Breaking News: Inexpensive Vitamin C Controls Blood Sugar and Blood Pressure
The management of type 2 diabetes (T2D) may have just received a low cost boost with new research finding that vitamin C (ascorbic acid) plays a role in managing blood sugar levels and blood pressure.
The randomized cross-over study of 31 individuals with T2D found that after four months of supplementation with vitamin C (2 x500mg/day) there was a 36 percent reduction in daily postprandial glucose and a lower mean post-prandial (after-meal) glucose concentration compared to placebo.
“Improvements in post-prandial glycemia with ascorbic acid supplementation contributed to the significant decreases observed in duration of the day spent with hyperglycemia (−2.8 h/d), time spent with post-prandial hyperglycemia (−1.7 h/d) and average 24-hour glucose concentration (−0.8 mmol/L) as compared to placebo.
This improvement in total daily time spent with hyperglycaemia is significant as the risk of complications in T2D is strongly associated with previous hyperglycaemia.”
After-meal blood sugar levels were 36% lower in the vitamin C group vs the placebo group.
“These findings are also of potential clinical importance given that post-prandial hyperglycemia is considered an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular events in individuals with type 2 diabetes,” the researchers claimed.
“These results are broadly in line with other clinical trials using vitamin C supplementation in diabetes – one randomized trial was conducted in Thailand with Blackmores BioC product, and builds further on that existing knowledge,” said Dr Lesley Braun, Blackmores Institute Director.
Many Diabetics Are Lacking in Vitamin C
“The other issue to consider is that many people with diabetes purposely avoid fruit due to its sugar content – so their dietary vitamin C intake is low. There were a series of case reports a few years back of scurvy being reported in this group,” Dr Braun added.
According to the study, the calculated effect sizes of these glycemic improvements with vitamin C were large (Cohen’s d > 0.80).
Vitamin C Lowers Blood Pressure
In addition, both systolic and diastolic blood pressure were significantly decreased by 7mm and 5 mm Hg, respectively, compared to placebo, which was also considered a large size effect.
“Moreover, the calculated prevalence of hypertension was 50% lower following ascorbic acid supplementation (7/27) as compared with placebo (14/27),” the researchers said.
The researchers suggest that several mechanisms are likely to be responsible for improving blood pressure such as the ability to enhance nitric oxide (NO) synthesis and bioavailability through its antioxidant actions.
After four months of vitamin C supplementation, both systolic and diastolic blood pressure were decreased significantly.
“Vitamin C is thought to scavenge the oxidant superoxide and, therefore, may decrease nitric oxide reactions with superoxide to limit formation of the potential vasculature-damaging reactive species peroxynitrite. “
“Our findings offer plausible evidence that ascorbic acid supplementation may decrease oxidative stress and potentially improve glycemic control in individuals with type 2 diabetes, therefore making vitamin C a potentially useful adjunct therapy in individuals with T2D for management of both glycemia and blood pressure,” the researchers concluded.
This builds on previous knowledge of vitamin C’s positive effect on high blood pressure.
According to scientists from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 500 mg of vitamin C daily — an average of 500 mg per day — may produce small reductions of blood pressure.
Vitamin C may act as a diuretic, removing excess fluid from your body. This may help lower the pressure within your blood vessels.
“ When you consider how safe and well tolerated vitamin C supplements are, they should be considered as adjunct therapy in T2D” concluded Dr Braun.
Other Benefits of Vitamin C
If you need more encouragement to start supplementing with vitamin C, the reasons are abundant:
Vitamin C provides important antioxidant support, helping protect cells from oxidative stress and the effects of free radicals, and it may also help regenerate other antioxidants within the body.1
Research suggests that high intakes of foods rich in vitamin C may help support heart health.
