The effect of vitamin C in high doses on plasma and biliary lipid composition in patients with cholesterol gallstones: prolongation of the nucleation time.
Vitamin C deficiency in guinea pigs leads to cholesterol supersaturation of bile and formation of cholesterol gallstones. It has been suggested that there may also exist an association between vitamin C and cholesterol gallstones in man, but such a relationship has not been studied in gallstone patients. In order to study the possible effects of vitamin C on gallstone disease in humans, plasma lipid levels, hepatic cholesterol metabolism, biliary lipid composition, cholesterol saturation and nucleation time of gallbladder bile were analysed in 16 consecutive gallstone patients, who were planned for laparoscopic cholecystectomy and were treated with vitamin C (500 mg, four times a day) for 2 weeks before surgery. The plasma concentration of vitamin C increased by 42% in the treatment group. The concentrations of plasma lipids did not differ before and after vitamin C treatment; nor did the plasma levels of lathosterol and 7 alpha-hydroxy-4-cholesten-3-one, reflecting cholesterol and bile acid synthesis respectively. The relative concentrations of cholesterol, bile acids and cholesterol concentration of bile did not differ significantly between the two groups, but the relative concentration of phospholipids was slightly higher in the treated group. The bile acid composition was changed; the percentage of cholic acid being lower and those of deoxycholic acid, ursodeoxycholic acid and lithocholic acid higher in the vitamin C-treated patients compared with the untreated group. The nucleation time was significantly longer in the treatment group (7 days) compared with the untreated group (2 days). Our findings indicate that vitamin C supplementation may also influence the conditions for cholesterol gallstone formation in humans.
Eur J Clin Invest. 1997 May;27(5):387-91.