People with a severe form of arterial diseaseappear to have low levels of vitamin C in their blood regardless of their diet or smokinghabits, study findings suggest. Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a form of atherosclerosis, a condition in which fatty build-up accumulates inside the arteries and obstructs blood flow. In PAD, blood flow in the legs and feet is impaired, which can cause lameness and pain. PAD is also associated with an increased risk of death and disability caused by heart attack and stroke. Researchers led by Dr. Michel Langlois at Ghent University in Belgium found that PAD may cause inflammation and the release of freeradicals - compounds that can damage tissue and may contribute to aging and chronic conditions such as cancer and heart disease. While antioxidants such as vitamin C can "neutralise" these compounds and reducedamage, free radicals can also deplete antioxidants from the body when overall levels are low. The researchers compared blood levels of vitamin C among 85 people with PAD, 106people with high blood pressure but without PAD, and 113 healthy individuals. Patients with PAD were found to have lower blood levels of vitamin C and higher levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation in blood vessels that may be associated with increased risk of heart disease. "From our study, we cannot conclude that supplemental vitamin C intake is beneficial for PAD patients since this was not study. For this purpose, further clinical trials with antioxidant supplements...are needed to address oxidative stress in severeatherosclerosis," Dr. Michel Langlois said. Full findings are published in the April 10 issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.