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16 February 2006
Vitamin Combo Could Be Key For Smokers

The journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine carries news of intriguing research into the interaction between vitamin C and vitamin E. It seems that supplements of vitamin C can largely stop the serious depletion of vitamin E that occurs in smokers.

Scientists from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University showed that supplements of 1000 milligrams of vitamin C per day could reduce by up to 45 percent the rate of disappearance of one form of vitamin E in smokers. It appears that the vitamin C helped maintain the levels of vitamin E, so that smokers who took supplements had about the same level of antioxidant protection as non-smokers. The scientists involved called the interaction "remarkable."

"A lot of nutrition research in the past has been done by studying one nutrient or another in isolation, sometimes with conflicting results," said lead researcher Maret Traber, at the Linus Pauling Institute. "What this and other studies like it are showing is that the protection we get from proper diet or supplements, often comes from combinations of nutrients working together. This has implications not only for smokers but also for many other people."

Adequate levels of Vitamin E are one of the first lines of protection in the lungs against the ravages of cigarette smoke. If the body has sufficient vitamin E, this protective antioxidant can interact with the peroxyl radicals created by cigarette smoke and prevent the destruction of lung membranes. However, vitamin E can itself be made into a destructive radical. But if adequate levels of vitamin C are present, it can help the vitamin E return to non-radical form and continue its protective role. But in the absence of adequate vitamin C, this process breaks down.

"We've known for some time that smokers are under oxidative stress, because the smoke itself is an oxidant that creates free radicals and cell mutations," Traber said. "The immune response of the body also tends to cause inflammation, and this inflammation is one reason that smoking relates not only to lung cancer but other serious health problems such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease."

Because they have a more rapid loss of protective antioxidants, smokers face special challenges. Research has shown that only 8 percent of men and 2.4 percent of women have an adequate dietary intake of vitamin E.

The researchers believe that this is the first time such an interaction between vitamins has been found in humans. "What this clearly shows is that to perform their vital roles, vitamins C and E work together," Traber said. "They have a synergistic effect that will not be gained just by intake of one or the other, and adequate levels of these nutrients are especially important for people who smoke."

Source: Oregon State University

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