For years vitamin C has been touted as a cure-all for everything from cancer to the common cold. But a recent study has reported that vitamin C supplementation might contribute to hardening of the arteries.
So what is the true state of vitamin c? Is it a nutritional hero or villain?
A study from the University of Southern California looked at 573 outwardly healthy middle-aged men and women, and found that those taking vitamin C pills had accelerated thickening of the walls of the major arteries in their necks. Indeed, those taking 500 milligrams of vitamin C daily for at least a year had a 2 1/2 times greater rate of thickening than did those who avoided supplements.
This has caused quite a bit of publicity in the press, but it needs to be put into perspective. There have been hundreds of studies over the years showing the benefits of Vitamin C (see below). It's also worth considering the quantity these subjects took (500 milligrams). The recommended daily allowance in the both the USA and UK is 60 mg per day - these people were taking over eight times that amount daily.
There is a plethora of validated research showing that Vitamin C is of value in preventing kidney conditions, lowering blood pressure, and reducing risk of viral infections. It has also been shown to reduce the risk of cancers such as those of the lung, colon, breast, prostate, cervix, oesophagus, oral cavity and pancreas.
There is also excellent evidence showing that taking this supplement regularly reduces the risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
Taking massive doses of anything, whether it be drugs, sugar, or indeed supplements, can have potentially harmful effects. A far better strategy is to aim to get all your nutritional needs from fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains, fish and meat. If you feel the need to supplement, because your diet is depleted or you have other specific needs, be careful before regularly taking mega doses of any substance.