Review of vitamin C supplementation on lipids

Dr. Marc McRae from the National University of Health Sciences in Lombard, Illinois reviewed the effect of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) supplementation on LDL (bad) and HDL (good) cholesterol, as well as triglycerides in patients with hypercholesterolemia.

First, the details.

  • 13 studies between 1970 and June 2007 were identified.
  • Data from patients with hypercholesterolemia and who received at least 500 mg/day of vitamin C for between 3 and 24 weeks were re-analyzed (meta-analysis).

And, the results.

  • The effect for vitamin C supplementation on LDL cholesterol was a significant decline of -7.9 mg/dL (-12.3 to -3.5 mg/dL).
  • There was a significant decline of -20.1 mg/dL (-33.3 to -6.8 mg/dL) in triglyceride blood levels.
  • HDL cholesterol did not change significantly.

The bottom line?
Dr. McRae concludes, “Supplementation with at least 500 mg/day of vitamin C, for a minimum of 4 weeks, can result in a significant decrease in serum LDL cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations.”

The abstract (admittedly, I don’t have access to the entire article) doesn’t mention the range of starting LDL cholesterol levels studied in these 13 publications or the response at each 10 mg/dL or so increase in LDL cholesterol. So, although the overall results are statistically significant, it’s not clear whether they are clinically significant for many patients in terms of reducing the risk for heart disease.

For example, if the goal for LDL cholesterol is less than 100 mg/dL, many people with borderline high levels (130 to 159 mg/dL) would not achieve their treatment goal, even if they got the average response of about -7.9 mg/dL. And it’s likely those with the lowest starting LDL cholesterol levels had less response to treatment than those with the highest starting LDL cholesterol levels.

Before starting to take high dose vitamin C, read this review on Healthline, which was written by National Standard. Talk to your doctor.

6/2/08 19:15 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.