By Michael A. Smith, MDVitamin C, one of life’s essential nutrients, has been found to be critically important for heart failure patients. At the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2011, researchers reported on a study that linked low levels of vitamin C with higher levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of heart disease risk.
Dr. Eun Kyeung Song, the lead investigator, said the heart failure patients with low vitamin C intake were 2.4 times more likely to have elevated high CRP, placing them at greater risk for additional cardiac events … and even death.
The researchers working with Dr. Song stated that patients whose CRP was greater than 3 milligrams per liter were nearly twice as likely to die from heart disease within one year of follow-up.1
So an obvious solution is to give vitamin C to heart failure patients. But two questions arise:
- Will any vitamin C supplement work?
- What is the right daily dose?
Supercharge Your Vitamin C SupplementVitamin C is water-soluble and is eliminated from the body quickly. For someone who is not sick or too deficient in the vitamin, half of the dose you’ve taken is gone within a couple hours. Now that’s fast. So, unless you’re willing to take multiple doses throughout the day, getting the full benefit from vitamin C can be difficult.
Fortunately, a flavonoid antioxidant known as dihydroquercetin functions as a vitamin C “supercharger.” Studies demonstrate that dihydroquercetin acts to inhibit the oxidation of vitamin C, thereby helping to maintain its concentration and recycle vitamin C throughout the body.2
So what about dose? If you go by the RDI (recommended daily intake), you’ll get between 90 and 100 mg a day … just enough to prevent scurvy. Such a dose probably won’t do all that much for your heart. In fact, people with weak hearts should consider taking the ODI or optimal daily dose, which is 2000 mg a day.
If you’re using a vitamin C-dihydroquercetin combination as we suggest, than take 1000 mg with breakfast and 1000 mg with dinner.
Reduce Risk with Foods that Lower InflammationSo if everything works out right, increasing your vitamin C should correlate to a drop in CRP … at least according to the study. However, the study only describes an association between low vitamin C and higher CRP. To lower CRP and reduce risk as much as possible, we suggest natural anti-inflammatories found in food as well.
The following foods have been shown to lower CRP and inflammation. Pick at least one of them and add it to your diet:
- Omega-3 Fats
Sources include oily fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, and anchovies. These specialized fats suppress multiple steps in the inflammatory process and limit the production of inflammatory cytokines, like CRP.3
- Olive Oil
Provides monounsaturated fats. Olive oil has been shown to decrease inflammation.4
- Whole Grains
Our favorite whole grains include quinoa, bulgur wheat, barley, oats, and rye. These are associated with lower CRP.5
- Seeds & Nuts
Add a handful or two of flax seeds, pumpkin, and/or walnuts to your diet. Flax seeds, for instance, contain alpha-linolenic acid, which has been shown to lower CRP.6
- Dark Fruits
Eating dark berries and tart cherries can lower CRP.7 For example, tart cherries contain antioxidants called anthocyanins. They provide protection against not only inflammation, but also pain. In animal studies, the effect was shown to be comparable to that of the anti-inflammatory drug indomethacin.8
For more details on how to strengthen your heart, check our recent blog post: Want a Long Healthy Life? Strengthen Your Heart Muscle.
- E.K Song at el. Vitamin C Deficiency, High-Sensitivity C - reactive protein and Cardiac Event-Free Survival in Patients with Heart Failure. Abstract 14667. Session Title: Issues in Heart Failure Management. American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2011.
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- J Nutr. 2010 Mar;140(3):587-94.
- Obes Surg. 2007 Mar;17(3):341-7.
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