Vitamin C is a powerful dietary antioxidant that has received considerable attention in the literature related to its possible role in heart health. Although classical vitamin C deficiency, marked by scurvy, is rare in most parts of the world, some research has shown variable heart disease risks depending on plasma vitamin C concentration, even within the normal range. Furthermore, other studies have suggested possible heart-related benefits to vitamin C taken in doses beyond the minimal amounts required to prevent classically defined deficiency. The objective of this review is to systematically review the findings of existing epidemiologic research on vitamin C and its potential role in cardiovascular disease (CVD). It is well established that vitamin C inhibits oxidation of LDL-protein, thereby reducing atherosclerosis, but the cardiovascular outcomes related to this action and other actions of vitamin C are not fully understood. Randomized controlled trials as well as observational cohort studies have investigated this topic with varying results. Vitamin C has been linked in some work to improvements in lipid profiles, arterial stiffness, and endothelial function. However, other studies have failed to confirm these results, and observational cohort studies are varied in their findings on the vitamin's effect on CVD risk and mortality. Overall, current research suggests that vitamin C deficiency is associated with a higher risk of mortality from CVD and that vitamin C may slightly improve endothelial function and lipid profiles in some groups, especially those with low plasma vitamin C levels. However, the current literature provides little support for the widespread use of vitamin C supplementation to reduce CVD risk or mortality.
Keywords: cardiovascular disease; clinical trials; meta-analyses; observational cohort studies; vitamin C.