Many studies have reported a link between high dietary intakes and high blood levels of vitamin C and a lower risk of heart disease. American researchers observed that rates of heart disease were 27 percent lower in the men and women with the highest vitamin C levels compared to those with the lowest.12 The level of vitamin C in your bloodstream is a good indicator of the amount of vitamin C in your diet. One Portuguese study conducted among 194 adults determined that, compared to those individuals with marginal vitamin C intakes, those who consumed the most vitamin C had an 80 percent lower risk of heart attack.13
Vitamin C may protect from heart disease by acting as an antioxidant. The vitamin is able to neutralize harmful free radical molecules that damage your LDL cholesterol. That means that your LDL cholesterol is less likely to accumulate on artery walls. Studies also suggest vitamin C may inhibit the formation of blood clots by reducing the stickiness of platelets.
The daily recommended intake for vitamin C is 75 milligrams (smokers need 110 milligrams). You can meet your vitamin C requirements fairly easily from food—check out the Vitamin C in Foods table on page 12 in chapter 1.
Vitamin C Supplements
For those of you who don’t eat at least two vitamin-C-rich foods each day, a supplement is a good idea. If you’re looking for the most C for your money, choose a supplement labeled “Ester C.” Studies in the lab have found this form of vitamin C to be more available to the body. If you prefer a chewable supplement, make sure it contains calcium ascorbate or sodium ascorbate, since these forms of vitamin C are less acidic and less harmful to the enamel of your teeth. Take a 500-milligram supplement once or twice a day. There’s little point in swallowing much more than that, since your body can use only about 200 milligrams at one time. If you want to take more, split your dose over the course of the day.