VITAMIN C PROTECTS BLOOD FATS
According to new laboratory research at the University of California, Berkley, vitamin C (ascorbate) is the best agent for protecting us from free-radical damage to blood lipids (fats). "At levels typically found circulating in human blood plasma, the vitamin neutralized 100 percent of the free radicals produced in the study. No other plasma antioxidant, or free radical ‘quencher,’ showed this capability."1
Research has shown that free-radical damage can initiate or exacerbate many of the common diseases "associated with aging, including cancer, heart attacks, stroke, arthritis, and cataracts."2 These radicals are formed in our bodies by our vitally necessary metabolism of oxygen. Ultraviolet radiation and environmental pollutants, such as car exhaust and cigarette smoke, are examples of external sources of oxidants (which form radicals). "Because other research has shown that free-radical damage of blood fats carried by low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) helps initiate artery-clogging plaque, the new findings also indicate that vitamin C nutrition ‘might have the potential to protect against atherosclerosis,’"1 according to biochemist Balz Frei, who led the work.
In addition to vitamin C, blood plasma contains three other water-soluble antioxidants (protein thios, bilirubin, urate) which are formed in our bodies and cannot be easily manipulated. On the other hand, vitamin C and the fat-soluble antioxidant vitamin E can be easily increased by diet or supplementation. When vitamin C was present in the blood plasma along with all these other antioxidants, it alone completely "disarmed the radicals" (100 percent), conserving the other antioxidants. In contrast, when vitamin C was absent, vitamin E disarmed only 70 percent of the free radicals. Balz Frei said that he was "quite surprised at how much better a scavenger of free radicals and oxidants ascorbate was, especially when compared with vitamin E, [which leaves 30 percent of the blood fats unprotected risking] considerable pathologically relevant damage."1
"These observations suggest that while other plasma antioxidants can slow lipid oxidation, ‘only ascorbate can completely prevent it,’" Frei said. Thus, he and his colleagues think that their data "argue for increasing the recommended daily allowance [RDA] for vitamin C – a level presently based only on the vitamin’s role in preventing scurvy."1
1 Raloff, J. "Vitamin C protects blood from radicals," Science News 136(9):133, August 26, 1989.
2 Frei, B., L. England, and B.N. Ames, "Ascorbate is an outstanding antioxidant in human blood plasma," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 86:6377-6381, August 1989.
Article from NOHA NEWS, Vol. XIV, No. 4, Fall 1989, page 6.