Vitamin Supplements Can Help With Cystic Fibrosis

Woman Holding Vitamin Supplement

The study found that high doses of vitamin C were beneficial in inflammatory conditions.

An Oregon State University study has demonstrated that vitamin supplements can benefit cystic fibrosis patients.

According to research conducted by Oregon State University, cystic fibrosis patients who supplement their diets with vitamin C also benefit more from vitamin E, another antioxidant, which reduces damaging inflammation.

The results, which were published in the journal Nutrients, are important since cystic fibrosis affects more than 160,000 individuals globally. Cystic fibrosis is characterized by lung inflammation and airway-blocking mucus accumulation.

The life-shortening condition is linked to recurrent lung infection and affects 40,000 individuals in the United States. In the U.S., around 1,000 new instances are identified each year, with most patients being 2 years old or less.

Patients with cystic fibrosis still only have a 40-year median life expectancy, despite steady advances in alleviating complications.

“Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease that is associated with increased inflammation, and like many inflammatory diseases, it comes with a large amount of oxidative stress,” said Maret Traber of OSU’s Linus Pauling Institute, who led the study.

An imbalance in the body between free radicals, which can trigger detrimental chemical reactions, and antioxidants causes oxidative stress. Antioxidants are molecules that can donate an electron to a free radical, leading the free radical to become less reactive while remaining stable.

“In addition to oxidative stress, cystic fibrosis is also characterized by problems with fat absorption, which limits the uptake of vitamin E, a fat-soluble antioxidant,” said Traber, a professor in the Oregon State College of Public Health and Human Sciences. “Low vitamin E levels plus high oxidative stress is a recipe for more inflammation, which can contribute to a range of negative health outcomes.”

Patients’ difficulties with fat absorption mean that they need to consume larger than usual amounts of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin E, Traber said. Patients need at least 400 milligrams of vitamin E daily to achieve normal blood concentrations, she said.

In this study, the researchers looked at whether vitamin C supplements could help patients better use their absorbed vitamin E. Vitamin C can recycle oxidized forms of vitamin E, and it is also helpful at tamping down the oxidative stress aspects of inflammation, Traber said.

After 3½ weeks of daily 1,000-milligram doses of vitamin C, the patients in the study trended toward lower blood concentrations of a key oxidative stress biomarker, malondialdehyde or MDA, and also toward a slowdown in vitamin E elimination from the bloodstream.

“Since vitamin E is hanging around longer, it might be able to get into tissues better, and better protect cell membranes from oxidative stress,” Traber said.

The benefits of the findings, published in the journal Nutrients, are not unique to cystic fibrosis patients, she noted. Smokers, for example, typically have problems associated with oxidative stress and can benefit from extra vitamin C and possibly extra vitamin E. Metabolic syndrome patients have issues with vitamin C and E as well.

“This study used vitamin C far in excess of what someone can easily obtain from the diet,” she said. “One thousand milligrams is the equivalent of 15 oranges or four or five medium bell peppers. But the research does suggest a high dosage may be beneficial in inflammatory conditions.”

Reference: “α-Tocopherol Pharmacokinetics in Adults with Cystic Fibrosis: Benefits of Supplemental Vitamin C Administration” by Maret G. Traber, Scott W. Leonard, Vihas T. Vasu, Brian M. Morrissey, Huangshu (John) Lei, Jeffrey Atkinson and Carroll E. Cross, 9 September 2022, Nutrients.
DOI: 10.3390/nu14183717

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