Orthomolecular Medicine News Service
(OMNS, Nov 22, 2011) New research has reported that risk of heart failure decreases with increasing blood levels of vitamin C . Persons with the lowest plasma levels of ascorbate had the highest risk of heart failure, and persons with the highest levels of vitamin C had the lowest risk of heart failure.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) there are about 600,000 deaths from heart disease each year.  This is an enormous number. The definition of heart failure used by the study authors was on the basis of drugs prescribed, which would include all forms of heart disease that cause death. This agrees well with the CDC definition.
Specifically, the study found that each 20 micromole/liter (μmol/L) increase in plasma vitamin C was associated with a 9% reduction in death from heart failure. That works out to 54,000 fewer deaths from heart failure for each increase in 20 μmol/L plasma vitamin C. If everyone took high enough doses of vitamin C to reach the highest quartile (80 μmol/L), that would work out to approximately 216,000 fewer deaths per year. Just from taking vitamin C.
What is Heart Failure?
The heart muscle fails for many reasons. As we get older, it weakens and may not get enough nutrients to keep it healthy. A severe heart attack, that does not kill the patient but has caused significant damage to the heart muscle, may leave the heart in a very weakened state. Long standing or acute high blood pressure can put a massive strain on the heart and cause it to fail. An abnormal beating of the heart such as a very fast heart rate, an irregular beat or a lot of missed beats will result in a less effective pumping and eventual failure. Anemia will make the heart pump harder and faster in an attempt to deliver enough oxygen to the organs. The valves in the heart which direct blood flow are made up of an important fibrous strengthening tissue called collagen. Weakness or tearing of these valves can cause the blood to flow backwards, making the heart pump very inefficiently and eventually causing it to fail. When the heart muscle begins to fail, there is a buildup of carbon dioxide and waste products, resulting in weakening of the kidneys and liver. Eventually, fluid builds up in all the organs and the person presents with severe fatigue, shortness of breath (from fluid in the lungs) and swelling of the ankles.
Viruses and other microorganisms can attack the heart and weaken the heart muscle cells permanently by causing viral myocarditis. As the heart muscle cells get older they may require more energy to work and a greater level of protection from free radical damage. Nutrients such as magnesium, orotic acid, coenzyme Q10, acetyl L-Carnitine, and others may be required. Toxins, chemotherapeutic drugs, alcohol and deficiencies of some nutrients such as selenium may cause the heart to increase the size of its cells to compensate for the weakness. An enlargement of the heart muscle is called cardiomyopathy. These hearts are much more likely to fail.
Medical treatment of cardiac failure uses drugs that open the arteries, reduce blood pressure, and force the excessive fluid out of the body (diuretics). Drugs known as ACE Inhibitors improve quality of life and survival. Diet, fluid and salt restriction, and tolerable exercise are essential. For the most severe cases, a heart transplant may be required. However, many of these treatments have significant side effects. For example, treatment with diuretics to remove excess fluid will tend to lower the plasma vitamin C level and exacerbate the causes of cardiac failure.
How Much Vitamin C is Needed?
It takes less vitamin C than you may have thought. To achieve a plasma level of 80 μmol/L, and thereby reduce deaths by 216,000 per year, requires a daily dosage of about 500 mg of vitamin C. This is only one or two tablets per day, costing less than ten cents.
3,000 to 8,000 mg/day, in continued divided doses, can achieve a plasma level twice as high (160 μmol/L). This much C could save an additional 216,000 lives as it is an additional 80 μmol/L, assuming the relationship holds.
We can go still higher, and without intravenous administration. 1,000 mg of oral vitamin C per hour for 12 hours (12,000 mg/day) will result in a plasma level of about 240 μmol/L. A single 5,000 milligram dose might take you to a peak of 240 μmol/L, but only for about 2-4 hours after the intake. That is why the dosage needs to be spread out: better absorption, gradual excretion, higher plasma levels . . . and better results.
Optimizing vitamin C intake optimizes the health of a person taking it. This includes persons with potentially life-threatening disorders. It is a simple, cheap, effective, and safe therapy. Vitamin C is no longer a “controversial” therapy. It is an ignored therapy. It is time for the medical profession to fully awaken to what this recent study confirms: higher vitamin C intakes mean less heart failure. That means that higher vitamin C intakes mean fewer deaths. 200,000 per year fewer.
With just two vitamin C tablets per day.
- Pfister R, Sharp SJ, Luben R, Wareham NJ, Khaw KT. (2011) Plasma vitamin C predicts incident heart failure in men and women in European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition-Norfolk prospective study. Am Heart J. 162:246-253.