To C or not to C–it really is the question

A new study about vitamin C confirms what researchers have previously found: vitamin C supplements can lower blood pressure. But other research also has shown that vitamin C supplements may harden your arteries. When this happens, your risk for a heart attack or stroke increases.

So, what’s the answer? Get your vitamin C from a balanced diet rather than popping pills, experts say.

Although several studies have shown blood pressure dropping after taking 500 mg of vitamin C, a study presented at an American Heart Association (AHA) meeting showed that men who took 500 mg of vitamin C developed thickening of their artery walls. This increases the risk of heart attacks or strokes.

Why is this the case? Researchers don’t know, about suspect it has to do with the interaction of foods. Food sources of vitamin C are far superior than supplemental tablets, and foods with vitamin C usually contain other antioxidants and beneficial substances. In addition, people in the studies took high levels of vitamin C: as much as 500 mg per day. This is much higher than the level recommended for healthy adults.

The Institute of Medicine recommends 75 mg per day for women and 90 mg per day for men. One 8-ounce serving of orange juice contains about 100 mg of vitamin C.

The bottom line: To be safe, follow the suggestion of the AHA and other experts. Get your vitamin C from foods rather than supplements. And remember that the brightest vegetables have the most antioxidants!

To learn more:

Effect of vitamin C on ambulatory blood pressure and plasma lipids in older persons: Journal of Hypertension

The American Heart Association A to Z Guide on mineral and vitamin supplements.

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