Vitamins are vital for heart health. A recent study finds that vitamin C from fruits and vegetables decreases the risk of heart disease, although suipplements don't necessarily have the same effect.
Everybody needs vitamins. They aren't really medicine. They are "food." However, when we don't get enough, some physiological process goes wrong (which is how they got their name, they are vital). When we get all the vitamins we need, our bodies naturally function better.
A recent study took a deeper look at the role of vitamins in heart health. Scientists in Denmark took a look at the differences in heart health among Danes who had different vitamin C levels in their bloodstreams due to differences in their genetics. This study was not just about consuming vitamins. It was also about how the body uses vitamins, and whether certain people need more.
What You Didn't Hear In Health (Or History) Class About Vitamin C
Vitamin C is the best known of all the vitamins. There was a time when it was the only vitamin you could find as a supplement. Vitamin C is well known because it played a role in history. The British (and, as many of the history books in the West leave out, the Japanese) Empires were able to expand when they built great navies. What the British and Japanese admirals knew that the admirals of other navies did not was that sailors did not get scurvy, a disease that could cause teeth to fall out and muscles to fail or even death, when they received fruit (in the British Navy, limes) and vegetables (in the Japanese Navy), in their daily rations.
Healthier sailors meant more victories at sea, and the expansion of their empires.
Exactly what there was in plant foods that kept sailors healthy was not known until the 1930's, when a Hungarian scientist named Albert Szent-Gyorgi isolated ascorbic acid, the compound we have come to know as vitamin C. However, what gets left out of the story is that Dr. Szent-Gyorgi found that vitamin C, while utterly necessary to human health, can't do its job on its own. It needs cofactors that the Hungarian scientist called vitamin P (because he found them in paprika). It isn't enough to get vitamin C. One also needs a variety of antioxidants that are found in real food. No single antioxidant in food, not quercetin or kaempferol or lycopene or any of hundreds of others, is itself vital to human health, so we no longer refer to "vitamin P."
However, eating real food is what enables vitamin C to do its job.
Not Everyone Needs The Same Amount of Vitamin C
Before scientists acquired modern tools of genetic analysis, it was assumed for a few decades that they already knew everything they needed to know about vitamin C. It turns out that genetics can explain some very interesting things about how the body responds to vitamin C.
Researchers have identified a gene called SLC23A1 rs33972313 G that determines how long the body keeps vitamin C in the bloodstream. People who have the gene have on average about 11 percent more vitamin C in circulation, and it turns out that this makes a significant difference for heart health.