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How Vitamin C May Deliver Cardio Exercise Benefits for Obese People


Vitamin C may soon be adding another credit to its health benefits. In addition to traditional assists in fighting colds and boosting the immune system, researchers now say it may provide similar benefits in the area of cardio exercise.

A small study in the beginning stages by University of Colorado researchers indicates Vitamin C supplements may be able to help obese people get some of the cardio benefits that exercise delivers.

Why This Vitamin C Substitution Is So Important

Obesity and inactivity are key issues nationwide. Four in ten American adults are considered entirely sedentary and many of them seldom move very far from the couch. Researchers say less than one percent of these people actually ever lose and keep weight off returning them to normal healthy levels.

In addition, lead researcher, Caitlin Dow, pointed out many of these obese patients cannot exercise because of injuries or physical limitations. In this new study, walking and Vitamin C supplements moved the participants’ vascular tone (a critical issue for the heart) back into the healthy zone.

Comparing the Power of Exercise & Vitamin C

The LA Times reported on this new study of sedentary adults. One group took 500 milligrams of Vitamin C daily and achieved the same improvement in blood vessel tone as those who did three months of brisk walking five to seven times a week.

Fifteen participants did the walking treatment, while 20 people took Vitamin C supplements. The study's measurement of the blood vessels' ability to contract and dilate as needed, shows both groups received similar cardio benefits of aerobic exercise.

Initially, both groups showed a weakened level of vascular tone. This poor vascular tone can set off inflammation in the body and trigger blood clots, increasing high blood pressure, and the risk of heart attacks and strokes. The average body-mass index of exercisers was 29.3 and for the Vitamin C group, 31.3. A BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight, and obesity is diagnosed at a BMI of 30. During the study's three-month run, neither group lost any weight.

Researchers were quick to say exercise such as walking should still be the first choice since regular physical activity has a broader array of benefits, reducing “bad” cholesterol, improving metabolic function and improving mood and mental alertness. Others suggested caution in interpretation of results. Jessica Jones-Smith, Johns Hopkins University’s School of Public Health, pointed out said it is not clear that improved vascular tone, the principal outcome measured, will translate to decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.

What’s Next for Vitamin C Research?

We might assume there will be a lot of additional research with larger studies and more areas of exploration. Some will focus on the population at large and many will zero in on those who are at risk for stroke or heart disease. Others will go further with those who are obese or injured and limited in mobility.

More Questions

Will Vitamin C be the new ‘exercise without exercise’ pill? And if it does, what will it do to the exercise routines of many of us? Will we just gulp a special Vitamin C supplement as we head out the door, skipping that morning run outside, vowing we will do it later?

The results of this first small study were just presented at the American Physiological Society's annual meeting. They have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The best overall course might be to follow this study and others like it. Then discuss the best course with your doctor. As always if you are considering adding new supplements start with your doctor first.

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Used under Creative Commons Licensing courtesy of Steve Baker

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