Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin which is essential for normal functioning of the body. Unlike most mammals, humans don't have the ability to make their own vitamin C. We must therefore obtain vitamin C through our diet.
The FDA recommends that we get 60 mgs of vitamin C per day. Are there any benefits which can be obtained from consuming more Vitamin C than the FDA's recommended daily intake of a miserable 60mg - barely enough to keep one out of rags and scurvy.
Dr. Frederick Klenner was probably the leading authority on the clinical use of vitamin C. On the question of when vitamin C is appropriate Dr. Klenner said "Vitamin C should be given to the patient while the doctors ponder the diagnosis."
Dr. Linus Pauling on vitamin C
Pauling was largely ridiculed for making these declarations, but today, large doses of Vitamin C are used by many practitioners for cancer patients in nutritional therapies, who believe Pauling was right and that vitamin C is indispensable to the body in its fight to regain health from cancer.
Linus Pauling wrote the book, "How to Live Longer and Feel Better". (He also wrote "Vitamin C and the Common Cold") . I had heard of Linus Pauling and since living longer and feeling better sounded desirable, I bought the book. I was captivated. Pauling presents the case for Vitamin C supplementation so well and backs it up with so much evidence that this is a book I highly recommend.
To find out what Linus Pauling, 2-time Nobel Prize laureate, thought about vitamin C supplementation, let's look at an excerpt from an interview with Linus Pauling and Tony Edwards for QED BBC Television.Q: What do you feel about the major criticism that anything over 100mg of vitamin C is a waste of money and goes down the drain because it's eliminated by the body?
A: The evidence shows that this is just not true. I myself, 20 years ago or more, read this statement, probably made by Fred Stare, professor then at Harvard School of Public Health, and I decided to check. I was taking 10 grams per day of vitamin C. I collected my urine for 24 hours and analyzed it myself for the vitamin C content.
Instead of nearly 10,000mg being eliminated in the urine, 9850mg, I found only 1,500mg, 15% of the dose that I was taking during this trial, so the statement just is not true. Of course, some of the ingested ascorbate remains in the intestinal contents and doesn't get into the blood stream. It may be as much as 1/3.
Some evidence indicates that perhaps as much as 1/3 remains in the intestinal contents. Well, this does good, protecting the lower bowel against cancer by destroying carcinogens that are present in the fecal material and also does good because of the laxative effect of bringing water into the bowel so that the volume of the waste material is larger.
There's also a smaller surface area which helps speed up the process of elimination of this material. The rest of it, 2/3 perhaps 6.5 grams when I was taking 10 grams a day, gets into the blood stream but only 1.5 grams is eliminated in the urine.
So we can ask what happens to the other 5 grams? The answer I'm sure, in fact we have direct experimental evidence for it, is that vitamin C is rapidly converted into other substances, oxidation products and these other substances, these oxidation products have been shown to have greater value against cancer than vitamin C itself.
So if you take large doses of vitamin C you produce large amounts of these other substances, the value of which is still under investigation. We have been studying it for fifteen years.Q: How do you decide how much vitamin C is right for you and, if you take 3 grams should it be split throughout the day?
In my opinion adults should be taking at least 2 grams a day. There is much evidence about increased health with 2 grams a day, and of course even more with 4 or 6 grams a day. Even an extra 60mg had been shown to add value in cutting down the death rate from heart disease, cancer and other diseases. Now my feeling is as people grow older they ought to be increasing their vitamin C and perhaps they should follow the policy that I have followed of increasing the intake.
It can be either one chunk, one dose in the morning, or even better 3 doses throughout the day, increasing the intake until a laxative effect is observed, speeding up the rate of elimination of waste material from the bowel. So my suggestion is every person who wants to have the best of health should increase the intake of vitamin C to somewhat less than the amount that causes significant looseness of the bowel.