The cardiovascular benefits of vitamin C may be linked to its role as an antioxidant.1
People with adequate levels of vitamin C oxidize 30% more fat during moderate exercise than those with low vitamin C levels.2
And there is some correlation between vitamin C levels and body mass.2 Some researchers believe that low levels of vitamin C may cause us to be more resistant to losing fat.2
Benefits For Skin
Higher intakes of vitamin C may be associated with anti-aging benefits, including reduced wrinkle formation and reduced dryness.3
These benefits may be due, in part, to the role of vitamin C in healthy collagen synthesis.1
Vitamin C and L-Carnitine
L-Carnitine is an amino acid that plays a role in energy production. Our bodies produce it naturally, but low vitamin C levels have been linked to lower production of this important amino acid.4
Vitamin C Benefits Neurotransmitters
Vitamin C is required for your body to carry out the enzymatic reaction that synthesizes the neurotransmitter norepinephrine from dopamine, and low vitamin C levels may increase tissue vulnerability to free radicals and the effects of oxidative damage.5
Vitamin C and Protein Metabolism
Vitamin C plays a role in breaking down proteins in the body.1
Vitamin C Benefits for Men
Vitamin C is a popular supplement for men due to many of the benefits mentioned above, including skin benefits, heart health, protein metabolism and antioxidant support, but one study suggests vitamin C may positively impact sexual health as well.6
Types of Vitamin C
The form of vitamin C most frequently used in supplements is ascorbic acid, which has a bioavailability that is equivalent to the vitamin C that naturally occurs in foods like orange juice and broccoli.1
Other types of vitamin C include:
- sodium ascorbate (a mineral ascorbate)
- calcium ascorbate (a mineral ascorbate)
- other mineral ascorbates (it’s a long list!)
- ascorbic acid with bioflavonoids
- combination vitamin C products that blend different forms
Some studies have shown minor differences in absorption rates between the various types of vitamin C, but the body of research surrounding vitamin C supplementation reflects high absorption no matter which form you choose.1
These findings paired with the low cost of ascorbic acid led researchers to conclude that ascorbic acid is the preferred type of vitamin C supplement.1
But keep in mind that if you opt for mineral ascorbates, you may get more than just vitamin C. Always check product labels to see how much vitamin C and other minerals are in each dose so you can factor that into your overall supplementation routine.
Synthetic vs Natural Vitamin C
Ascorbic acid occurs naturally in many fruits and vegetables, so you can get your daily vitamin C intake from foods too.
But if you have trouble meeting your daily intake requirements of vitamin C from food alone, ascorbic acid supplements can help you fill that gap.
There are no bioavailability differences between the ascorbic acid in your morning glass of orange juice and synthetic ascorbic acid in vitamin C supplements. They are chemically identical.1,7
Recommended Vitamin C
Fortunately, vitamin C supplements are inexpensive and easy to find, pretty much anywhere you shop.
If you’re looking for suggestions, I have some favorite brands that I like and trust.
In addition to the recommendations below, I reviewed some other vitamin C brands in this article:
Nature’s Bounty C (500 mg Tablets)
Nature’s Bounty is a brand I use for a variety of supplements. They’ve been in business for over 40 years, and they test their products extensively.
They don’t just test and retest their products; their facilities have been successfully audited by the United States Pharmacopeia and STR (Specialized Technology Resources), a leading independent dietary supplement quality evaluation firm.
Naturelo Premium Vitamin C (500 mg Time Release Capsules)
Naturelo Vitamin C capsules are 100% natural, made from real fruits and plant-based nutrients.
They include citrus bioflavonoids from organic orange and lemon. I haven’t seen good evidence that bioflavonoids enhance bioavailability, but time may prove that true.
I prefer to use timed release supplements whenever possible, and these capsules offer a slow release of vitamin C throughout the day.
The capsules go through a process called microencapsulation where they add an enteric coating to 50% of the vitamin C powder. That way, half of the vitamin C is released immediately and the other half is released at a later time when the enteric-coated microcapsule reaches your intestines.
Bronson Vitamin C Crystals (Powder)
Bronson Vitamin C Crystals are manufactured at an FDA cGMP certified facility (Current Good Manufacturing Practice regulations enforced by the FDA), and are GMO-free.
Each scoop contains 1,000 mg of vitamin C. If you prefer, you can use ½ scoop 500 mg twice per day, as they did in the study.
The crystals dissolve easily into water or juice.
Purchaser reviews for Bronson Vitamin C Crystals are excellent.
1 Vitamin C Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-HealthProfessional/ (Accessed 3/29/2018)
2 Strategies for healthy weight loss: from vitamin C to the glycemic response. PubMed. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15930480
3 The benefits of vitamin C. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/the-benefits-of-vitamin-c#1
4 L-Carnitine. Oregon State University. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/L-carnitine#physical-performance
5 Cognitive Function In-Depth. Oregon State University. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/health-disease/cognitive-function#reference3
6 High-dose ascorbic acid increases intercourse frequency and improves mood: a randomized controlled clinical trial. Science Direct. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S000632230201329X
7 The Bioavailability of Different Forms of Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid). Oregon State University. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-C/supplemental-forms
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