I’ve written about the endothelium many times before. But it’s a topic that bears repeating—because it’s absolutely critical to your health.
As a quick refresher, the endothelium is the thin layer of cells that line your blood vessels. Endothelial cells help regulate neutrophil activity (neutrophils are one of the immune system’s key white blood cells). Your endothelium is also responsible for nitric oxide (NO) production. And NO’s chief role is to act as a “vasodilator”—which is just a fancy way of saying that it relaxes your blood vessels and makes them wider and more flexible.
Increased NO activity means lower blood pressure and better blood flow. It also means less damage to your blood vessels. And more oxygen and nutrients to every system in your body—which, in turn, protects you against every disease in the book.
So it makes sense that damage to your endothelium is where heart disease really starts. Unfortunately, it’s the first part of your circulatory system to suffer damage from a lackluster lifestyle. And the chief source of endothelial damage is sugar.
That’s right. Sugar—not fat or cholesterol—does the real damage to your blood vessels.
But I’m not writing about this to go on another sugar-bashing tirade. (They’ll be plenty more of those in the future, I’m sure.) I mention all this because today, I have news on a new way to heal the endothelial damage that sugar causes.
Well, it’s not exactly new. More like something old that’s becoming news again—thanks to a recent analysis of nearly 50 clinical trials.
I’m talking about vitamin C. It appears that high doses (500 milligrams or more) of this essential nutrient may boost your endothelial health. Which protects your heart—and your whole body—in the process.
This new analysis looked at more than 1,100 patients. And it showed that vitamin C supplements significantly improved endothelial in subjects with diabetes, atherosclerosis, and heart failure. (In other words, the people who need it the most.)
But what particularly interested me about this study was the potential mechanism of action the researchers identified.
Before now, experts believed that vitamin C’s endothelial benefits came from its role as an antioxidant. By mopping up free radicals, it extinguished endothelium-damaging inflammation.
But according to this new research, it appears that vitamin C can also boost nitric oxide efficiency. Which, as I mentioned earlier, keeps your blood vessels open, allowing more oxygen-rich blood to run through them—and more healing to take place.
Just remember—dosage is important. As I mentioned, this study stipulated that the dose has to be above 500 mg to yield significant heart health benefits.
In reality, even 500 mg is a conservative dose. Because humans are one of the only mammals that can’t produce vitamin C internally. So we must get it strictly from our diet or through supplementation.
Which is why, in addition to eating plenty of vitamin C-rich foods (like bell peppers, broccoli, and strawberries), I also recommend taking 3,000 mg of vitamin C—in divided doses—every day.
“Effect of vitamin C on endothelial function in health and disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials.” Atherosclerosis. 2014 Jul;235(1):9-20.