FRIDAY, Dec. 17, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- The way vitamin C functions in the body may help explain its possible role in prevention of heart disease and cancer, according to an Oregon State University study.
The researchers explain how vitamin C can react with and neutralize toxic byproducts of human fat metabolism.
"This is a previously unrecognized function for vitamin C in the human body," Fred Stevens, an assistant professor in the Linus Pauling Institute at the university, said in a prepared statement.
"We knew that vitamin C is an antioxidant that can help neutralize free radicals. But the new discovery indicates it has a complex protective role against toxic compounds formed from oxidized lipids, preventing the genetic damage or inflammation they can cause," Stevens said.
"This discovery of a new class of lipid metabolites could be very important in our understanding of this vitamin and the metabolic role it plays. This appears to be a major pathway by which the body can get rid of the toxic byproducts of fat metabolism, and it clearly could relate to cancer prevention," he said.
The study appears in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about vitamin C.