Background: The prevalence of hypertension and its contribution to cardiovascular disease risk makes it imperative to identify factors that may help prevent this disorder. Extensive biological and biochemical data suggest that plasma ascorbic acid may be such a factor. In this study we examined the association between plasma ascorbic acid concentration and blood pressure (BP) in young-adult women.
Methods: Participants were 242 Black and White women aged 18-21 yr from the Richmond, CA, cohort of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Growth and Health Study. We examined the associations of plasma ascorbic acid with BP at follow-up year 10, and with change in BP during the previous year.
Results: In cross-sectional analysis, plasma ascorbic acid at year 10 was inversely associated with systolic BP and diastolic BP after adjusting for race, body mass index, education, and dietary intake of fat and sodium. Persons in the highest one-fourth of the plasma ascorbic acid distribution had 4.66 mmHg lower systolic BP (95% CI 1.10 to 8.22 mmHg, p = 0.005) and 6.04 mmHg lower diastolic BP (95% CI 2.70 to 9.38 mmHg, p = 0.0002) than those in the lowest one-fourth of the distribution. In analysis of the change in BP, plasma ascorbic acid was also inversely associated with change in systolic BP and diastolic BP during the previous year. While diastolic blood pressure among persons in the lowest quartile of plasma ascorbic acid increased by 5.97 mmHg (95% CI 3.82 to 8.13 mmHg) from year 9 to year 10, those in the highest quartile of plasma vitamin C increased by only 0.23 mmHg (95% CI -1.90 to +2.36 mmHg) (test for linear trend: p < 0.0001). A similar effect was seen for change in systolic BP, p = 0.005.
Conclusion: Plasma ascorbic acid was found to be inversely associated with BP and change in BP during the prior year. The findings suggest the possibility that vitamin C may influence BP in healthy young adults. Since lower BP in young adulthood may lead to lower BP and decreased incidence of age-associated vascular events in older adults, further investigation of treatment effects of vitamin C on BP regulation in young adults is warranted.