Learn how low levels of vitamin C can affect heart health. Antioxidant activity, supporting healthy vascular smooth muscle cells, healthy collagen production and healthy lipid profiles are just some of the ways vitamin C supports cardiovascular health.
The scientific literature is clear: low levels of vitamin C can affect heart health. Vitamin C supports heart health via several important mechanisms:
In an interview featured in Element magazine, naturopathic cardiologist Daniel Chong, ND explains research on this connection:
“The idea that vitamin C may be a key component in cardiovascular health was first conceptualized by Linus Pauling and Matthias Rath in 1990. Humans are one of the few animals on the planet that are unable to make vitamin C. They are also one of the few animals to develop cardiovascular disease. The only animals that have heart attacks like we do are guinea pigs, and they don’t make vitamin C either.”
Chong continues: “Vitamin C is required for collagen production. Pauling and Rath suggested that vitamin C insufficiency weakens blood vessel walls which triggers a biological repair process leading to plaque formation. They noticed that one of the most effective repair molecules to be mobilized during the process was lipoprotein(a) [Lp(a)]. They observed an inverse relationship between production of Lp(a) and vitamin C levels, and proposed that Lp(a) might act as a surrogate to protect the blood vessels when vitamin C levels decline.”
The Dr. Rath Research Institute then developed a mouse model to imitate human metabolism. The mice were genetically altered to lose the ability to produce vitamin C and at the same time gain the ability to produce Lp(a). Mice were placed on a consistent diet with varied amounts of vitamin C (in the form of ascorbic acid).”
The study results showed that mice consuming less vitamin C produced more Lp(a). Also, the production of Lp(a) paralleled the development of atherogenic plaques. Even more exciting is that the researchers were able to achieve a level of vitamin C where the mice had no plaque formation at all.”
Vitamin C is a nutrient vital to human health. As integrative practitioners know, determining how much vitamin C to recommend can be highly individualized, based on a person’s age and health status. “I don’t feel many of the human studies of vitamin C supplementation have been useful in estimating the amount that’s sufficient to support cardiovascular health because they rarely use dosages of more than 1,000 mg per day,” explains Chong. He says this is inconsistent when compared to amounts produced endogenously in animals. “For example, goats produce a baseline amount of vitamin C of a few thousand milligrams per day when they’re healthy and not under stress,” says Chong. “Interestingly, when they are exposed to stress of any kind, goats increase production of vitamin C to over 10,000 mg per day.”
All experts agree that when taking vitamin C, regardless of the dose recommended, it’s always best to consume multiple doses throughout the day versus one large daily dose. This mimics nature, says Chong, who often recommends 2,000 mg per day. “Some patients may need more, depending on their diet and lifestyle,” says Chong.
What to Get Someone Who Has Everything? The Gift of Longevity!
With the upcoming gift-giving season, we can remember that longevity is a gift we can give ourselves every day, not just for the holidays. We all have a genetic blueprint in our DNA, which indicates whether we might have a tendency for chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, fibromyalgia, dementia, and arthritis.
The thing about it, though, is that just because it is in your DNA does not mean it is your future. Epigenetics, the study of genes, involves two important terms – genotype and phenotype. Very simplistic definitions of genotype and phenotype are what is in your genetics and what is actually present. So, for example, say you did genetic testing, and it shows you have the genotype for diabetes that puts you at risk for diabetes. Still, you do not have the phenotype for diabetes because your labs and testing do not indicate you have diabetes. In a nutshell, this is the concept of epigenetics: that there is more to developing disease than having a gene. There are certain environmental factors that can turn on and turn off genes resulting in a phenotype that either matches your genotype or does not.
Just because it is in your DNA does not mean it is your future.
This is powerful information. As I tell my patients, just because it runs in your family does not mean you will get a particular disease. To counter genetic tendencies, you can create a lifestyle to help keep those genes from turning on and becoming your phenotype. Not everyone wants to or can do genetic testing, but for many of these diseases, the interventions that make the significant effects are similar.
