VItamin C 27 August 2009
Vitamin C is ascorbic acid. Ascorbic acid is a 6 carbon molecule not dissimilar in structure to glucose. Taken orally in high doses it can cause diarrhoea. To avoid this, the ascorbic acid is chelated to a mineral such as sodium, magnesium or calcium.
Humans, a few species of monkeys, the Indian fruit bat, one species of salmon and guinea pigs have a genetic defect (lack of the enzyme L-gulonolactone oxidase) which does not allow them to produce their own vitamin C. All other animals produce their own. A goat chewing grass in a field produces 12G/day in an unstressed state. If it gets stressed, develops an infection or gets exposed to an environmental toxin, it can increase this to 100G/day. That’s because vitamin C is one of natures primary stress fighters and detoxifying agents. Humans produce NONE under any circumstances. We rely on consuming it in fruit and vegetables to satisfy our requirements. The Recommended Daily Allowance for humans has been set at 60mg (200 times less than a goat!) which is the amount required to prevent scurvy but may not be the amount required for optimal health. Additionally, when we develop an infection, the body begins to metabolise large amounts of vitamin C. This depletes body stores and many of the features of severe infections are similar to cases of scurvy.
Vitamin C has been shown to have numerous health benefits. It functions as an:
- Immune function stimulator — it increases T-cell function and increases complement.
- Mast cell stabiliser — decreases the allergic response.
- Anti-carcinogenic agent (decreases the risk of cancer).
- Antithrombotic — decreases blood clotting.
- Decreases reperfusion injury — when blood flow restarts to an area of the body which has temporarily lost its blood flow (for example a heart attack or stroke) the initial blood flow can actually damage the injured tissue. Vitamin C reduces this effect.
- Protector of proteins against glycation.
- Protector of red blood cells against chemical damage.
- Chelator of heavy metals including lead, mercury and cadmium.
There is evidence that high dose vitamin C is useful:
- in the treatment of cancer and infections
- in the prevention of cardiovascular disease
- as a powerful antioxidant
- as a chelator of environmental toxin
Linus Pauling in the 1970’s first provided evidence that high dose intravenous vitamin C was an effective treatment for cancer. They found that patients treated with high dose vitamin C survived 3-4 times longer than similar patients who did not receive vitamin C. However, subsequent studies using oral vitamin C did not show the same results and vitamin C disappeared as a treatment option in cancer. The problem is that adequate blood levels were probably not achieved with oral doses alone.
Recent research at the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases in the US has rekindled interest. They used high doses of vitamin C that could only be achieved by IV administration on cancer cell lines in a laboratory. They found that cancer cells were killed while normal cells were unaffected. There was a 50% decrease in 5 out of 9 cancer cell lines. The proposed mechanism of action was through the production of extravascular hydrogen peroxide. A further study in patients with advanced cancer is underway.
Previously, a report in the March 2006 edition of the Canadian Medical Journal reported on 3 terminal cancer cases with unexpected positive outcomes after the administration of high dose intravenous vitamin C. Patient 1 was a 51 year old woman who had metastatic kidney cancer and was treated with 65 grams of intravenous vitamin C twice a week for 10 months. Patient 2 was a 49 year old man with advanced bladder cancer who received 30 grams of intravenous vitamin C twice a week for 3 months then 30 grams monthly for 4 years. Patient 3 had B cell lymphoma and underwent radiation but declined chemotherapy. Instead she had 15 grams of intravenous vitamin C twice a week for 2 months then weekly for 7 months and then every second month for a year. All took additional nutritional supplements. Several years later, all remained in remission.
Dr Thomas Levy in his book “Vitamin C, Infectious Diseases & Toxins: Curing the Incurable” has uncovered a lot of previous work on vitamin C in infections which has been ignored. Dr Levy is a US cardiologist. Much of the work he has uncovered was done by Dr Frederick Klenner many decades ago. Klenner’s work showed that intravenous vitamin C was effective against many bacteria and almost all viruses including hepatitis, Epstein Barr (glandular fever) and herpes.
A study in the March 2006 edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that high levels of vitamin C are associated with low levels of C–reactive protein (CRP) and other inflammatory markers. Over 3000 men between the ages of 60-79 were studied. Higher levels of vitamin C intake and vitamin C levels were associated with less inflammation of the endothelium (the lining of blood vessels). Inflammation of arteries is the cause of cardiovascular disease. Higher levels were also associated with reduced blood thickness.
Vitamin C also raises HDL (good cholesterol) and prevents LDL (bad cholesterol) from oxidation. Oxidised LDL is one of the initiators of the atherosclerosis which leads to cardiovascular disease. A study by the Los Angeles School of Health showed that men who took vitamin C daily had a 45% lower risk of heart attack than men with a low intake. There was a 25% lower risk for women. Vitamin C has also been found to lower the risk of stroke. One study showed that men who had low blood levels of vitamin C were 250% more likely to have a stroke than men with high blood levels.
Women who took supplemental vitamin C over a 10-year period were 77% less likely to develop opacities in the eye lens than women who did not take vitamin C.
A 10 year study of over 11000 adults between the ages of 25 and 74 found that men who took 800mg of vitamin C daily lived 6 years longer than men who only took 60mg. A slightly smaller positive effect was seen for women.
Another study of 19000 adults aged 45 to 79 found those with the lowest levels of vitamin C were twice as likely to die over the subsequent 4 years than those with the highest levels.
After weighing all the evidence, clinicians at the Emerson Health and Wellness Centre recommend the use of high dose vitamin C short term for specific illnesses and targeted therapies. We believe that in the long term, maintaining the alkaline design of the body is the optimal health strategy. If vitamin C is used, we suggest vitamin C which does not contain calcium ascorbate. We believe that within a few years there will be a backlash against regular high dose calcium supplementation because it appears to be going everywhere (especially arterial walls) except bones. Most of the scientific literature supports the belief that most of the older population is massively overdosed on calcium and suffering from calcium toxicity (that’s why all the new scans for heart disease involve determining how much calcium has been deposited in arterial walls). Excess calcium in arterial walls is directly correlated to increased risk of heart disease, chronic degenerative disease and all-cause mortality. The cardiologist Dr Thomas Levy writes “we continue to be stressed with warnings of increased risk of osteoporosis while the data clearly shows that most deaths in patients with osteoporosis relate to the vascular system and not the bones”. That means that the chances of dying from an osteoporotic fracture is no where near as high as the chance of dying from a heart attack, cancer or another chronic degenerative disease. Another warning is that research on the use of calcium in preventing osteoporosis is not conclusive whereas the research is convincing that supplemental calcium often fuels the progression of atherosclerosis and therefore heart attacks. There are lots of alternatives to calcium in the prevention of osteoporosis. For more information, see osteoporosis.
Additionally, when we take large doses of vitamin C we are taking it as a donator of electrons (this is how antioxidants work). Calcium ascorbate donates half as many electrons as other forms of vitamin C. This is the reason why calcium ascorbate stays elevated in the blood longer than other forms. Once vitamin C has donated an electron to neutralise a free radical, it must be regenerated by receiving an electron from an electron donor. Recommended electron donors are either glutathione or R-alpha lipoic acid.
Previous concerns that vitamin C may cause kidney stones have been discounted (and animals making large doses of their own vitamin C aren’t getting kidney stones all the time!)
Contraindications to the use of high-dose intravenous vitamin C include:
- Severe renal failure
- G6PD deficiency
- Melanoma which has spread to the brain (melanoma is so sensitive to the effects of vitamin C that the metastases in the brain can shrink too quickly and cause bleeding.
- Recurrent kidney stones