits can help you maintain good health.

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