The role of vitamin C in heart health (Pt. 2)
The ‘Ultrafast Computed Tomography’ test
The underlying problem in atherosclerosis is “the instability of the vascular wall, which triggers the development of atherosclerotic deposits.” (1)
Dr. Rath’s cellular health recommendations were put to the test using a new diagnostic technique known as ‘Ultrafast Computed Tomography’. UCT is a “Non-invasive test for coronary heart disease (that) measures the area and density of calcium deposits without the use of needles or radioactive dye.” High levels of accumulated calcium correlates with more advanced coronary heart disease.
Because it directly measures the deposits in the artery walls, UCT is the “most precise diagnostic technique available today to detect coronary heart disease already in its early stages, (and)…allows the detection of deposits in the coronary arteries long before a patients notices angina pectoris or other symptoms.” (1)
55 patients with different degrees of cardiovascular heart disease were studied, before and after Dr. Rath’s vitamin supplementation program. During the first six months of this study, the growth of coronary artery deposits was slowed down, and essentially stopped during the second six months.
This study was very significant because it measured for the first time how aggressive coronary heart disease progresses until eventually a heart attack occurs. It gave us invaluable information about the time it takes for a vitamin program to show a repair effect on the artery wall. This is remarkable taking into account that atherosclerotic deposits develop over many years or decades.
Without vitamin protection the coronary calcifications increased at a rapid rate, an average of 44% per year. Researches like this are a proof that a vitamin program, with the essential ingredients needed to start the natural healing process of the artery wall, are important.
According to the research of Dr. Rath, in patients with advanced coronary artery disease, a good supplement program can “stabilize the artery walls, halt the further growth of coronary deposits, reverse them, at least in part, and contribute to the prevention of heart attacks.” (1)
Clinical studies on vitamin supplementation
Many clinical and epidemiological studies have documented the prevention of cardiovascular disease with vitamins. Dr. James Enstrom performed a government supported study showing that people who consumed at least 300 mg per day of vitamin C through their diet or in the form of supplements, could reduce their heart disease risk up to 50% in men and up to 40% in women. The same study showed that a higher intake of vitamin C was associated with an increased life expectancy of up to six years.
Dr. G.C. Willis did a study that showed how dietary vitamin C can reverse atherosclerosis. In this study, the patients that had received 1.5 grams of vitamin C per day for one year showed a 30% reduction of symptoms. The group of patients who had not received any vitamin C supplementation clearly had deposits that stayed the same or increased.
Optimum dietary intake of vitamin E, beta-carotene and other essential nutrients also significantly reduced cardio vascular disease risk in extensively documented researches: 200 IU of vitamin E per day was shown to reduce the risk of heart attacks by 34%, compared to the average intake of just 3 in the American population. What is more, 400-800 IU of vitamin E showed a reduction of 47% in non-fatal heart attacks. Similarly, just 50 mg per day of beta carotene was also shown to significantly decrease cardiovascular disease risk.
Another study showed that adequate levels of vitamin B6, B12 and folic acid helped in lowering homocysteine levels and the risk of coronary heart disease.
A large scale study conducted by Dr. Sudhir Kurl and his colleagues at the University of Kuopio in Finland showed that optimum vitamin C intake is the single most important factor for preventing strokes in high blood pressure patients. This study was done over a 10 year period with more than 2,400 patients who were overweight and suffered from high blood pressure. This study showed that low levels of vitamin C increased the risk for a stroke by almost threefold.
In another 20-year study involving more than 2,000 patients over two decades, Dr. Tetsuji Yokoyama and his colleagues from the University of Tokyo in Japan showed that optimum vitamin C intake is the single most important factor for preventing all forms of strokes in men and women.
