Vitamin C helps prevent gallstones
The use of vitamin C supplements reduces the risk of developing gallstones. The longer someone has been taking vitamin C supplements, the greater their protective effect.
Researchers at the University of Ulm in Germany performed scans of the abdominal cavity of 2,129 adults and determined whether the study participants had gallstones. They also collected data on the study participants and then looked for factors that could increase or decrease the risk of gallstones.
The researchers found that women developed gallstones more often than men, that obesity and high cholesterol levels increased the risk of gallstones and that exercise reduced the risk of gallstones. All this was hardly surprising. Any medical student can tell you that.
However, the researchers also found that taking vitamin C supplements lowered the risk of gallstones.
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When the researchers brushed off the effect of all other factors except supplementation - and thus concentrated on the protective effect of vitamin C supplements - they saw that the use of vitamin C reduced the risk of gallstones by a factor of three.
The Germans were able to calculate that the protective effect of vitamin C seemed to increase the longer the study participants had taken supplements.
The body needs vitamin C for the enzyme cholesterol-7-alpha-hydroxylase to function. This enzyme converts cholesterol into 7-alpha-hydroxycholesterol. This conversion is necessary to convert cholesterol into bile acid.
The liver converts cholesterol into bile and excretes bile through the gallbladder into the small intestine. In this way, the body regulates the cholesterol level. High cholesterol levels are a prominent risk factor for gallstones. Cholesterol is a building block of gallstones.
BMC Gastroenterol. 2009 Oct 8;9:74.
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