Much needed boost? Vitamin C supplementation can lift antioxidant levels in metabolic syndrome patients

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04 Jan 2019 --- Vitamin C is critical for metabolic syndrome patients in hindering the “potentially deadly” effects of antioxidant depletion and other health-related problems they can experience, a study has found. Conducted at Oregon State University, the research recommends that patients suffering from metabolic syndrome should supplement with the antioxidant boosting vitamin C.

Approximately 35 percent of the US adult population suffers from metabolic syndrome. Patients considered as having metabolic syndrome have at least three of the following conditions: 

  • Abdominal obesity.
  • High blood pressure.
  • High blood sugar.
  • Low levels of “good” cholesterol. 
  • High levels of triglycerides.

A steady diet that is high in saturated fats may lead to chronic low-grade inflammation in the body that results in developing metabolic syndrome. The condition has been associated with cognitive dysfunction, dementia, cardiovascular disease, fatty liver disease and Type 2 diabetes.

“What these findings are really saying to people as we move out of the rich-food holiday season and into January is to eat your fruits and vegetables,” say Maret Traber and Ava Helen Pauling, co-authors of the study. 

“Eat 5-10 servings a day and then you'll get the fiber and vitamin C, and you'll really protect your gut with all of those good things,” the researchers add. 

Click to EnlargeThe findings published in Redox Biology say that a diet high in saturated fats may prompt imbalances in the gut microbiome that raise the levels of toxins in the bloodstream. This leads to vitamin C depletion which in turn impairs the trafficking of vitamin E.

It's a treadmill of antioxidant disruption as antioxidants like vitamins C and E offer defense against the oxidative stress brought on by inflammation and associated free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can damage the body's cells.

“Vitamin C actually protects vitamin E, so when you have lipid peroxidation, vitamin E is used up and vitamin C can regenerate it,” Traber says. 

“If you don't have the vitamin C, the vitamin E gets lost and then you lose both of those antioxidants and end up in this vicious cycle of depleting your antioxidant protection,” Traber adds. 

Lipid peroxidation is the oxidative degradation of polyunsaturated fatty acids that are a major component of living cells. It is the process by which free radicals try to stabilize themselves by stealing electrons from cell membranes, causing damage to the cell.

“If there's too much fat in the diet, it causes injury to the gut,” Traber says. “Bacterial cell walls can then leak from the gut and slip into circulation in the body, and they're chased down by neutrophils.”

Neutrophils are the most abundant type of white blood cells, a key part of the immune system. Neutrophils attack bacteria with hypochlorous acid: bleach.

“The white blood cells are scrubbing with bleach and that destroys vitamin C. The body is destroying its own protection because it has been tricked by the gut dysbiosis into thinking that there was a bacterial invasion,” Traber says. 

Without intervention, the process will only repeat itself. People with metabolic syndrome can eat the same amount of vitamin C as people without it and still have lower plasma concentrations of vitamin C. The researchers suggest that this slippage of bacterial cell walls makes the whole body mount that anti-inflammatory response.

Vitamin C is found in fresh vegetables and fruits. Sources of vitamin E include almonds, wheat germ and various seeds and oils. US federal dietary guidelines call for 65-90 milligrams daily of vitamin C, and 15 milligrams of vitamin E.

In October 2018, a study identified the importance of different forms of vitamin E – such as gamma-tocopherol and tocotrienols – over just alpha-tocopherol. The study’s findings show the potential benefits of formulating a vitamin E complete range over common vitamin E supplements that focus solely on alpha-tocopherol.

On the other hand, a study published in the Journal of American College of Cardiology has found that commonly consumed vitamin and mineral supplements may offer no consistent health benefits. Researchers from the St Michael's Hospital and the University of Toronto in Canada conducted a systematic review of existing data and single randomized control trials. 

The researchers concluded that no supplements demonstrated advantages in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke or premature death. Overall, they recommend a healthy diet for the adequate intake of nutrients.Dr. David Jenkins, the study's lead author, told NutritionInsight at the time that “vitamin D did not offer as much benefit as previously thought,” which made for a surprising find, he explained.

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