Here are a few things you can do to keep your chronic disease genes turned off:
Get 7-9 hours of good, quality, uninterrupted sleep a night
Eat a whole-foods, mainly plant-based diet
Get a minimum of 5 minutes of high-intensity exercise three times a week
Reduce sedentary activities
Walk after meals
Do a minimum 12-hour fast daily
Make sure you are getting adequate Omega 3s in your diet
Eat plenty of greens (aim for 10-12 cups a day)
Take sugar out of your diet
Take alcohol out of your diet
Socialize (responsibly) and laugh daily
Have your meals with other people
So, for the person who has everything – and everyone else on your list – feel free to give them a beautifully wrapped copy of this article.
The process of fasting involves abstaining, or partially abstaining from food. Prehistoric humans lived in a state of intermittent fasting, eating only when food necessary for their survival became available.1 In the last decade more and more researchers have started to study the health benefits of fasting on the human body and discovered numerous beneficial effects on health conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, antioxidant stress, cognition, obesity and weight loss.1,2 It has also shown positive effects on delaying aging and promoting longevity.3
Research is available on fasting techniques like caloric restriction, dietary restriction and intermittent fasting (IF), where IF proved to have the best outcome on health and longevity.1 During intermittent fasting food is consumed within a certain time window, while refraining from eating for the remaining time.2 Some of the most popular intermittent fasting methods are:2,3
16/8 method – eating window of 8 hours and a fasting window of 16 hours
5:2 method – alternate day fasting where calories are restricted for 2 days of the week
Time restricted feeding – eating a standard number of calories within a restricted timeframe
Periodic fasting – abstaining from food and caloric beverages for continuous days
Fasting mimicking protocol – special diet developed by Prof. Longo that tricks the body into thinking that it is in fasting mode
How does fasting work?
The proposed mechanism by which fasting modulates its health effects is the possible reprogramming of metabolic and stress resistance pathways and triggering processes like ketogenesis, autophagy and lipolysis.4 When ketogenesis is triggered, the body starts producing ketones from stored fat as a source of energy when glucose has been used up. The body goes into ‘fat-burning mode’ and gives weight loss efforts a boost.2
“When I don’t eat I can’t make bad decisions about what I eat.”
– Kinder Fayssoux
The fasting mimicking protocol
Prof. Longo and colleagues investigated the effects of prolonged fasting on key markers associated with the stress resistance pathways and longevity, finding low glucose and IGF-1 and increased ketone bodies and IGFBP-1.3 They used the results of this study to identify a diet that will mimic these effects.3
The fasting mimicking protocol, also called the fasting mimicking diet (FMD), is a periodic diet followed for 5 days a week, once a month. It is plant-based, low in calories, sugars and protein and high in unsaturated fats.5,6 In the clinical trial conducted in human subjects, foods were carefully sourced according to their ability to reduce IGF-1 and glucose and to increase IGFBP-1 and ketones and provide optimal nourishment.3 Foods were included in the form of vegetable-based soups, energy bars, chamomile flower tea and chip snacks.3 Calorie consumption on the FMD is 1090 kcal on day 1, followed by 725 kcal on days 2–5 with protein content less than 10%.3
The outcome of the study on human subjects after 3 cycles of fasting mimicking showed reduced glucose and increased ketone levels during the 5-day period, reduced body weight by 3% without reducing lean body massand reduced inflammation markers like C-reactive protein that plays a role in cardiovascular disease.3
Another study performed in 2017 to further evaluate the effects of the FMD found that after 3 months the participants had reduced body weight, body fat, blood pressure, fasting glucose, and IGF-1.6 Participants who were at greater risk of chronic disease also showed a decrease in triglycerides, total and low density cholesterol and C-reactive protein.6
These studies indicate that the fasting mimicking protocol can affectively be applied to reduce certain markers and risks that play a role in aging and age-related diseases.6 Prof. Longo’s studies on mice further indicated the potential benefits of FMD on cognition, cancer, longevity, immune system, bone mineral density loss and visceral fat.3
Other clinical study results on the FMD:
May reduce inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) associated inflammation7
Modulates and promotes gut microbiota species7,8
Neuroprotective in mice with Parkinson’s disease8
May help to prevent autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis9
Can improve efficacy of cancer treatment and reduce resistance when used in combination10
ProLon® and the fasting mimicking protocol
ProLon® is the 5-day fasting mimicking diet created by Prof. Longo in physical form. It provides packaged meals with the correct ration of micro and macronutrients to mimic fasting without calorie deprevation.5
The meal plan should be followed without any additional food sources for 5 days, periodically every month to see optimal results.
