Increased intake of vitamin C-rich foods may reduce the risk of hardening of the arteries, and ultimately protect against heart disease in elderly men, says a new study from Norway

February 23, 2009

Writing in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, researchers from Ulleval University Hospital in Norway report that increased intakes of Vitamin C and fruit and berries were associated with less thickening of the carotid artery.  

“Increased intake of vitamin C and fruit and berries seemed to contribute to the lesser progression of the carotid intima media thickness (IMT) in elderly men who were given dietary advice,” wrote lead author Ingrid Ellingsen. “Focusing on the intake of vitamin C-rich plant foods may be an important therapeutic intervention in regard to their risk of cardiovascular disease.”  

The study appears to be in line with the cardiovascular benefits of vitamin C reported recently by scientists from the University of California, Berkeley, who found that a one mg per decilitre increase in blood vitamin C levels was linked to a 4.1 and 4.0 mmHg improvement in systolic and diastolic blood pressures. The study, said to be the first to report a relationship between blood vitamin C levels and blood pressure in young women with normal blood pressure, was published in the open-access Nutrition Journal.  

The Norwegian study looked at participants of the Diet and Omega-3 fatty acid Intervention Trial on atherosclerosis (DOIT). The trial involved 563 men with an average age of 70 randomly assigned to a dietary intervention, supplements of omega-3, both or neither for three years. Ellingsen and her co-workers used ultrasound techniques to measure IMT. Dietary intakes were assessed using a food frequency questionnaire. The data for all the participants was pooled.  

Participants of the dietary intervention group were found to have less progression in the carotid IMT than controls, and the researchers report that the daily vitamin C intake of this group was increased as part of the dietary intervention, as was their intake of fruit, berries and vegetables. After adjusting the results for dietary cholesterol, cheese, saturated fat, protective effects of vitamin C, and fruit and berries were found for both the groups assigned to omega-3 supplements, and the whole population. “This study shows that dietary change may be feasible even in elderly men,” concluded the researchers. The study is published in the January 2009 issue of the journal Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases