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Tuesday 20 November 2018
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Letters to the Editor

Cut stroke risk with vitamin C

THE EDITOR: Stroke is one of the leading causes of death and disability in TT. According to the American Stroke Association, “A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts (or ruptures). When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood (and oxygen) it needs, so it and brain cells die.”

The disease received heightened attention recently because of the introduction in this country of a new procedure called endovascular thrombectomy that can remove the blood clots in about 33 per cent of the cases involving clots. Unfortunately, this procedure is quite costly and outside the reach of the average citizen.

What is the cause of blood vessel rupture that results in bleeding and blood clots leading to strokes? If this is known, then the root cause of the problem can be directly addressed and untold death and suffering can be prevented. It may be surprising to learn that medical science has determined the answer to this question a long time ago.

The arteries leading to the brain and elsewhere are under significant mechanical stress as blood is pumped throughout the body on a continuous basis. As a result, arterial damage needing repair occurs on an ongoing basis. This repair requires the synthesis of a substance called collagen in the area of the damage. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and provides structure to much body tissue.

An essential nutrient in the manufacture of collagen is vitamin C. This nutrient gives the collagen fibres strength. If there is insufficient vitamin C, the resulting collagen fibres are structurally weak and break down under the stress of the blood. This results in bleeding and clot formation in these arteries leading to strokes. This problem can be minimised by simply increasing the intake of vitamin C through supplementation (The Healing Factor: Vitamin C Against Disease by Irwin Stone, 1972).

This effect of vitamin C on the occurrence of strokes has been confirmed in several clinical studies. In 2008, researchers at the University of Cambridge studied 20,649 men and women in a ten-year study and found that those with the highest blood levels of vitamin C had a 42 per cent lower risk of stroke than those with the lowest blood levels of vitamin C. A 1995 study in the British Medical Journal reported similar findings where those with the lowest vitamin C intake had the highest risk of death from stroke.

Thus, scientific research has indicated that a root cause of stroke is a chronic vitamin C deficiency such that blood vessel repair cannot occur with consequent bleeding and clot formation. I therefore urge the Ministry of Health to independently confirm this information and consider introducing vitamin C supplementation to the population. This will lower the risk of stroke and thereby significantly improve healthcare in our country.

PROF STEPHAN GIFT

Pro-vice chancellor, graduate

studies & research, UWI

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