Vitamin C supplement use may protect against gallstones: an observational study on a randomly selected population

Thomas Walcher, Mark M Haenle, Martina Kron, Birgit Hay, Richard A Mason, Daniel Walcher, Gerald Steinbach, Peter Kern, Isolde Piechotowski, Guido Adler, Bernhard O Boehm, Wolfgang Koenig, Wolfgang Kratzer
BMC Gastroenterology 2009, 9: 74

BACKGROUND: Animal experiments have shown a protective effect of vitamin C on the formation of gallstones. Few data in humans suggest an association between reduced vitamin C intake and increased prevalence of gallstone disease. The aim of this study was to assess the possible association of regular vitamin C supplementation with gallstone prevalence.

METHODS: An observational, population-based study of 2129 subjects aged 18-65 years randomly selected from the general population in southern Germany was conducted. Abdominal ultrasound examination, completion of a standardized questionnaire, compilation of anthropometric data and blood tests were used. Data were collected in November and December 2002. Data analysis was conducted between December 2005 and January 2006.

RESULTS: Prevalence of gallstones in the study population was 7.8% (167/2129). Subjects reporting vitamin C supplementation showed a prevalence of 4.7% (11/232), whereas in subjects not reporting regular vitamin C supplementation, the prevalence was 8.2% (156/1897). Female gender, hereditary predisposition, increasing age and body-mass index (BMI) were associated with increased prevalence of gallstones. Logistic regression with backward elimination adjusted for these factors showed reduced gallstone prevalence for vitamin C supplementation (odds ratio, OR 0.34; 95% confidence interval, CI 0.14 to 0.81; P = 0.01), increased physical activity (OR 0.62; 95% CI, 0.42 to 0.94; P = 0.02), and higher total cholesterol (OR 0.65; 95% CI, 0.52 to 0.79; P < 0.001).

CONCLUSION: Regular vitamin C supplementation and, to a lesser extent, increased physical activity and total cholesterol levels are associated with a reduced prevalence of gallstones. Regular vitamin C supplementation might exert a protective effect on the development of gallstones.

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