High levels of vitamins C and E help prevent metabolic syndrome

The precursors to cardiovascular disease and diabetes include a range of markers collectively known as metabolic syndrome. And researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts University have found that maintaining high levels of both vitamin C and vitamin E helps to prevent the onset of metabolic syndrome.

Jean Mayer and her team evaluated 353 Ecuadorian men and women over age 65 from three different low-income communities outside of Quito, Ecuador. Forty percent of the population had metabolic syndrome, primarily due to a very poor diet rich in simple carbohydrates and processed sodium, and low in nutrient-rich whole foods. The authors observed, however, that those with the highest blood levels of vitamins C and E were less likely to have metabolic syndrome.

“After adjusting for age and sex, we observed significant relationships between the metabolic syndrome and two of the micronutrients, vitamins C and E,” explained senior study author Simin Nikbin Meydani, Ph.D., director of the USDA HNRCA and the Nutritional Immunology Laboratory at the USDA HNRCA. “The association suggests that having higher blood levels of vitamin E may protect against the metabolic syndrome.”

Many of the participants also had very low vitamin C levels which was likely due to a limited intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, said the authors. And most of the participants ate lots of starchy, sugary foods like white rice, potatoes and white bread, so their overall nutrient profiles were largely limited.

Researchers also noted a connection between metabolic syndrome and C-reactive proteins (CRP), an inflammatory marker connected to cardiovascular disease. So by boosting healthy antioxidant levels with nutrients like vitamin C, populations can better fend off metabolic syndrome and its resultant diseases.

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