Atherosclerosis is an arteriosclerosis characterized by atheromatous deposits in and fibrosis of the inner layer (intima) of the arteries. The degenerative condition is known as atheroma. It manifests itself by nodes, or plaques, of yellowish material containing a high proportion of cholesterol and other lipids. As these plaques enlarge, and the intima increases in thickness, the lumen of the artery becomes smaller and smaller. In due course the lumen of the artery may be so narrowed that it becomes blocked. If this occurs in the coronary arteries, which supply the heart muscles, the result is the all too common coronary thrombosis, or heart attack. if it occurs in the arteries in the brain it causes a stroke. The cause of atherosclerosis is not known, but one factor is the consumption of excessive saturated fats.
A study (2000) of 249 US teenagers found that 80 percent had an unhealthy buildup of cholesterol on artery walls, often the result of eating high-fat foods.
The Nobel prize winner, Linus Pauling, claims that cardiovascular disease in humans is the consequence of a lost ability to produce vitamin C. To protect from scurvy, humans who survived the Ice Ages developed the ability to deposit lipid (fats) and lipoproteins (fat-protein complexes) along the artery wall. These deposits would be cleared away in the summer months, when Vitamin C intake was sufficient, by the increased production of HDLs (carrier proteins which help to remove excess cholesterol). Pauling claims that 500 mg of Vitamin C a day can lead to a reduction in atherosclerotic deposits within two to six months.