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Vitamin C Good for Blood Pressure & Nitric Oxide

Written by Sade Oguntola

Monday, 16 April 2012

 

Lowering BP or attenuating increases in BP is very important in prevention of complications such as heart attack, stroke and kidney failure.  

Increasing evidence suggests that an increased intake of fruits rich in vitamin C may reduce blood pressure, with benefits even greater for people with high blood pressure, reports Sade Oguntola.

Focusing on the intake of vitamin C-rich plant foods may reduce the risk of hardening of the arteries, and ultimately protect against heart disease and high blood pressure. Short-term supplementation with vitamin C does not only reduce blood pressure, its benefit is even greater for people with high blood pressure.

 

Experts’ analysis of the benefit of the intake of vitamin C found that it was associated with significant reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressure of 3.84 and 1.48 mm Hg.

More so, the amount of vitamin C required - 500 milligrams per day - is without any side effects, inexpensive as a dietary supplement, and in fact causes blood pressure reductions comparable to those of some prescription drugs used to reduce hypertension.

According to findings published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, even in people with high blood pressure (hypertension), supplements of vitamin C were associated with systolic and diastolic blood pressure reductions of 4.85 and 1.67 mm Hg.

 

Today, hypertension and its complications are one of the leading causes of death among adults especially in the middle age worldwide. About one billion people worldwide suffer from high blood pressure (hypertension), defined as having a systolic and diastolic blood pressure (BP) greater than 140 and 90 mmHg.

Hypertension is the most frequent reason for consultation to physicians and the most frequent reason for which medications are prescribed in many countries of the world, Nigeria inclusive, stated Professor Babatunde Salako, in his lecture on non-communicable diseases in Nigeria.

Overall, up to 40 per cent of adults may be hypertensive and it is often diagnosed for the first time in middle age, thus it is fondly referred to as the silent killer.

 

“Although hypertension has been generally described as a symptomless disease, in our study, headaches accounted for up to 35 per cent of the subjects’ presenting symptoms and blood pressures were higher among those who had headaches, suggesting that headaches may be considered a symptom in people with moderately severe hypertension,” stated Professor Salako.

Uncontrolled high blood pressure (hypertension) is a serious health concern that can cause heart disease and increase your risk of having a stroke. It is especially dangerous because hypertension often has no warning signs or symptoms.

In the new meta-analysis, which offers potential hope that vitamin C may reduce the risk of hypertension, the Johns Hopkins researchers pooled data from 29 clinical trials, with the median dose of vitamin C calculated to be 500 milligrams per day, and a median trial duration of eight weeks.

 

Results showed that vitamin C supplementation was associated with a significant reduction in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, with greater reductions observed in people with hypertension.

The researcher noted that although the analysis reported significant blood pressure-lowering effects with vitamin C supplementation, before vitamin C supplementation can be recommended for the prevention of hypertension or as adjuvant antihypertensive therapy, additional trials are needed, designed with large sample sizes, and with attention to quality of blood pressure assessment.

A previous study in the Nutrition Journal had suggested that vitamin C may be an important factor in blood pressure regulation even among health young adults. It found that high intakes of vitamin C may protect against blood pressure increases in young women.

 

Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, report that a one mg per decilitre increase in blood vitamin C levels was linked to a 4.1 and 4.0 mmHg in systolic and diastolic blood pressures.

They recruited 242 women aged between 18 and 21. Two-thirds of the women were African-American, while the other third was Caucasian. The blood levels of vitamin C of the women ranged from 0.22 to 3.13 mg/dL.

During follow-up over a 10-year period, the researchers noted that blood vitamin C levels were inversely associated with both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. The effects were still observed after the researchers accounted for the race, body mass index, and dietary intake of fat and sodium of the women.

 

Interestingly, intakes of vitamin C do not appear to have any effect in lowering the blood pressure of people whose levels are already normal.

How does vitamin lower blood pressure? Well, the mechanism is not fully understood. Researchers postulated that vitamin C works as an antioxidant in the human body. In doing that, it would help protect the body’s level of nitric oxide, which is important to blood vessel function.

Nitric oxide is a natural compound in the body that relaxes blood vessels and contributes to the body maintaining a normal, healthy blood pressure. But under oxidative stress, nitric oxide may become inactivated or inhibited. An intake of vitamin C somewhat higher than normal may help protect the levels of nitric oxide and allow it to perform its natural functions.

 

However, expert caution that although vitamin C may have value in the treatment of high blood pressure, people with elevated blood pressure still need to incorporate hypertension medications and other lifestyle changes in close consultation with their doctors to lower their blood pressure.

The vitamin C intake might also produce other health benefits as well, especially if it was at least partially obtained by eating an improved diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Researchers indicate that vitamin C may not only benefit the heart and the blood vessels, but have wider implications for the eye as well as the functioning of the central nervous system (CNS).

The scientists found that moderate daily supplements of vitamin (500 milligrams per day) could improve endothelial function - the “relaxation” state of blood vessels - and thereby help to prevent the chest pains of unstable angina pectoris and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.

 

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