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Junk food less fattening with vitamin C

Fattening up rats with junk food is more difficult if you give them vitamin C (molecular structure shown below) at the same time, researchers at the University of Navarra in Spain discovered.

Vitamin C
There are a few studies which show that antioxidants such as vitamin C retard obesity. Intrigued by these studies, the Spaniards set up an animal experiment in which they gave three groups of rats a different diet for eight weeks.

A control group [C] was given normal food: seventeen percent of the energy came from protein, seventy percent from carbohydrates and the rest from fat.

The CAF group [CAF stands for cafeteria diet] were fed a diet that contained a limited amount of standard food. Most of the diet consisted of liver sausage, bacon, French fries, cookies, chips and chocolate. Nine percent of the energy in the food came from protein, sixty percent from fat and the rest from carbohydrates. This diet was deemed to represent the typical Western diet of junk food.

The remaining group was called CAFVIT. They got the CAF diet, but with added vitamin C. Each rat got a daily 750 mg vitamin C per kg bodyweight.

The table below shows how the body weight and body composition changed in the three groups.

Junk food less fattening with vitamin C

The vitamin supplement impeded the growth of fat tissue. After eight weeks, the rats in the CAFVIT group were almost a quarter lighter than the rats in the CAF group.

The Spaniards do not know exactly how this worked. They measured the gene activity of the rats and discovered that vitamin C makes the genes that are involved in the production of steroid hormones work more slowly. An example is the gene for StAR protein. This is a protein that introduces cholesterol into the mitochondria, where the cell starts to transform the cholesterol molecule into a hormone. The graph below shows the activity of the StAR gene.

Junk food less fattening with vitamin C

The researchers think that vitamin C impedes the production of cortisol and other hormones that lead to obesity. If this really is the case, they conclude, then it is not only overeating that makes people fat, but rather eating low-quality food that contains too little healthy substances such as vitamin C. And if this is the case, we shouldn't be fighting fat by getting people to eat less food, but by giving them better food. With - for example - more vitamin C.

Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2008 Mar;78(2):87-95.