One of the most worrying health effects of the increasing levels of obesity and weight gain is on the vascular system. Increasing weight is associated with narrowing of the blood vessels which, in turn, gives rise to many health problems including heart disease and problems with blood supply to the limbs and extremities that can lead to amputation. 

The problem arises because weight gain is linked with greater activity of a protein called  endothelin-1 (or ET-1) which is known to cause narrowing of blood vessels. The most effective way to combat weight gain and reverse the vascular damage is to increase the amount of physical exercise alongside a controlled diet.  

A new US study of a group of patients suggests that Vitamin C supplements can also have a significant beneficial effect. The study concluded that patients who took a daily dose of 500mg were able to reduce ET-1 activity by a similar factor to those who went for a brisk walk every day. 

A dose of 500mg of Vitamin C per day is over 10 times higher than the level recommended by the NHS, which advises that adequate Vitamin C intake should be achievable through diet without the need for supplements. Doses of 1000mg or more can also cause digestive system problems such as stomach cramps and diarrhoea. 

Commenting on the findings, Andrew Clayton of the Penningtons Manches clinical negligence team explains: “We encounter many people who suffer problems with vascular disease, many of whom did not know they were at increased risk of life-changing and devastating complications such as limb amputation. 

“Although more extensive research is needed into the benefits of Vitamin C therapy, the findings from this study may help many to combat some of the negative effects of excess weight on their health. In the long-term, a balanced diet and regular exercise will have wider-ranging health benefits but, in the early stages of tackling weight gain, a high dose of Vitamin C may help to prevent vascular problems.”