The traditional theory of cardiovascular disease suggests that dietary cholesterol is able to elevate plasma cholesterol, which in turn is the cause of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. The low density lipoprotein (LDL) particle in implicated as the causative agent in this traditional theory because it is the primary carrier of cholesterol to the growing plaque. The small dense LDL particles are found in the plaques which we are told is proof enough.
Linus Pauling and Matthias Rath
However, the LDL particle is very similar to another lipoprotein called lipoprotein(a). According to Linus Pauling and Matthias Rath, lipoprotein(a) may have been misidentified as LDL in some studies. It was Linus Pauling and Matthias Rath who first proposed that the Lipoprotein(a) might be the causative agent of atherosclerosis. More recent research confirms that lipoprotein(a) is highly atherogenic and high plasma levels are significantly associated with cardiovascular disease.
What Causes Elevated Plasma Lipoprotein(a)
Pauling and Rath discovered that low intakes of vitamin C elevate lipoprotein(a) blood levels. They also found that increasing vitamin C in the diet lowers lipoprotein(a) blood levels. They postulated that atherosclerosis is a symptom of chronic low grade scurvey. Over time the arteries bleed and the body attempts to heel this bleeding by creating a clot that forms over the endothelium of the vessels. Cholesterol is deposited in the clot by lipoprotein(a), forming a scar.
Lipoprotein(a) Causes Reproductive Survival
Lipoprotein(a) therefore causes humans who would have died from scorbutic internal bleeding to survive to reproductive age. However, this is at the expense of cardiovascular health in later life. In nature this trade off appears reasonable as it allows the genetic information to be passed on to the offspring. Pauling and Rath suggest that such a mechanism could have evolved shortly after humans lost the ability to synthesise vitamin C.
How Much Vitamin C?
Vitamin C intakes are controversial because many studies have misinterpreted their own data (probably deliberately). However, it is known from well designed pharmacological studies that plasma levels of vitamin C continue to rise until around 2500 mg per day of vitamin C. In illness and during hard training this figure can increase. Based on the vitamin C produced by animals that can do so, this figure seems reasonable as a preventative measure.