Keep the Beat! Eat Citrus, Other Vitamin C Sources to Protect Your Heart

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • So we’ve heard the old wives’ tale about how getting our daily dose of vitamin C is good for staving off a cold, but did you that this vitamin can help prevent heart failure?


    The American Heart Association reported on a new Korean study that found that low levels of vitamin C were associated with higher levels of high sensitivity C-reactive proteins (hsCRP), a marker for inflammation and a risk factor for heart disease.


    This study focused on 212 participants who on average were 61 years old; about a third of the group were women. Approximately 45 percent of participants suffered from moderate to severe heart failure.  Study participants were divided into two groups. One group included people whose blood levels of hsCRP measured over 3 mg/L. The second group had lower levels. Researchers followed study participants over a one-year period to see if participants had a cardiac event, which was defined as a visit to the emergency room or hospital due to cardiac problems or cardiac death.

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    Using a software program that calculated vitamin C intake, researchers found that 82 patients (or 39% of the participants in the study) had inadequate vitamin C intake, based on Institute of Medicine criteria. Researchers then analyzed these criteria using a four-day food diary monitored by a registered dietician to estimate the likelihood that the patient’s diet was consistently deficient in vitamin C.  During the next year, 61 participants (29% of the study participants) had a cardiac event.


    Scientists found that the heart failure patients who had low vitamin C intake were 2.4 times more likely than those with high vitamin C levels to have higher levels of hsCRP. Furthermore, study participants with low levels of vitamin C while having hsCRP levels that were over 3 milligrams per liter were nearly twice as likely to die from cardiovascular disease within one year.


    “Increased levels of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein means a worsening of heart failure,” said Dr. Eun Kyeun Song, who served as the study’s lead author and serves as an assistant professor at the Department of Nursing, College of Medicine in the University of Ulsan in Korea. “An adequate level of vitamin C is associated with lower levels of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein. This results in a longer cardiac event-free survival in patients.”


    MedlinePlus.com, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, reported that all fruits and vegetables contain some vitamin C, which is a water-soluble vitamin that your body needs for normal growth and development.  This vitamin dissolves in water and leftover amounts leave the body when you urinate. Therefore, you need a continuous supply of vitamin in your diet.


    The highest sources of vitamin C in fruits include are cantaloupes, kiwi fruit, citrus fruits and juices, mango, papaya, pineapples, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, and watermelon.   Luckily, winter is the season for citrus fruit, so we have lots of choices. According to Sunkist.com, numerous citrus fruits are in season right now. Starting in December, look in your grocery store for navel oranges, Cara Car oranges, Mora oranges, Eureka/Lisbon lemons, Persian limes, Key limes, Western grapefruit, Texas Rio Star grapefruit, pummelos Oro blancos, Melo golds, Fairchild tangerines, Minneola tangelos, Orlando tangelos, Clementine mandarins and Satsuma mandarins. Much of this citrus will be available through February.


  • There are other great sources of vitamin C in the produce aisle, according to Medline.com. These sources include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, green and red peppers, spinach, cabbage, turnip greens, leafy greens, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, tomatoes, tomato juice, and winter squash. In addition, some foods, such as cereal, and beverages have been fortified with vitamin C.

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    You need to be careful with storing and preparing these foods in order not to reduce the amount of vitamin C. Medline.com notes that while the best sources are uncooked or raw fruits and vegetables, microwaving and steaming these foods may be better ways of maintaining vitamin C levels.


    Vitamin C increasingly has been found by researchers to be important to your overall health. So to protect your heart, include a variety of vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables in your daily diet.

Published On: November 17, 2011