Dr. Rath’s cellular health recommendations for patients with coronary heart disease
For patients with existing coronary heart disease or a high risk for this condition Dr. Rath’s recommendations consist on the following cellular micronutrients in high doses:
Vitamin C: Provides protection and assists in healing the artery wall and helps reverse plaques
Vitamin E: Antioxidant protection
Vitamin D: Optimizes calcium metabolism and the reversal of calcium deposits in the artery wall
Folic acid: Provides a protective function against increased homocysteine levels together with B6, vitamin b12 and biotin
Biotin: Provides a protective function against increased homocysteine levels together with vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and folic acid
Copper: Supports stability of the artery wall with the improved cross-linking of collagen molecules
Proline: Supports collagen production, stability of the artery wall and reversal of plaques
Lysine: Supports collagen production, stability of the artery wall and reversal of plaques
Chondroiton sulfate: Supports the stability of the artery wall as a ‘cement’ for connective tissue
N-acetyl-glucosamine: Supports the stability of the artery wall as a cement for connective tissue
Pycnogenol: Acts as a biocatalyst for better vitamin C function and improved stability of the artery wall
The proof: vitamin C deficiency causes atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease
To prove this Dr. Rath conducted an experiment with guinea pigs, which are one of the few animals in the animal kingdom that are unable to manufacture vitamin C. Two groups of guinea pigs received exactly the same daily amounts of cholesterol, fats, proteins, sugars, salt, etc, except vitamin C. Group B received 60 mg of vitamin C per day, compared to human body weight. Group A received 5,000 mg of vitamin C per day. After only 5 weeks the vitamin C deficient animal in group B developed atherosclerotic deposits particularly in the areas close to the heart. The aortas of the animals in group A remained healthy and did not show any deposits, showing an intact cell barrier between the bloodstream and artery wall. The arteries of the vitamin C deficient animals lost the protection and stability of their arteries showing a fragmented collagen structure.
Another confirmation of the vitamin C-cardiovascular disease connection was published by a research team from the University of N. Carolina in the ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’ in 2000. Researchers examined the arteries of normal mice and found they did not have atherosclerosis, which is expected because these animals make their own vitamin C. These researchers then shut down the gene that is responsible for converting glucose into vitamin C in the livers of these animals. They also changed their diets where the animals did not receive any vitamin C. As a result, the animals developed lesions and cracks, and cholesterol levels rose in order to repair the artery wall weaknesses caused by weakened arteries. According to Dr. Rath, this experiment confirmed two important facts in coronary artery disease:
- Vitamin C deficiency is a primary cause of heart disease
- High cholesterol is not the cause of heart disease, but the consequence
A new understanding of the nature of heart disease
With these experiments, Dr. Rath redefines heart disease as a vitamin deficiency condition. In this light, lesions are considered the end result of an instability and dysfunction of the blood vessel wall caused by chronic vitamin deficiency that leads to millions of small lesions and cracks in the artery walls. This is especially the case of the coronary arteries because of the constant pumping of the heart.
Once the weakness in the artery walls starts, repair is initiated by cholesterol and other repair factors that are produced in the liver, and transported in the bloodstream to the artery walls. This repair mechanism is an ongoing process that compensates the unavailability of vitamin C in the diet.
The natural reversal of cardiovascular disease
Dr. Rath has observed that “around the core of the plaque, a local ‘tumor’ forms from muscle cells typical in the artery wall” (1). This muscle cell tumor is another way in which the body stabilizes the vitamin deprived artery wall. The deposit of lipoproteins from the bloodstream and the muscle cell tumor in the artery wall are the most important factors that determine the size of the plaque and thereby the progression of coronary heart disease.
The main idea behind reversing atherosclerosis is to start the healing process in the artery wall that has been weakened by chronic vitamin deficiencies. Besides vitamin C, which stimulates production of collagen molecules, other nutrients that Dr. Rath recommends for optimum collagen production are lysine, proline, vitamin E (to halt the cell overgrowth around plaque), beta-carotene and selenium (for anti-oxidant protection of the artery wall).
Dr. Rath explains that for a protocol to work it has to support optimum collagen production. “The collagen molecules in our bodies are proteins composed of amino acids. Collagen molecules differ from all other proteins in the body in that they make particular use of the amino acids lysine and proline”. Thus, together with vitamin C the arteries need proline, and lysine for the optimum regeneration of the connective tissue in the artery walls, and therefore the natural healing of cardiovascular disease.
With an optimum supply of essential nutrients the smooth muscle cells of artery wall produce sufficient amounts of functional collagen guaranteeing optimum stability of the wall. On the contrary, vitamin deficiency leads to the production of faulty and dysfunctional collagen molecules by the arterial muscle cells. These muscle cells multiply to form an atherosclerotic tumor. Vitamin C and E can inhibit the growth of this atherosclerotic tumor.
How the “Heart and Body Extract” can help your heart
Each of the ingredients in the “Heart and Body Extract” has been carefully selected to optimize heart function. Let us look at each ingredient individually.
Cayenne has been described by some herbalists and physicians as the catalyst herb, because it increases the effectiveness of other herbs. Cayenne is considered the most useful and valuable herb in the herb kingdom, not only for the heart and circulatory system, but also for the entire digestive system. It is a very high source of Vitamins A, C and the complete B complex while being rich in organic calcium and potassium, which is one of the reasons it has been suggested for the heart. It also helps in the absorption of vitamins and prescription medicines.