On the ProLon® website the following benefits are noted, supported by clinical studies:5
Promotes weight loss through fat loss
Enhances cellular function and regeneration
Improves metabolic health for better glucose, cholesterol, blood pressure and inflammation control
The effects of fasting on aging and longevity is supported by research.11 The fasting mimicking protocol, where some calories are consumed, has shown almost no side-effects compared to other types of fasting diets.3 It has proved to be an effective weight loss solution by stimulating the body to burn fat and can be considered in healthy patients and those struggling with age-related chronic conditions.
Ahmed, A., Saeed, F., Arshad, M., Afzaal, M., Imran, A., Ali, S., Niaz, B., Ahmad, A. and Imran, M. (2018). Impact of intermittent fasting on human health: an extended review of metabolic cascades. International Journal of Food Properties, [online] 21(1), pp.2700-2713. Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10942912.2018.1560312 [Accessed 11 Jan. 2020].
Brandhorst, S., Choi, I., Wei, M., Cheng, C., Sedrakyan, S., Navarrete, G., Dubeau, L., Yap, L., Park, R., Vinciguerra, M., Di Biase, S., Mirzaei, H., Mirisola, M., Childress, P., Ji, L., Groshen, S., Penna, F., Odetti, P., Perin, L., Conti, P., Ikeno, Y., Kennedy, B., Cohen, P., Morgan, T., Dorff, T. and Longo, V. (2015). A Periodic Diet that Mimics Fasting Promotes Multi-System Regeneration, Enhanced Cognitive Performance, and Healthspan. Cell Metabolism, [online] 22(1), pp.86-99. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4509734/ [Accessed 11 Jan. 2020].
Longo, V. and Mattson, M. (2014). Fasting: Molecular Mechanisms and Clinical Applications. Cell Metabolism, [online] 19(2), pp.181-192. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3946160/ [Accessed 11 Jan. 2020].
Wei, M., Brandhorst, S., Shelehchi, M., Mirzaei, H., Cheng, C., Budniak, J., Groshen, S., Mack, W., Guen, E., Di Biase, S., Cohen, P., Morgan, T., Dorff, T., Hong, K., Michalsen, A., Laviano, A. and Longo, V. (2017). Fasting-mimicking diet and markers/risk factors for aging, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Science Translational Medicine, [online] 9(377), p.eaai8700. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6816332/ [Accessed 11 Jan. 2020].
Rangan, P., Choi, I., Wei, M., Navarrete, G., Guen, E., Brandhorst, S., Enyati, N., Pasia, G., Maesincee, D., Ocon, V., Abdulridha, M. and Longo, V. (2019). Fasting-Mimicking Diet Modulates Microbiota and Promotes Intestinal Regeneration to Reduce Inflammatory Bowel Disease Pathology. Cell Reports, [online] 26(10), pp.2704-2719.e6. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6528490/ [Accessed 11 Jan. 2020].
Zhou, Z., Jia, X., Sun, M., Zhu, Y., Qiao, C., Zhang, B., Zhao, L., Yang, Q., Cui, C., Chen, X. and Shen, Y. (2019). Neuroprotection of Fasting Mimicking Diet on MPTP-Induced Parkinson’s Disease Mice via Gut Microbiota and Metabolites. Neurotherapeutics, [online] 16(3), pp.741-760. Available at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs13311-019-00719-2 [Accessed 11 Jan. 2020].
Choi, I., Lee, C. and Longo, V. (2017). Nutrition and fasting mimicking diets in the prevention and treatment of autoimmune diseases and immunosenescence. Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology, [online] 455, pp.4-12. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5862044/ [Accessed 11 Jan. 2020].
Nencioni, A., Caffa, I., Cortellino, S. and Longo, V. (2018). Fasting and cancer: molecular mechanisms and clinical application. Nature Reviews Cancer, [online] 18(11), pp.707-719. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6938162/ [Accessed 11 Jan. 2020].