OBJECTIVE Higher plasma vitamin C levels are associated with lower type 2 diabetes risk, but whether this association is causal is uncertain. To investigate this, we studied the association of genetically predicted plasma vitamin C with type 2 diabetes.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS We conducted genome-wide association studies of plasma vitamin C among 52,018 individuals of European ancestry to discover novel genetic variants. We performed Mendelian randomization analyses to estimate the association of genetically predicted differences in plasma vitamin C with type 2 diabetes in up to 80,983 case participants and 842,909 noncase participants. We compared this estimate with the observational association between plasma vitamin C and incident type 2 diabetes, including 8,133 case participants and 11,073 noncase participants.
RESULTS We identified 11 genomic regions associated with plasma vitamin C (P < 5 × 10−8), with the strongest signal at SLC23A1, and 10 novel genetic loci including SLC23A3, CHPT1, BCAS3, SNRPF, RER1, MAF, GSTA5, RGS14, AKT1, and FADS1. Plasma vitamin C was inversely associated with type 2 diabetes (hazard ratio per SD 0.88; 95% CI 0.82, 0.94), but there was no association between genetically predicted plasma vitamin C (excluding FADS1 variant due to its apparent pleiotropic effect) and type 2 diabetes (1.03; 95% CI 0.96, 1.10).
CONCLUSIONS These findings indicate discordance between biochemically measured and genetically predicted plasma vitamin C levels in the association with type 2 diabetes among European populations. The null Mendelian randomization findings provide no strong evidence to suggest the use of vitamin C supplementation for type 2 diabetes prevention.