Does Vitamin C reduce strokes?

Nutrition / February 21, 2014

It took more than huge ships, the north star and a lot of courage for Europeans to reach the New World hundreds of years ago. It also required a lot of vitamin C – in the form of limes, that kept British soldiers alive on long journeys. Prior to discovering the C in citrus fruits, long exploratory voyages were aborted due to the decimating sailor scurvey.

Vitamin C doesn’t just right scurvy. Possibly due to its antioxidant capabilities it’s also believed to reduce the risk of colds, protect against immune system deficiencies, heart disease, prenatal health problems, eye disease, and potentially wrinkles according to the article “Vitamin C Dietary Supplements: An Objective Review of the Clinical Evidence, Part I,” in Seminars in Preventive and Alternative Medicine (vol. 3, iss. 1, pp. 25-35).

If that’s all vitamin C did, it would be more than enough. But on top of all that, a new study indicates that risk of stroke is lower among people with normal vitamin C blood levels.

Presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, the results turned up that, compared to those with low or deficient C levels, people with adequate vitamin C blood levels were less likely to suffer hemorrhagic stroke (hemorrhagic stroke is rarer than ischemic stroke, but is the more lethal of the two).

Dr. Stéphane Vannier, MD of Pontchaillou University Hospital in France said;

“Our results show that vitamin C deficiency should be considered a risk factor for this severe type of stroke, as were high blood pressure, drinking alcohol and being overweight in our study”. (1)

65 individuals who had suffered an intracerebral hemorrhagic stroke and 65 people who had never had a stroke were tested for testing vitamin C blood levels. 45% of the 130 people had normal vitamin C levels, and 45% had very low levels.

Those who had not had strokes were those with high levels of vitamin C.

Says Dr. Vannier: “More research is needed to explore specifically how vitamin C may help to reduce stroke risk. For example, the vitamin may regulate blood pressure.”

British Study Results

Another encouraging 2008 University of Cambridge study showed similar findings. The objective was to examine in a British population the relation between plasma vitamin C concentrations and risk of incident stroke.

20,649 men and women aged 40–79 completed a health questionnaire and attended a clinic during 1993–1997 and were followed up for stroke incidents through March 2005.

They found that 42 percent of people with high blood levels of vitamin C reduced their stroke risk, and this was regardless of age, sex, smoking, body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol, physical activity, alcohol consumption, prevalent diabetes, social class, and supplement use.

Further Proof

Even more research points towards vitamin C for reducing stroke risk: a study by The British Medical Journal found elderly people, age 65 and up, with low levels of the vitamin had a greater risk of stroke.

730 men and women completed a seven day dietary record in 1973-4 and reported no history or symptoms of stroke, arteriosclerosis, or coronary heart disease. The conclusion, upon following up 20 years later was – mortality from stroke was highest in people with the lowest vitamin C levels. And once again the relation between stroke and vitamin C intake was independent of social class and other dietary variables.

Recommended doses of vitamin C for adult men and women are 90 and 75 milligrams per day, respectively.

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