Essentially, smokers need antioxidant nutrients such as vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid), and vitamin E. It was once believed that beta-carotene was an attribute for non-smokers, but recent clinical studies have found that beta-carotene can actually be harmful to smokers’ health. Beta-carotene can be found in most multi-vitamins and an excess of beta-carotene is risky for good nutritional health. If you are a smoker and going to take a multi-vitamin, be sure it doesn’t list beta-carotene as one of the ingredients.
Too many smokers have inadequate intakes of antioxidants. Smokers are reported to consume lower quantities of antioxidant nutrients than nonsmokers. Antioxidant nutrients have protective roles with regard to cancer, heart disease, cataract formation, cognitive (mind) dysfunction, and other diseases. Researches believe there is a balance between antioxidant protectors and components that promote oxidation in the body. This balance seems to be related to health or disease. Some components of cigarette smoke promote oxidation that provides high levels of oxidant stress. Free radicals, which also promote oxidation, are derived from tobacco. Cigarette smoke has been estimated to contain 1,000,000,000,000,000 free radicals per inhalation. These free radicals can oxidize the fat components of the body and this is quite harmful.
For instance, cigarette smokers have lower vitamin C (natural antioxidant) intakes and plasma vitamin C levels than nonsmokers. The incidence of cancer, heart disease, and cataracts is lower in populations that have high intakes of fruits or leafy green vegetables, all replete with vitamin C. Smokers who ate foods containing more than 200 mg vitamin C daily had serum vitamin C levels equivalent to those of nonsmokers who consumed 60 mg or more of the vitamin, according to a recent national survey. The most recent edition of the Recommended Dietary Allowances recommends that regular cigarette smokers take in at least 100 mg of vitamin C daily. Smokers have been found to have higher levels of vitamin C in the lung tissues than nonsmokers. This clearly reflects a positive defense mechanism against the free radical species from cigarette smoke.
Studies have found that smokers have a 30 percent lower vitamin C level than nonsmokers. Researchers believe that nicotine may interfere with vitamin C absorption. Nicotine boosts metabolic rate, therefore increasing the rate that vitamin C is metabolized. Individuals who smoke need 100 milligrams of vitamin C (versus 60 milligrams for nonsmokers) every day.
The body’s most effective antioxidant is vitamin E. Smokers have been found to have lower levels of plasma vitamin E than nonsmokers.
Smokers seeking nutritional supplementation should look for a multi-vitamin that contains at least all of the following: Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid), Vitamin E, Vitamin B1 (Thiamine), Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), Niacin, Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid), Zinc Picolinate, Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine), and the antioxidant Co-Q10. Some supplements add Ginkgo Biloba Leaf Powder, Inositol, Rutin, Citrus Bioflavonoid Complex, Choline Bitartrate and PABA.