Free radicals and oxidation are involved in several aspects of blood pressure physiology. We investigated the relationship between blood pressure and antioxidants, including plasma ascorbic acid (AscA), in a 17-week controlled-diet study. Study subjects included 68 men aged 30 to 59 years who had a mean diastolic blood pressure of 73.4 mm Hg and a mean systolic blood pressure of 122.2 mm Hg. One month of vitamin C depletion was followed by 1-month repletion with 117 mg/d, repeated twice. All food and drink were provided in the study. Subjects did not smoke or drink alcohol, all consumed fruits and vegetables, and body weight was maintained. Plasma was assayed periodically for AscA, alpha-tocopherol, carotenoids, and lipids. Plasma AscA was inversely related to diastolic blood pressure 1 month later (correlation -0.48, P:<0.0001). Persons in the bottom fourth of the plasma AscA distribution had >7 mm Hg higher diastolic blood pressure than did those in the top fourth of the plasma AscA distribution. Multivariate analysis with control for age, body mass index, other plasma antioxidants, and dietary energy, calcium, fiber, sodium, and potassium did not reduce the plasma AscA effect. One fourth of the variance in diastolic blood pressure was accounted for by plasma AscA alone. Plasma AscA was also significantly associated with systolic blood pressure in logistic regression.
Vitamin C may be an important component of the effectiveness of fruits and vegetables in the reduction in blood pressure, and tissue AscA levels may be important in the maintenance of low blood pressure. Long-term intervention studies are warranted.


G Block, A R Mangels, E P Norkus, B H Patterson, O A Levander, P R Taylor


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