Vitamin C and Tobacco


It’s a common thought that Vitamin C supplements will help to bolster the immune system, which is true. However, smokers need more Vitamin C than others if they want to combat the negative effects of cigarettes.

Tobacco smoke is rife with chemicals, over 4,000 of them, in fact. Disturbingly, more than 50 of these chemicals are carcinogenic, meaning they can cause cancer. No organ in the body is safe from the plethora of harmful chemicals in tobacco, so it’s no wonder that smokers are at a high risk of lung, oesophageal, bladder, and pancreas cancer.

Respiratory diseases are also a high possibility for smokers, as well as other potentially life-threatening illnesses.

If you’re a non-smoker you may think you are in the clear. Unfortunately, if you live with a smoker, you are still susceptible to tobacco-related dangers, due to second-hand smoke exposure.

The Journal of Childhood Obesity [1] conducted a recent study that showed that second-hand smoke can increase the risk of obesity in children. It is suggested that children with a high body fat percentage due to second-hand smoke are more susceptible to diabetes and heart disease later in life. What’s more, smoke exposure can negatively affect their cognitive development.

Smoking and Vitamin C: The Correlation


It doesn’t take a whole pack of cigarettes to deplete your system of Vitamin C. In fact, one sole cigarette can sap 25 mg of Vitamin C from your system. Research proves that smoking cigarettes rob the body of Vitamin C, and causes the vitamin to be broken down more rapidly by a smoker’s system. Interestingly, one study showed that Vitamin C was found to be depleted from the blood after a mere 6 puffs of cigarette smoke [2].

Unchecked inflammation and free radicals are two destructive forces in the body, causing damage at cellular level. When chronic inflammation is left untreated, heart disease and cancer can follow close behind. Nicotine (and the numerous other poisons) in cigarettes increases the number of free radicals in the body and encourages chronic inflammation.

In an attempt to combat this, our body gathers all the Vitamin C it can source. It uses it to try and reduce oxidative stress and inflammation caused by the toxic catalogue of chemicals in cigarette smoke. The result? A depleted Vitamin C store [3].

It’s clear to see that cigarettes and Vitamin C have a terrible relationship. Smoking causes the body to experience oxidative stress and inflammation and uses the powerful antioxidant Vitamin C to try and repair the damage. The irony is that smokers need more Vitamin C and antioxidant support!

Liposomal Vitamin C with Glutathione

Why do Smokers Need More Vitamin C?

1.  Fighting Oxidative Stress

Smokers are more susceptible to oxidative stress, as DNA, lipoproteins, and lipids are at high risk of oxidation. Lipid oxidation is an early sign of atherosclerosis (arteries clogged with plaque), a dangerous condition that can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Research tells us that smokers have more F2-isoprostanes (compounds produced by free radical-induced lipid peroxidation) [4]. This increased amount of F2-isoprostanes can be an indicator of a high risk of coronary heart disease due to vivo lipid peroxidation [5].

The good news is that Vitamin C in high doses (2500 mg per day) can restrict the production of isoprostane in smokers. In fact, Vitamin C for smokers can protect plasma lipids from cigarette-related oxidative damage [6]. After all, Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and can reduce the destruction caused by toxic substances such as cigarette smoke. What’s more, it can prevent the destruction of DNA that can be an early cause of cancer development.

2.  Improves vasodilation in smokers

Cigarette smoking increases the risk of cardiovascular complications, hypertension, and atherosclerosis. This can partly be attributed to the fact that smoking weakens endothelial functions. The poisonous chemicals in tobacco smoke, including nicotine, can lead to the construction of coronary arteries. What’s more, elevated levels of oxidative stress caused by smoking can reduce the bioavailability of nitric oxide (NO) derived from endothelium. This molecule aids in the relaxation of the blood cell’s inner lining (endothelium).

Vitamin C for smoker’s health extends to the improvement of endothelial function and relaxation of the blood vessels. This could be due to the ability of vitamin C to destroy superoxide radicals, create a defense force for intracellular glutathione, and boost NO creation in the human endothelial cell [7].