In addition to its ability to stimulate the circulatory and digestive systems, it has a tonic and antiseptic affect, increasing perspiration, thus eliminating toxins through the skin.
Cayenne is helpful in stopping heart attacks, regulating blood pressure, and nourishing the heart cells. Also, the herb has been found useful for providing protection to the stomach lining from aspirin. (2)
Garlic has been extensively researched for heart disease. It has been found very helpful for lowering cholesterol, and numerous large studies have shown that taking supplements that mimic fresh garlic can significantly lower LDL cholesterol levels without hurting beneficial HDL cholesterol levels. Garlic appears to do this by blocking the liver from making too much LDL cholesterol.
There is also some suggestion that garlic can help in lowering blood pressure by dilating the blood vessels. Researchers are finding that it can help to prevent blood clots and therefore reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. (3)
Hawthorne is high in vitamin C, pectin and other substances. Therefore, it is primarily used to treat the heart’s blood vessels. It has been shown to have a mild but positive effect blood circulation. Hawthorn is thought to be particularly useful in the early stages of heart failure, such as heart failure followed by respiratory ailments and poor peripheral circulation and tendency to develop edema. In these cases, hawthorn can be used with supplemental coenzyme Q10. Hawthorn may delay the development of more serious heart disease and delay the need for stronger heart medications. Several double blind tests have shown that patients with early stages of cardiovascular disorders have increased physical endurance and improved cardiac function (as measured by ECG) after using standardized hawthorn extracts for few weeks. Hawthorne is thought to promote blood flow in the vessels around the heart, increase metabolism in the heart muscle, making the heart work more efficiently and to increase cardiac muscle tolerance due to lack of oxygen.
In cases of decreased ability to pump enough blood, usually caused by prolonged high blood pressure, previous heart attacks, diseases related to the heart valves or heart muscle, or chronic lung diseases such as asthma or emphysema, hawthorne is thought to help with the general weakness, fatigue and shortness of breath common to heart failure.
Hawthorn is also believed to improve circulation in the arms and legs by reducing resistance in the arteries. This is partly due to its ability to inhibit a substance in the body known as ‘angiotensin-converting enzyme’ (ACE). ACE is related to the formation of angiotensin II, a substance that has strong astringent effect on the blood vessels.
Hawthorn has sometimes been used to normalize blood pressure, not only to treat high blood pressure but to increase blood pressure that is too low. The herb can be prescribed in order to slightly elevate blood pressure and to treat cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heart beat), especially in the elderly. It may also be used as a treatment for hypertension caused by arteriosclerosis, or kidney disease. In addition, hawthorn has a secondary action as a diuretic, a common symptom of heart failure.
Hawthorn can be used to treat or prevent ‘angina pectoris’, the chest pain that occurs when the heart muscle does not receive enough oxygen. A study conducted in 1983 showed the applicability of hawthorn extract to treat patients with this condition. 60 patients were given either 180 mg extract or placebo daily for three weeks. The patients who took hawthorn could train for longer periods without suffering from angina attacks. ECGs showed better blood flow and oxygen supply to the heart in these patients than in those receiving a placebo.
Hawthorn can be used together with garlic as a remedy for angina and reduced blood circulation. Coenzyme Q10 can also be used with hawthorn.
Hawthorn acts by dilating the blood vessels and helping improve blood transport to all parts of the body.
The herb also seems to have dampening effect on atherosclerosis, and it can be useful for people who struggle with confusion and poor memory caused by reduced blood supply to the brain.
Since hawthorn is believed to have a good effect on the capillaries in the body, it may be useful for those who bruise easily. However, the herb has to be used for at least 3-4 weeks before any reduction in the formation of bruises can be seen. (4)
Coleus forskohlii is a popular herb for angina. It increases stroke volume, which is the amount of blood pumped in each heart beat, and reduces the risk of blood clots. In addition, the herb lowers high blood pressure by relaxing the arterial walls.
Indian and Chinese studies in the last two years have isolated a number of diterpenoids in the stem and leaves of coleus forskohlii with a focus on treatment of gastric cancer and preventing metastatic (secondary) cancers. These have been carried out on animal models with considerable success. (5)
Motherwort has been for centuries as a medicinal plant to treat hypertension. The herb has diuretic properties and may inhibit artery calcification formation.
It is also used as a remedy for milder forms of Graves’ disease (an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid). The German Commission E states that motherwort can be used for irregularities related to the heart caused by over stimulation of the thyroid gland (Hyperthyroidism / thyrotoxicosis).
Motherwort is considered more effective in lowering blood pressure than valerian, and the plant’s high content of vitamins A and C also add to its beneficial effect.
