Metabolic Syndrome Patients Need More Vitamin C

A higher intake of vitamin C is crucial for metabolic syndrome patients trying to halt a potentially deadly cycle of antioxidant disruption and health-related problems, an Oregon State University researcher says.

That’s important news for the
estimated 35 percent of the U.S. adult population that suffers from the

“What these findings are really
saying to people as we move out of the rich-food holiday season and into
January is eat your fruits and vegetables,” said Maret Traber, a professor in
the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences and Ava Helen Pauling
Professor at Oregon State’s Linus Pauling Institute. “Eat five to 10 servings a
day and then you’ll get the fiber, you’ll get the vitamin C, and you’ll really
protect your gut with all of those good things.”

A diet high in saturated fat
results in chronic low-grade inflammation in the body that in turn leads to the
development of metabolic syndrome, a serious condition associated with cognitive
dysfunction and dementia as well as being a major risk factor for
cardiovascular disease, fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes.

A patient is considered to have
metabolic syndrome if he or she has at least three of the following conditions:
abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, low levels of “good”
cholesterol, and high levels of triglycerides.

The findings published in Redox
Biology suggest the type of eating that leads to metabolic syndrome can prompt
imbalances in the gut microbiome, with impaired gut function contributing to
toxins in the bloodstream, resulting in vitamin C depletion, which subsequently
impairs the trafficking of vitamin E.

It’s a treadmill of antioxidant
disruption that serves to make a bad situation worse; antioxidants such as
vitamins C and E offer defense against the oxidative stress brought on by
inflammation and the associated free radicals, unstable molecules that can
damage the body’s cells.

“Vitamin C actually protects
vitamin E, so when you have lipid peroxidation, vitamin E is used up and
vitamin C can regenerate it,” Traber said. “If you don’t have the vitamin C,
the vitamin E gets lost and then you lose both of those antioxidants and end up
in this vicious cycle of depleting your antioxidant protection.”

Lipid peroxidation is
the oxidative degradation of polyunsaturated fatty acids that are a major
component of living cells; it’s the process by which free radicals try to
stabilize themselves by stealing electrons from cell membranes, causing damage
to the cell.

“If there’s too much fat in the
diet, it causes injury to the gut,” Traber said. “Bacterial cell walls can then
leak from the gut and slip into circulation in the body, and they’re chased
down by neutrophils.”

Neutrophils are the most abundant
type of white blood cells, a key part of the immune system. Neutrophils attack
bacteria with hypochlorous acid: bleach.

“The white blood cells are
scrubbing with bleach and that destroys vitamin C,” Traber said. “The body is
destroying its own protection because it got tricked by the gut dysbiosis into
thinking there was a bacterial invasion.”

And without intervention, the
process keeps repeating.

“People with metabolic syndrome
can eat the same amount of vitamin C as people without metabolic syndrome but
have lower plasma concentrations of vitamin C,” Traber said. “We’re suggesting
that’s because this slippage of bacterial cell walls causes the whole body to
mount that anti-inflammatory response.”

Vitamin C is found in fresh
vegetables and fruits; sources of vitamin E include almonds, wheat germ and
various seeds and oils.

Federal dietary guidelines call for 65 to 90 milligrams daily of vitamin C, and 15 milligrams of vitamin E.


Maret G. Traber, Garry R. Buettner, Richard S. Bruno. The Relationship Between Vitamin C Status, the
GUT-Liver Axis, and Metabolic Syndrome
. Redox Biology, 2018; 101091 DOI: 10.1016/j.redox.2018.101091