Research shows that Vitamin C boosts endothelium-dependent vasodilation in smoker’s brachial arteries [8]. One particular study showed that “endothelium-dependent vasodilation in the brachial arteries is impaired in smokers and this impairment is improved by vitamin C administration.” Another study showed that “the antioxidant vitamin C markedly improves endothelium-dependent responses in chronic smokers. This observation supports the concept that endothelial dysfunction in chronic smokers is at least in part mediated by enhanced formation of oxygen-derived free radicals” [9].

What’s more, research proves that smoking increases the rate at which monocytes stick to endothelial cells. It shows that 2000mg/day of Vitamin C can restore the levels of Vitamin C in plasma, and decreases the adhesion of monocytes [10].

3.  Decreases the effect of smoking during pregnancy

Interestingly, new-born babies whose mothers smoked cigarettes during pregnancy have matching nicotine levels in their blood as adult smokers. They also experience withdrawal symptoms during their first days out of the womb. Active and passive smoking by pregnant mothers has been attributed to premature delivery, low birth rate, and miscarriage.

Lung development in unborn babies can be negatively affected by smoking during pregnancy. It can cause lifelong complications in pulmonary function and increases the risk of the child developing asthma. Children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy are more susceptible to earache, regular colds, and respiratory disorders than children whose mothers are non-smokers.

At birth, new-born infants born to smokers show decreased pulmonary function test (PFT) results, with decreased respiratory flows and respiratory compliance and altered tidal breathing patterns. These changes lead to increased wheezing, hospitalization for respiratory infections, and increased incidence of childhood asthma.” [11].

Of course, the best way to avoid such complications is to quit smoking outright, especially before conception. However, this isn’t always the path taken. Studies show that Vitamin C supplementation can decrease the effects of smoking in new-born babies. 

Supplemental vitamin C taken by pregnant smokers improved new-born PFT results and decreased wheezing through 1 year in the offspring. Vitamin C in pregnant smokers may be an inexpensive and simple approach to decrease the effects of smoking in pregnancy on new-born pulmonary function and respiratory morbidities.

4.  Reactivates Vitamin E

Smokers require antioxidants to fight oxidative stress caused by tobacco smoke and its associated poisons. Vitamin C is an antioxidant in its own right, but it also helps the body to recycle another important antioxidant, Vitamin E. Vitamin C helps to defend the respiratory system against oxidative stress and contributes to the prevention of heart attacks. Vitamin E, as well as providing antioxidant action, is an anti-inflammatory which reduces monocyte-endothelial adhesion. Vitamin E is also important for a strong immune system and is a crucial vitamin for smokers.

5.  Reduces CRP levels

C-reactive protein (CRP) is a substance that is created in response to inflammation. It is a biomarker that signals a heightened risk of heart disease. Vitamin C can help to lower excessive CRP levels in smokers [12].

6.  Aids in recovery from illness and surgery

When the body is subjected to trauma, injury or surgery, Vitamin C levels in the body drop. This could be because of increased levels of oxidative stress [13]. As a result, the body requires higher levels of Vitamin C, even more so for smokers who are already likely to be deficient. A lack of vitamin C in the body can cause smokers to experience prolonged recovery periods, and can even put them at higher risk of infection and other complications when injury strikes. What’s more, nicotine constricts the blood vessels, reducing the amount of oxygen carried to the site of the injury where tissue is healing.

Vitamin C is important for the body’s ability to recover from surgery, heal wounds, and fight illnesses. This is partly because Vitamin C stimulates the production of collagen, an important protein in the healing of scars and wounds. Vitamin C also helps the immune system to become bolstered and effective in the fight against other infections. What’s more, Vitamin C helps blood vessels to relax and deliver nutrients and oxygen to the site of the injury. This leads to a faster and more successful healing process.

