Cardiovascular disease is a common chronic disease and the leading cause of death in the United States, although the rates have declined in the past 25 years.
In the past, cardiovascular disease was thought to be caused by diet alone, but today health experts are beginning to realize that it is in part due to inflammation of blood vessel walls, according to LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Heli Roy.
This inflammation can cause scarring, hardening of arteries and plaque formation. When there is inflammation during illness or infection, it is treated with anti-inflammatory agents such as aspirin. Anti-oxidants can reduce inflammation of the vessel wall was well, Roy points out. Some of the common antioxidants are vitamins C, A and E. In addition, phytochemicals (colored compounds in fruits and vegetables) act as strong antioxidants that can prevent chronic diseases.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble antioxidant present in fruits and vegetables. Vitamins A and E are fat-soluble. Several epidemiological studies show that diets high in vitamin C protect against cardiovascular disease. Vitamin C has antioxidant effects with oxidative substances in the body. Some studies with supplemental intake, however, showed no benefit to increased intake of vitamin C.
A large study was done in England on more than 7,000 older (60-70 years of age) men to see whether vitamin C intake correlated with inflammation of blood vessels. Fruit and vegetable intake correlated with vitamin C levels. Those with higher intake of fruits and vegetables had higher vitamin C levels. Plasma vitamin C correlated inversely with inflammatory markers. Those that had highest plasma vitamin C levels or took supplements of vitamin C had much lower levels of inflammatory markers in their blood stream than those that did not. Their blood was less viscous, and they had lower concentrations of fibrinogen, a coagulation agent.
Sources of vitamin C are citrus fruits, tropical fruits such as guava and papaya, tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, broccoli and cabbage. A "good source" of vitamin C contributes at least 10 percent of the U.S. adequate intake (AI) for vitamin C in a selected serving size. In the United States, the AI for vitamin C is 90 mg/day for men and 75 mg/day for women. Smokers should have a higher intake of vitamin C by about 35 mg/day.The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends increasing our consumption of fruits and vegetables which provide micronutrients such as Vitamin C to combat chronic diseases.
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