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Last updated November 28, 2017, originally published November 5, 2015

By Susan Callahan, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

[Health and fitness articles are reviewed by Registered Nurses,
Certified fitness professionals and other members of our Editorial

First, a confession. I have a sister who smokes and I have
tried everything I know of to help her quit. I have failed.
But I love my sister so for purely personal reasons I
researched what she could do to at least limit the damage
that smoking is causing to her body. I know that it's
impossible to completely reverse the damage, especially
when a person continues to smoke, but what I was looking
for was a mitigator and... to my utter surprise, I found

Looking for a way to limit the arterial damage that smoking
causes? Look no further than the pitcher of orange juice in
your fridge.  What evidence is there of orange juice's
capacity to limit some of the damage to your arteries from
smoking? How does it do this? And just how much orange
juice would you have to drink?

What Smoking Does to Your Arteries

Smoking is perhaps the single biggest cause of arterial
disease and heart disease, right up there with eating fatty
meats non-stop.

The reason smoking is so damaging to your arteries is that
smoking triggers the release of compounds ---free
radicals-- which degrade nitrous oxide. What's the big deal
about that? Nitrous oxide, aka the same laughing gas that
some dentists use to relax you, helps the lining of your
arteries (endothelium) to function properly.

Smoking also raises the level of inflammation in your body,
a process measured by the level of C-reactive protein you

According to the American Heart Association, a C-reactive
protein number less that "1" is healthy, meaning you are at
low risk for developing either cardiovascular disease or
arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Anything over
"1" means you need to take action and "3" is downright
dangerous.  Usually, if you have an active infection, your C-
reactive protein level shoots up to over 10 and can reach as
high as 500, depending on the severity of the infection.

Studies, including a 2009 study from scientists at Loma
Linda University in California have observed that smokers
typically have high C-reactive protein levels, often above 10
or 11.   Thus, your body interprets smoking as an attack or
injury equal to an infection.

Orange Juice and Other Vitamin C Foods Scavenge Free

If smoking is the ultimate producer of free radicals, then
foods rich in Vitamin C can be considered the ultimate "free
radical hunters".  Vitamin C scavenges free radicals, literally.

In fact, numerous studies from around the world have
found that smokers who are given Vitamin C have
significantly lower levels of free radicals, inflammation and
arterial blockage.

A 1996 study from Medizinische Klinik III, Kardiologie in
Germany found that Vitamin C improved blood flow in the
arms of smokers.  In this experiment, researchers
measured the amount of blood flow in the arms of 20
people, 10of whom were chronic smokers and half of
whom were non-smokers. The smokers had an average age
of 55 years old and the non-smokers were 51 years old on
average. Both groups were then given  Vitamin C (18 ml
per hour) and the blood flow in their upper arms carefully

What they observed next was remarkable. The blood flow
in the arms of the chronic smokers increased dramatically,
in come cases by as much as 80%.

This kind of increase can only occur if the arteries are
functioning well.  As the researchers concluded"antioxidant
vitamin C markedly improves endothelium-dependent
responses in chronic smokers. "

What should we take from this? Of course, if you are
smoking, you should not continue smoking safe in the
belief that downing a gallon of OJ everyday will make
everything alright again.  That would be unwise. But you
should make sure that you are getting adequate amounts
of Vitamin C. The current daily recommended amount of  
Vitamin C is 90 mg per day for a man and 75 for a woman.

Because studies have found that smokers have abnormally
low levels of Vitamin C ---due to the fact that their bodies
are using up all the Vitamin C trying to quench free radicals
--you will need to have higher amounts of Vitamin C.  

By the way, food works better than supplements, studies
have found. In foods rich such as bell peppers, Vitamin C is
absorbed and interacts with the other nutrients in natural
food in a complex way not entirely understood by
scientists. Eating whole foods is almost always more heart
and artery protective than simply taking supplements.

Try to get Vitamin C at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Add
orange juice to your breakfast, bell peppers to your lunch
and some of the following foods recommended by the
National Institutes of Health for their high Vitamin C

•Citrus fruits and juices, such as orange and grapefruit
•Kiwi fruit
•Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and cranberries

Vegetables rich in Vitamin C include:

•Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower
•Green and red peppers
•Spinach, cabbage, turnip greens, and other leafy greens
•Sweet and white potatoes
•Tomatoes and tomato juice
•Winter squash

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