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Vitamin Lowers Risk from Second Hand Smoke

Posted - Aug. 18, 2003 at 8:38 a.m.



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Smoking is the single largest preventable killer of americans. And second hand smoke is also a real health threat. Now researchers at UC Berkeley say a simple daily vitamin could help protect non-smokers.

It's called passive smoking, breathing in smoke from a cigarette and breathing in what a smoker exhales. It's how nonsmokers can absorb nicotine and other compounds, increasing their risk of heart disease, cancer and other diseases.

Now researchers from UC Berkeley have found a way to lower that risk with Vitamin C.

Gladys Block PhD, UC Berkeley researcher: "Yes, taking Vitamin C looks as though it reduces your oxidative damage, which in turn is associated with heart disease and cancer and other diseases." Doctor Gladys Block, director of the Public Health Nutrition program, says cigarette smoke contains elements called free radicals, which can damage cells in the body. Taking Vitamin C can help limit that damage.

As reported in the Journal of Nutrition and Cancer, the researches tracked 67 passive smokers who were randomly assigned to take Vitamin C, 500 miligrams daily, a combination of Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Alpha-lipoic-acid, or a placebo dummy pill. After two months, the groups taking Vitamin C alone or in combination had much less damage from oxidation.

The other good news is that the researchers say it doesn't matter what form you get the Vitamin C in.

Marion Dietrich, PhD, UC Berkeley researcher: "And this intake can either be through a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables which gives you lots of Vitamin c or through supplementation...I'm very excited about it because if you're exposed to second hand smoke there's nothing much you can do about it."

It's one more piece of evidence on the importance and benefits of a healthy diet.

Second-hand smoke is thought to be responsible for three-thousand lung cancer deaths and fifty-thousand deaths from heart disease every year.

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