Extracts of the plant have been used as treatment for mild and chronic cardiac and vascular diseases, especially in the elderly.
It has also been used for rapid heart rate, some other minor irregularities in the heart’s rhythm and to reduce the risk of blood clots (thrombosis).
Many herbalists consider the plant particularly effective in treating palpitations (tachycardia), especially when this is due to anxiety. The herb has been used traditionally for most heart related problems associated with anxiety, tension and stress.
A lot of research has been done on this herb, especially in the Western world, where the traditional use of both the European and Chinese species of motherwort as a treatment for heart related disorders has been extensive. In one case, Chinese scientists found that the herb, or extracts from it, increased the volume of blood circulation, stimulated uterine activity and promoted the flow of urine.
Other recently performed studies indicate that the herb has antioxidant, immune-boosting and cancer protective properties and one study done on laboratory animals has indicated that certain alkaloids found in the herb can lower blood pressure and have positive effect on the central nervous system. (6)
Bilberry is another great addition to the “Heart and Body Extract”. The use of bilberry as a medicinal herb goes back all the way to the 16th century. The berries contain pectin, quercetin, A, B, and C vitamins which makes it a natural antioxidant, lowering blood pressure, reducing clotting and improving blood supply to the nervous system. The leaves contain the trace mineral manganese and other compounds.
Bilberry can be used as a supportive treatment for diabetes, both because the berries reduce blood sugar and because they can prevent eye diseases and blood vessel disorders that can accompany diabetes. This effect is probably due to the flavonoid quercetin which is the main active ingredient in the herb. Quercetin inhibits an enzyme called ‘aldose reductase’. The enzyme is normally found in the eye and several other body parts and converts sorbitol to glucosel. If the sorbitol levels become too high in the eyes or nerves, they can cause retinopathy (disease of the retina) and nerve damage. Many people with diabetes use an aldose reductase inhibitor to prevent eye problems related to the disease.
Bilberry is used to help address vascular and blood disorders, varicose veins, thrombosis, hemorrhoids and as an herbal treatment for angina. It can also help to prevent capillary fragility and thin the blood.
Bilberry is used traditionally as a natural remedy for kidney stones, scurvy and urinary infections. (7)
Butcher’s broom is generally used as an anti-inflammatory, to improve blood circulation, and to ameliorate water retention discomfort. This medicinal herb is believed to tighten the veins of the circulatory system and fortify the walls of capillary vessels.
Its high flavonoid content, such as rutin, improves the flow of blood to the brain, hands, and legs, and acts to reduce the blood clotting and post-surgical thrombosis.
The use of this medicinal herb as a tonic was recorded in the manuscripts of ancient Greeks. However, only after 1950s, the medical properties of this herb have been spread to the West. In the 1970s, Europe affirmed the extending popularity of the herbal remedies in the modern medicine. Now, the modern herbal medical practitioners commonly use the leaves of the plant as an anti-inflammatory agent and circulatory tonic for a variety of vascular disorders.
Because of its mild diuretic action, butcher’s broom acts as herbal remedy for reducing swelling of the legs, and it seems to be useful in the treatment of phlebitis and natural treatment for varicose veins.
Some herbalists recommend the use of butcher’s broom for the treatment and prevention of a variety of ailments such as atherosclerosis and chronic venous insufficiency. (8)
Mistletoe has been used by herbal practitioners as a treatment for urinary disorders, heart disease, and other symptoms arising from a weakened or disordered state of the nervous system. Mistletoe has been used to lower blood pressure and heart rate, ease anxiety, and as an herbal sleep aid. (9)
Ginger has been used for digestive health to treat common gastrointestinal complaints such as indigestion and heartburn, but heart health is another of its benefits. It has been shown to slow the production of LDL and triglycerides in the liver and prevent the clotting and aggregation of platelets in the blood vessels, associated with atherosclerosis and blood clots. (10)
Concluding, the role of nutrition in heart health has been extensively researched. Because of the great workload the heart is subjected to, it is the most vulnerable to nutritional deficiencies. Key nutrients like Vitamin C can keep the heart arteries strong and resilient.
Get the ‘pump’ your heart needs by starting a supplemental program, like the “Heart and Body Extract”
Thank you for reading.
(1) Rath, Matthias. Why Animals Don’t Get Heart Attacks– but People Do!: The Discovery That Will Eradicate Heart Disease: The Natural Prevention of Heart Attacks, Strokes, High Blood Pressure, Diabetes, High Cholesterol and Many Other Cardiovascular Conditions. Santa Clara, CA: Dr. Rath Education Services USA, 2003. Print.