Vitamin C Enhances the Lung Protective Effects of Vitamin E in Smokers and Non-Smokers
Source: Oregon State University Study (2006)
Lifestyle Medicine Update (March 16, 2022)
In the previous Lifestyle Medicine Update, I reported on a large study showing that women who took a vitamin E supplement each day for ten years reduced the development of chronic lung disease (emphysema, chronic bronchitis, bronchiectasis) by 10%, compared to women who took the placebo. These findings also held true for women who smoked, suggesting that vitamin E supplementation can even help smokers reduce the development of some serious chronic lung conditions. That’s an impressive finding, as you can appreciate.
As indicated by the researchers who conducted the 2006 study from Oregon State University, vitamin E is one of the first lines of defense in human lung tissue against the ravages of cigarette smoke, which creates destructive free radicals. If the body has adequate levels of vitamin E, this protective antioxidant can interact with peroxyl radicals (free radicals) created by cigarette smoke and prevent the destruction of lung membranes. In this process, however, vitamin E can be used up and converted into a free radical itself.
This is where vitamin C enters the picture. Vitamin C can recycle vitamin E back to its antioxidant state, enabling vitamin E to continue to quench free radicals over and over again, without being converted into a damaging free radical itself. As such, vitamin E and vitamin C work synergistically to protect lung tissue against, not only cigarette smoke to some degree but also from the damaging effects of air pollution that is a common by-product of our industrialized world. We all need to protect our lung tissue in the modern era. So, to this end, the 2006 Oregon State University study showed that providing smokers with 1,000 mg of vitamin C per day reduced the rate of vitamin E depletion in smokers by up to 45%. The group given the placebo showed no such benefit but rather experienced rapid depletion of their vitamin E levels. As they point out, in the general population, studies show that only 8% of men and 2.4% of women have an adequate dietary intake of vitamin E. The Women’s Health Initiative Study showed that providing women with 600 IU of vitamin E per day from supplementation reduced the development of chronic lung diseases by 10%. But studies show that once you take more than 400 IU per day of vitamin E it may amplify the effects of anticoagulant drugs.
So, my feeling is that most people would benefit from taking 400 IU of vitamin E per day and 1,000 mg of vitamin C per day. Together these two vitamins are shown in human clinical studies to help to protect lung tissue against air pollution and may even help smokers reduce their risk of emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and bronchiectasis, although quitting smoking should be the ultimate goal, Of course, vitamin C and vitamin E supplementation in this range has also been shown support immune system function, which is another important benefit.
I have included the 2006 Oregon State University study reference in the text below.
Study with smokers shows vitamins combine for benefits. ScienceDaily. Feb. 25. 2006. (Oregon State University Study)
Eat Smart, Live Well, Look Great,
Dr. James Meschino
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. James Meschino, DC, MS, ROHP, is an educator, author, and researcher having lectured to thousands of healthcare professionals across North America. He holds a Master’s Degree in Science with specialties in human nutrition and biology and is recognized as an expert in the field of nutrition, anti-aging, fitness, and wellness as well as the author of numerous books.