7.  Vitamin C and Quitting Smoking: How It Helps

Short bursts of Vitamin C supplements can help smokers to quit the habit by lessening the intensity of nicotine cravings. What’s more, Vitamin C may also help to flush nicotine and cigarette-related poisons such as lead and cadmium from vital filtration organs the liver and kidneys.

It’s no secret that quitting smoking can be very stressful, especially if the habit is deep-set. That’s where our adrenal glands come in, as they help us to deal with stress. What’s more, they contain the highest levels of vitamin C in our body, 100 times more than the vitamin C found in blood plasma. Vitamin C supports the adrenal glands, therefore, it helps to manage stress related to nicotine withdrawals. Vitamin C is great for smoking cessation as it helps to lessen anxiety and nerves, as well as helping the body to remain healthy.

Lipsoomal Vitamin C

While the best way to avoid cigarette-related health issues is to cut the habit outright, it can be extremely hard. You may need to ease yourself off slowly.

However, taking Vitamin C supplements can help to reduce the risks associated with smoking in the meantime.

References:

  1. Second-hand smoke increases fatness, hinders cognition in children. EurekAlert, The Global Source for Science News.  Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University. PUBLIC RELEASE: 28-JAN-2016.
  2. Eiserich JP, tan der Vliet A, Handelman GJ, Halliwell B, Cross CE: Dietary antioxidants and  cigarette  smoke induced  biomolecular  damage:  a  complex  interaction.  The American  Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1995, 62(6):1490S-1500S.
  3. Lykkesfeldt J, Christen S, Wallock LM, Chang HH, Jacob RA, Ames BN. Ascorbate is depleted by smoking and repleted by moderate supplementation: a study in male smokers and nonsmokers with matched dietary antioxidant intakes. The American  Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2000;71(2):530-536.
  4. Morrow JD et al. Increase in circulating products of lipid peroxidation (F2-isoprostanes) in smokers. Smoking as a cause of oxidative damage. The new England Journal of medicine. 1995;332:1198–1203.
  5. Bozena Pilacik et al. F2-Isoprostanes Biomarkers Of Lipid Peroxidation: Their Utility In Evaluation Of Oxidative Stress Induced By Toxic Agents. International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health, Vol. 15, No. 1, 19—27, 2002.
  6. Dietrich et.al.  Antioxidant supplementation decreases lipid peroxidation biomarker F2-isoprostanes in plasma of smokers. Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Preventions :  a publication of the American association for Cancer Reasearch, cosponsored by the American Society of Preventive Onconology 2002 Jan;11(1):7-13.
  7. LV d Uscio et. Al. Long-Term Vitamin C Treatment Increases Vascular Tetrahydrobiopterin Levels and Nitric Oxide Synthase Activity. Circulation Research. 2003
  8. Motoyama et al. Endothelium-dependent vasodilation in the brachial artery is impaired in smokers: effect of vitamin C. American Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology Published 1 October 1997 Vol. 273 no. 4, H1644-H1650 DOI:
  9. Heitzer T et al.  Antioxidant vitamin C improves endothelial dysfunction in chronic smokers. Circulation. 1996 Jul 1;94(1):6-9.
  10. Weber et al. Increased Adhesiveness of Isolated Monocytes to Endothelium Is Prevented by Vitamin C Intake in Smokers. Circulation.1996; 93: 1488-1492 doi: 10.1161/01.CIR.93.8.1488.
  11. Cindy et al. Vitamin C Supplementation for Pregnant Smoking Women and Pulmonary Function in Their Newborn Infants. JAMA The Journal of the American Medical Association. 2014;311(20):2074-2082. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.5217.
  12. Block G et al. Vitamin C treatment reduces elevated C-reactive protein. Free Radical Biology and Medicine. 2009 Jan 1;46(1):70-7. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2008.09.030. Epub 2008 Oct 10.
  13. Fukushima R, Yamazaki E. Vitamin C requirement in surgical patients. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care. 2010 Nov;13(6):669-76. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e32833e05bc.