Objectives-To determine whether vitamin C status, as measured by dietary intake and plasma ascorbic acid concentration, is related to mortality from stroke and coronary heart disease in people aged 65 and over.
Design-A 20 year follow up study of a cohort of randomly selected elderly people living in the community who had taken part in the 1973-4 Department of Health and Social Security nutritional survey and for whom dietary and other data had been recorded.
Setting-Eight areas in Britain (five in England, two in Scotland, and one in Wales).
Subjects-730 men and women who had completed a seven day dietary record and who had no history or symptoms of stroke, cerebral arteriosclerosis, or coronary heart disease when examined by a geriatrician in 1973-4.
Results-Mortality from stroke was highest in those with the lowest vitamin C status. Those in the highest third of the distribution of vitamin C intake had a relative risk of 0.5 (95% confidence interval 0.3 to 0.8) compared with those in the lowest third, after adjustment for age, sex, and established cardiovascular risk factors. The relation between Vitamin C intake and stroke was independent of social class and other dietary variables. A similar gradient in risk was present for plasma ascorbic acid concentrations. No association was found between vitamin C status and risk of death from coronary heart disease.
Conclusion-In elderly people vitamin C concentration, whether measured by dietary intake or plasma concentration of ascorbic acid, is strongly related to subsequent risk of death from stroke but not from coronary heart disease.