Squeeze Your Way to Lower Blood Pressure? See How Vitamin C Can Help!

High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects around 68 million Americans, increasing their risk of developing kidney problems, heart disease, and stroke. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found that approximately two-thirds of both men and women develop high blood pressure by their 60s. One potential contributing factor to this epidemic could be insufficient levels of vitamin C in the body.

Vitamin C and Blood Pressure Reduction

Researchers at Johns Hopkins have discovered that consuming large amounts of vitamin C can help regulate blood pressure. The findings indicate that vitamin C supplementation has a modest blood pressure lowering effect. However, further research is needed to understand the implications of taking supplements before they can be recommended as a treatment for hypertension.

These research interests specifically concern vitamin C’s potential role in reducing blood pressure due to the nutrient’s biological and physiological effects. For instance, vitamin C might act as a diuretic, leading to kidneys removing more sodium and water from the body. This process helps relax blood vessel walls and subsequently lowers blood pressure. This study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Vitamin C: An Essential Nutrient

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is an essential nutrient. Our body cannot produce vitamin C on its own, so it must be obtained through our diet. It is primarily known for strengthening the immune system, helping wounds heal, and functioning as an antioxidant to neutralize harmful free radicals.

Some functions of vitamin C in the body include:

  1. Iron absorption: Vitamin C improves the absorption of non-heme iron found in plant-based sources of food. This is particularly important for vegetarians and vegans who need to optimize iron uptake from plant-based diets.

  2. Collagen synthesis: A critical protein to maintain skin elasticity, blood vessels, tendons, and ligaments, collagen requires vitamin C to create. A deficiency in vitamin C may lead to a lack of collagen, resulting in weakened blood vessels.

  3. Antioxidant activity: Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that safeguards against free radicals, unstable molecules that can cause oxidative stress and contribute to the development of numerous chronic diseases. Oxidative stress has been linked to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems.

Dietary Sources of Vitamin C

Vitamin C is found in many fruits and vegetables; however, cooking and prolonged storage can decrease the quantity of vitamin C in food. To optimize the intake of vitamin C through one’s diet, opt for fresh fruits and vegetables such as:

  • Citrus fruits (e.g., oranges, grapefruits, and lemons)
  • Kiwis
  • Berries (e.g., strawberries and raspberries)
  • Melons
  • Mangoes
  • Pineapples
  • Papayas

For vegetables, try these:

  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cauliflower
  • Red and green bell peppers
  • Spinach
  • Cabbage
  • Tomatoes
  • Sweet potatoes

Keep in mind that the daily recommended intake of vitamin C varies according to factors such as age and sex. The National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements provides a comprehensive overview of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin C.

Risks and Considerations

While supplementing with vitamin C can be beneficial for some individuals, it is important to consider the risks. Excessive consumption of vitamin C can lead to side effects such as diarrhea, nausea, abdominal cramps, and headache. Furthermore, vitamin C supplements may interact with certain medications, including some antidepressants, blood pressure medications, and cholesterol-lowering drugs. Consult with a healthcare provider before adding any supplements to your regimen, particularly if taking other medications.

The Verdict

There is growing evidence supporting the potential benefits of vitamin C in reducing blood pressure. Although more research is needed to provide conclusive guidance on the use of vitamin C supplements as a treatment for hypertension, it is important to ensure that you consume an adequate amount of this essential nutrient through your diet.

Maintaining a healthy, nutritious diet that includes a variety of vitamin C-rich foods can not only help regulate blood pressure but also contribute to overall better health. If you still have concerns about your blood pressure and the role of vitamin C, it’s always best to consult with a qualified healthcare professional to discuss your individual needs and circumstances.