Note: This article is truncated from the original.
For the full version of this article, download our newsletter.

It is no secret that a diet high in saturated fat and processed food and low in fruit and vegetables is not doing the body any favors. Not only is such a diet low in many vitamins and minerals, but it can also lead to a host of problems with your gut microbiome. 

Dr. Maret Traber highlights antioxidant depletion as one of the symptoms of the gut bacteria tissues seen in a host of symptoms known as "metabolic syndrome". Specifically, Traber and her colleagues, Drs. Garry Buettner and Richard Bruno, have been focusing on how vitamin C and vitamin E are affected by this condition.

In a recently published review in the journal Redox Biology, they suggest that changes in the gut microbiome and increases in inflammation seen with metabolic syndrome can easily result in vitamin C depletion, and this can lead to vitamin E depletion.

Antioxidants like vitamins C and E are the first line of defense against oxidative stress brought on by free radicals – unstable molecules that can damage cells. Vitamin E is particularly good at stopping the oxidation of fats, especially those that reside in the membrane of cells.

A limitation to this protection is that once vitamin E is oxidized, it can no longer participate in antioxidant defense. Since vitamin C can regenerate the antioxidant capacity of vitamin E, it is only natural to think about the combining the two antioxidants.

“Vitamin C normally helps support vitamin E activity,” Traber explains. “On the other hand, if you do not have enough vitamin C, vitamin E can be destroyed. This is the start of a process that leads to the loss of both antioxidants.”

Traber and her colleagues think that restoring vitamin C levels should be the priority. However, they found that when people with metabolic syndrome consume vitamin C, their plasma concentrations of the vitamin remain low. Something is happening to the vitamin, and Traber thinks that is because the gut bacteria is still out of control. 

“Ultimately, what these findings really say is: Eat your fruit and vegetables,” Traber said “Five to ten servings a day will get you the fiber and antioxidants you need to restore beneficial bacteria, protect your gut, and ultimately increase vitamin C and vitamin E status in the body.”


Traber et al. Redox Biology 21 (2019) doi: 10.1016/j. redox.2018.101091

Traber et al. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 105 (2017) doi: 10.3945/ajcn.116.138495