On the outskirts of Quito, the capital of Ecuador, meals are likely to be based on white rice, potatoes, sugar, and white bread. Given their reliance on high carbohydrate foods that are low in essential nutrients, many of the residents are overweight and malnourished at the same time. The lack of vitamin C in their diet may contribute to metabolic syndrome, according to researchers from the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (USDA HNRCA) at Tufts University and the Corporacion Ecuatoriana de Biotecnologia. The researchers also concluded that vitamin E may have a protective effect against metabolic syndrome.
The Tufts study enrolled 225 women and 127 men living in Quito, aged 65 years and older, who reported their food intake in biweekly interviews and provided blood samples. Fifty-five percent of the women and 33 percent of the men were overweight. Forty percent of the population had metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions generally associated with central obesity, including raised triglycerides, reduced high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, raised blood pressure, and high blood sugar.
After adjusting for age and sex, the researchers noted significant relationships between metabolic syndrome and the vitamins C and E. The participants as a group did not exhibit low blood levels of vitamin E, but 82 percent of them had low blood levels of vitamin C. Based upon their findings, the researchers concluded that higher blood levels of vitamin E may protect against metabolic syndrome, but that a vitamin C deficiency contributes to metabolic syndrome.
The researchers also observed a significant relationship between metabolic syndrome and C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of low-grade inflammation that has been associated with cardiovascular disease risk. High CRP blood concentrations were seen in almost half of the population.