Vitamin C May Help Overweight Patients Who Won't Exercise

Exercise is still recommended for those who are overweight, but the study suggests a vitamin C supplement can help those patients who can't or won't pursue activity.

Exercised is advised for overweight or obese patients, but if they can’t or won’t, supplements of vitamin C may do the job, according to new study.

Research presented at the 14th International Conference on Endothelin: Physiology, Pathophysiology and Therapeutics found that taking daily doses of vitamin C can provide similar cardiovascular benefits as exercise in adults who are overweight. According to the authors, about 50% of overweight and obese adults do not exercise as advised.

The study, conducted at the University of Colorado, examined the effect of vitamin C supplements on the protein endothelin (ET-1), which constricts blood vessels and is elevated in adults who are overweight. Vitamin C is known to improve blood vessel function, so the researchers wanted to measure whether it would lower ET-1 activity as well.

Led by Caitlin Dow, PhD, the team found that daily doses of vitamin C (500 mg) lowered ET-1 blood vessel constriction as much as daily walking, which could help reduce vascular risk.

The study evaluated 35 sedentary adults, whose blood vessels all showed signs of vasoconstriction. Of the group, 20 adults with an average body mass index or BMI 31 kg/m2 completed a 3-month course of treatment with time-released vitamin C, while 15 with an average BMI 29 kg/m2 completed regular walks for the same period. (The CDC considers a BMI of 25 to 29.9 to be overweight, while 30 and higher is obese.)

Researchers then measured ET-1 activity in forearm blood flow, and found that daily doses of vitamin C had a similarly positive effect on blood vessel constriction as walking.

While it would be preferable for overweight obese persons to exercise, supplements of vitamin C are a method to address a lack of exercise in those who do not, the researchers concluded.