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Peripheral Artery Disease Linked to Low Vitamin C

People with a severe form of arterial disease appear to have low levels of vitamin C in their blood regardless of their diet or smoking habits, study findings suggest.

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a form of atherosclerosis, a condition in which fatty build-up accumulates inside the arteries and obstructs blood flow. In PAD, blood flow in the legs and feet is impaired, which can cause lameness and pain. PAD is also associated with an increased risk of death and disability caused by heart attack and stroke.

PAD may cause inflammation and the release of free radicals--compounds that can damage tissue and may contribute to aging and chronic conditions such as cancer and heart disease.

While antioxidants such as vitamin C can "neutralize" these compounds and reduce damage, free radicals can also deplete antioxidants from the body when overall levels are low.

In their study, the investigators found that patients with PAD had vitamin C blood levels nearly twice as low as those in people without PAD. They also had higher levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation in blood vessels that may be associated with increased risk of heart disease.

"Vitamin C concentrations are low in PAD and are associated with inflammation," the authors conclude. "Low-grade inflammation in atherosclerosis may be associated with oxidative stress and the resultant decrease in antioxidants such as vitamin C."

Antioxidants such as vitamin C play an important role in the prevention or mitigation of many chronic disorders. If you have peripheral artery disease, supplemental vitamin C is recommended. You may also need additional nutrients, and if you are quite unwell, you may need intravenous nutrient therapy (see below).

Source: Circulation 2001;103.