Cystic fibrosis is a serious condition that affects the respiratory tract. It comes with chronic inflammation and sticky mucous and is known to cause early death. Patients who take high-dosed vitamin C supplements seem to make better use of vitamin E, which is also an antioxidant, and the result is less inflammation. This was seen in a study from Oregon State University. The scientists mention that taking extra vitamin C is also relevant for smokers and patients with metabolic disease.
More than 160,000 people worldwide suffer from cystic fibrosis, a hereditary disease. People suffering from this disease have great difficulty with getting rid of the sticky mucous their glands produce. The mucous can block their airway passage and make it difficult to breathe. There is also a risk of chronic infections that can damage the lungs. Cystic fibrosis is associated with chronic inflammation and oxidative stress, which is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants and destroys cells and tissues.
Besides, cystic fibrosis impairs the body’s lipid absorption, which can impair the uptake of vitamin E, one of the very powerful, lipid-soluble antioxidants. The low levels of vitamin E in the blood increase levels of oxidative stress and cause more inflammation that damages the tissues in the airways.
Although conventional therapies have improved, the average life expectancy hovers around 40 years. A team of scientists from Oregon State University therefore wanted to study if high-dosed supplementation with vitamin C could help patients with cystic fibrosis by enabling them to make better use of the vitamin E they had in their blood. As it turns out, vitamin C can recycle oxidized vitamin E, thereby restoring the vitamin’s antioxidant properties. Moreover, vitamin C in itself is a powerful, water-soluble antioxidant that counteracts oxidative stress and chronic inflammation in other ways.
- Vitamin C and vitamin E work in synergy as an antioxidant team. One is water-soluble, while the other is lipid-soluble
- Vitamin C is able to recycle oxidized vitamin E, thereby restoring vitamin E’s antioxidant power and increasing the total antioxidant capacity
Vitamin C improves vitamin E’s potential in cystic fibrosis
The cystic fibrosis patients in the new study, which is published in Nutrients, were given 1,000 mg of vitamin C daily. After three and half weeks, the patients had lower levels of MDA (malondialdehyde), a marker of oxidative stress. It also looked as if vitamin E functioned longer as an antioxidant in their blood.
Vitamin E is lipid-soluble and normally circulates in the blood longer than the water-soluble antioxidants. According to the researchers, this makes vitamin E more able to reach the different tissues and protect the vulnerable, lipid-containing cell membranes against oxidative stress.
Smokers and patients with metabolic syndrome also benefit from taking vitamin C
The results of the new study, the authors say, support earlier research. For example, it has been seen that smokers typically have health issues in their respiratory tract and other places in the body because of oxidative stress. Tobacco smoke generates cascades of free radicals that attack the lung tissue and circulate in the blood. Smokers therefore have an increased need for protective antioxidants such as vitamins C and E.
Metabolic syndrome, an early stage of type 2 diabetes, is also characterized by oxidative stress. This is because of the elevated insulin levels and overweight that tend to cause chronic inflammation and oxidative stress. Patients with metabolic syndrome also have an increased need for vitamin C and vitamin E for that reason.
High-dosed supplements of non-acidic vitamin C
The official recommendations for vitamin C are typically somewhere between 80-100 mg daily. It is possible to reach that amount with a balanced diet. However, in the study of patients with cystic fibrosis, daily doses of 1,000 mg daily were used and is far more than you get from the diet. It would require eating 15 oranges or five medium-sized red bell peppers every day. Just for the record, eating too much fruit is a burden to the blood sugar balance and liver function. A better solution is to supplement an otherwise healthy diet with vitamin C, and when taking such large doses as 1,000 mg daily, it may be a good idea to take a non-acidic form like calcium ascorbate that is gentle on the stomach.
Maret G. Traber, Scott W. Leonard, Vihas T. Vasu, Brian M. Morrissey, Huangshu (John) Lei, Jeffrey Atkinson, Carroll E. Cross. α-Tocopherol Pharmacokinetics in Adults with Cystic Fibrosis: Benefits of Supplemental Vitamin C Administration. Nutrients, 2022
Oregon State University. Cystic fibrosis patients can benefit from vitamin supplements, research shows. ScienceDaily. September 29. 2022
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