WebMD Medical News
Laura J. Martin, MD
Nov.14, 2011 (Orlando, Fla.) -- People with heart failure who don't eat enough vitamin C-rich foods are almost twice as likely to be hospitalized or die as those with heart failure who get enough vitamin C in their diet, new research suggests.
They are also more than twice as likely to have high levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) in their blood, which has been linked to heart disease.
The study is the first to show that people with heart failure who eat enough vitamin C-rich foods live longer, according to study researcher Grace Song, PhD, RN, an assistant professor in the department of nursing at the University of Ulsan, South Korea.
Vitamin C, an antioxidant, may help people with heart failure by calming down inflammation in the body, Song tells WebMD.
Other researchers say that it's not at all clear that vitamin C by itself improves heart health.
More likely, people who get enough vitamin C in their diets eat a lot of fruits and vegetables and are healthier overall, says Alice Lichtenstein, DSc, a nutritionist at Tufts University in Boston.
"What we do know," she says, "is that a diet high in fruits and vegetables lowers the risk of heart disease."
Foods that are rich in vitamin C include cantaloupe, red cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, oranges, papaya, and kiwis.
Based on the findings, people with heart failure should not take vitamin C supplements, Lichtenstein tells WebMD. Studies have shown vitamin C supplements do not improve the health of people with heart failure.
The study was presented here at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2011.
The study involved 212 people with heart failure. Their average age was 61, and about one-third were women.
They kept track of all the foods they ate for four days; a software program was used to calculate vitamin C intake. A total of 39% didn't get enough vitamin C in their diets, according to criteria set by the Institute of Medicine.
People in the study were also given blood tests to measure CRP.
Then they were followed for one year, during which time 61 patients (29%) were hospitalized or died because of heart problems. Those with a low intake of vitamin C were more likely to experience a shorter period of time before being hospitalized or dying from a heart problem.
The study was funded by the American Heart Association, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Institute of Nursing Research.
These findings were presented at a medical conference. They should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.
SOURCES:American Heart Association Scientific Session 2011, Orlando, Fla., Nov. 12-16, 2011.Grace Song, PhD, RN, assistant professor, department of nursing, University of Ulsan, South Korea.Alice Lichtenstein, DSc, Gershoff Professor of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University, Boston.
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