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Med Hypotheses. 1993 Feb;40(2):81-4.

Ascorbic acid and cholesterol gallstones.

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General Internal Medicine Section (111A1), San Francisco VA Medical Center, CA 94121.


Decreased activity of cholesterol 7 alpha-hydroxylase, the rate-limiting enzyme in the catabolism of cholesterol to bile acids, is known to result in increased biliary cholesterol concentration and supersaturation of bile. Supersaturation of bile by cholesterol is a necessary condition for cholesterol gallstone formation. In guinea pigs, the hepatic concentration of ascorbic acid affects the catabolism of cholesterol: hypovitaminosis C reduces cholesterol 7 alpha-hydroxylase activity. Cholesterol gallstones are frequently found in ascorbic acid-deficient guinea pigs. Risk factors for cholesterol gallstones in humans include obesity, aging, estrogen treatment, pregnancy and diabetes. Plasma ascorbic acid levels are reduced in these groups. Vegetarian diets, which typically have high ascorbic acid contents, protect against gallstones. Since ascorbic acid effects the rate-limiting step in the catabolism of cholesterol in the guinea pig and many human risk groups for cholesterol gallstones are associated with reduced ascorbic acid levels, ascorbic acid may play a contributory role in human gallbladder disease.

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