Objectives: To determine the effect of oral vitamin C supplements on ambulatory blood pressure and plasma lipids.
Design: A 6-month double-blind randomized placebo-controlled cross-over study with a 1 -week washout between cross-over periods.
Methods: Vitamin C 500 mg daily or matching placebo was given to 40 men and women aged between 60 and 80 years for 3 months each in a cross-over fashion. Clinic and 24-h ambulatory blood pressure, plasma ascorbate and lipids were measured at baseline and at the end of each cross-over phase.
Results: Clinic blood pressure did not change between placebo and vitamin C phases. Daytime ambulatory blood pressure showed a small but significant fall in systolic blood pressure (2.0 +/- 5.2 mmHg; 95% confidence interval 0-3.9 mmHg) but not in diastolic blood pressure. Regression analysis showed that with increasing baseline daytime blood pressure the fall in blood pressure with vitamin C supplementation increased. Regression analysis of the change in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol showed a significant effect of sex on the change in HDL cholesterol. In women, but not men, HDL cholesterol increased significantly by 0.08 +/- 0.11 mmol/l, P=0.007. There was no change in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol between treatment periods.
Conclusion: In older adults high intakes of ascorbic acid have modest effects on lowering high systolic blood pressure, which could contribute to the reported association between higher vitamin C intake and lower risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.