Vitamin C Deficit Linked To Skin Disease

August 14, 1997

A deficiency of vitamin C may play a role in a complex disorder called porphyria cutanea tarda, or PCT, according to a new report. The study, which found very low blood levels of the vitamin in people who have the disease, is reported in the August issue of the Journal of Laboratory and Clinical Medicine. The research was conducted by a team from the Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers in White River Junction, Vt., and Lexington, Ky.; Dartmouth Medical School in Hanover, N.H.; and the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.

"Though it is known that the antioxidant vitamins play a role in human health, the mechanisms are poorly understood," said Peter Sinclair, a VA researcher and research associate at Dartmouth Medical School. "This study may lead us to an understanding of how vitamin C behaves in a particular disease."

It is still unclear whether a deficiency of vitamin C is a contributing cause of the disorder or one of its effects.

PCT is the most common form of porphyria, a group of disorders that causes chemicals called porphyrins to accumulate in the body. Porphyrins are building blocks for the production of heme, an iron-containing substance found in all body tissues. In people with PCT, a critical enzyme in the liver becomes inactivated, interfering with the production of heme from its precursor porphyrins. As a result, the porphyrins build up in the liver, spill into the blood and are carried to the skin. Untreated, people with PCT and some other porphyrias develop blisters and skin damage when exposed to sunlight.

Excess alcohol consumption, oral contraceptives and exposure to dioxins, including those in the herbicide Agent Orange, have been known to trigger the disorder. A more common disorder known as hemochromatosis, which causes a dangerous buildup of iron in peoples' bodies, is linked to the same genetic defect as PCT. The most common treatment for both diseases is blood drawing, which decreases excess iron.

In the August study of people being treated for PCT, the researchers found that 11 out of 13 had very low vitamin C levels in their blood. Two patients whose blood levels were normal had been taking multivitamins. Possible explanations for the low values include dietary insufficiency, faulty metabolism of the vitamin, impaired absorption or increased turnover of the vitamin.

In earlier experiments the researchers found that adding vitamin C to cultures of chicken liver cells prevented the light-sensitive porphyrins from accumulating in the cells. In other studies in a special strain of rat which, like humans, gets vitamin C from dietary sources, the investigators found that normal levels of vitamin C prevented porphyrin accumulation in the liver. The vitamin C is thought to act at the step that causes the block in heme synthesis.

Though these preliminary studies suggest that increasing dietary levels of vitamin C may have a role in treatment of the human disease, Sinclair cautions that a potentially adverse effect must first be ruled out. "There is some clinical evidence that boosting levels of vitamin C in people with massive iron overload -- which itself causes problems -- might cause heart damage," said Sinclair. "What we hope to do now is determine whether vitamin C is effective in preventing porphyrin accumulation in patients and whether such treatment is safe."

In addition to Peter Sinclair, the research team included Nadia Gorman, Jacqueline Sinclair, Charles Honsinger and Margaret Karagas, all from Dartmouth Medical School; Steven Shedlofsky from the Kentucky VA and the University of Kentucky; and Karl Anderson from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.

The work was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the United States Food and Drug Administration Office of Orphan Product Development, the American Porphyria Foundation, the National Center for Research Resources and the American Cancer Society.
-end-

CONTACTS:

Peter Sinclair
Associate Career Research Scientist,
VA Medical Center, White River Junction VT and Research Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Pharmacology
Dartmouth Medical School
802/295-9363 extension 5657 or 802/584-3280
OR
Nancy Serrell
Science Writer
Dartmouth College
603/646-3661


The Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth

Related Vitamin Articles from Brightsurf:

Vitamin C's effectiveness against COVID may hinge on vitamin's natural transporter levels
High doses of vitamin C under study for treating COVID-19 may benefit some populations, but investigators exploring its potential in aging say key factors in effectiveness include levels of the natural transporter needed to get the vitamin inside cells.

Vitamin B6, leukemia's deadly addiction
Researchers from CSHL and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center have discovered how Acute Myeloid Leukemia is addicted to vitamin B6.

Fatty foods necessary for vitamin E absorption, but not right away
A fresh look at how to best determine dietary guidelines for vitamin E has produced a surprising new finding: Though the vitamin is fat soluble, you don't have to consume fat along with it for the body to absorb it.

Vitamin D: How much is too much of a good thing?
A three-year study by researchers at the Cumming School of Medicine's McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), showed there is no benefit in taking high doses of vitamin D.

10 million new cases of vitamin D deficiency will be prevented by adding vitamin D to wheat flour
Adding vitamin D to wheat flour would prevent 10 million new cases of vitamin D deficiency in England and Wales over the next 90 years, say researchers at the University of Birmingham.

Muscling in on the role of vitamin D
A recent study conducted at the Westmead Institute for Medical Research has shed light on the role of vitamin D in muscle cells.

Vitamin D may not help your heart
While previous research has suggested a link between low levels of vitamin D in the blood and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, a new Michigan State University study has found that taking vitamin D supplements did not reduce that risk.

Does sunscreen compromise vitamin D levels?
Sunscreen can reduce the sun's adverse effects, but there are concerns that it might inhibit the body's production of vitamin D.

How obesity affects vitamin D metabolism
A new Journal of Bone and Mineral Research study confirms that vitamin D supplementation is less effective in the presence of obesity, and it uncovers a biological mechanism to explain this observation.

Why vitamin E effect is often a matter of luck until now
Vitamin E's positive effects often fail to manifest themselves as strongly as expected, but sometimes administering vitamin E actually has detrimental effects.

Read More: Vitamin News and Vitamin Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.