A Gut Feeling: Vitamin C may protect against ulcer-causing bacteria

A new study has found that the lower the level of vitamin C in the blood, the more likely a person will become infected by Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria that can cause peptic ulcers and stomach cancer.

“This is the largest study to look at the relationship between vitamin C levels and infection by H. pylori,” said researcher Joel A. Simon, MD. Simon and his collaborators utilized data and blood samples collected from a random sample of nearly 7,000 American adults by the National Center for Health Statistics and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The data showed that white participants with the highest blood levels of vitamin C had a 25% lower prevalence of infection. From the available data, researchers cannot determine whether or not vitamin C might prevent initial infection by H. pylori, which often happens during childhood, Simon said.

“We cannot be certain if the infection lowers blood levels of vitamin C or if higher blood levels protect against infection. However, some studies using animal models suggest that adequate vitamin C intake may reduce infection with these bacteria,” Simon said.

In 1982, scientists discovered that H. pylori was responsible for causing peptic ulcers -painful sores in the lining of the stomach or the duodenum, the upper portion of the small intestine. More recently, researchers discovered that H. pylori is also associated with stomach cancer, a particularly deadly form of cancer.

University of California, July 31, 2003