Scientific studies and vitamin C
Are there any studies out there which actually show that vitamin C is beneficial? As the following studies demonstrate, vitamin C can enhance the immune function in a number of ways:
Other studies support the finding that vitamin C enhances the leukocyte function. Vitamin C has also been shown to decrease bacteriological activity.(1)
Chronically ill adults: Recent studies indicate that vitamin C has a positive effect on patients suffering from a variety of chronic disorders. In one large study, 260 patients with viral hepatitis A took 300 mg of vitamin C/day for several weeks. The researchers, who studied immune indicators, such as serum immunoglobulin and neutrophil phagocytosis (how well your white blood cells can engulf and digest foreign bodies), concluded that vitamin C "exerts a remarkable immuno-modulating action."(2) - that's a complicated way of saying your immune system functions better because of it.
Vitamin C and heart disease
French and German researchers found that vitamin C appeared to keep cells in the blood vessel wall from dying. They believe this protection from cell death could explain previous study findings which suggest that vitamin C benefits blood vessel function in people with congestive heart failure.(3)
A study found that long-term administration of vitamin C reverses endothelial vasomotor dysfunction in patients with coronary artery disease. Researchers instructed patients with documented coronary artery disease to take a single oral dose of either 2 g vitamin C or a placebo. The dose of vitamin C improved dilation of the brachial artery, as assessed by a high-resolution vascular ultrasound done 2 hours later. The researchers reported that the effect was sustained among patients who subsequently took 1/2 gram of vitamin C daily for 30 days.(4)
Vitamin C and the risk of stroke
Individuals with high blood levels of vitamin C have significantly reduced risk of stroke, according to a recently published long-term study (5). "To my knowledge, this is the first prospective study to make the correlation between vitamin C in the bloodstream and incidence of stroke," says author Tetsuji Yokoyama, M.D., research associate in epidemiology at the Medical Research Institute of Tokyo Medical and Dental University. The risk of stroke was inversely related to vitamin C in the bloodstream in this study.
It is important to realize that ideally we should get our vitamin C from the foods we eat. Using supplements as a substitute for whole foods and expect to get healthy is delusional. You must consume whole unprocessed foods to maximize your health. Good sources of vitamin C are green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, tomatoes, berries, guavas, melons, papayas, etc.
Can vitamin C help to prevent or treat cancer?
Over the years, many studies have found that vitamin C is an effective anti-cancer agent. Vitamin C works in the following ways to help the body fight cancer cells:
Studies suggest that vitamin C's antioxidant mechanisms may help to prevent cancer in several ways. Vitamin C combats the peroxidation of lipids, for example, which has been linked to degeneration and the aging process. One study of elderly people found that 400 mg of vitamin C per day (for a one-year period) reduced serum lipid peroxide levels. Vitamin C can also work inside the cells to protect the DNA from the damage caused by free radicals. In several studies, report the researchers Gaby and Singh, vitamin C reduced the level of potentially destructive genetic alterations or chromosome aberrations.(6)
Many of the pollutants which now pervade our environment can cause carcinogenic, toxic or mutagenic effects. Vitamin C may be able to combat these harmful effects, in part by stimulating detoxifying enzymes in the liver. In another study, vitamin C was shown to block the formation of fecal mutagens.(7)
Finally, vitamin C can reduce the development of nitrosamines from nitrates, chemicals which are commonly used in processed foods. Once formed, nitrosamine can become carcinogens. In several human studies(8), in which the subjects consumed a nitrosamine precursor, the urinary levels of nitrosamines were significantly reduced by vitamin C.
As far back as the 1940s, researchers began to note a connection between the incidence of cancer and low blood levels in the body or a dietary deficiency of vitamin C. Studies conducted in the past 10 years have confirmed that link. According to 2 studies from the early 1980s, 2 to 5 grams of vitamin C per day can correct these low serum levels and, in some patients, improve the defenses put up by the immune system.(9)
Based on numerous studies, it seems clear that there is a strong relationship between a person's vitamin C intake and cancer risk. In 1991, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition conducted a comprehensive analysis of some 45 studies on vitamin C's protective effects against various types of cancer. Of these, 32 studies reported a significant link between vitamin C intake and the incidence of cancer. In fact, a high intake of vitamin C offered twice the protection of a low intake. Many of these studies defined a "high intake" as a daily dosage of 160 mg or more per day; a "low intake" generally was less than 70 mg.(10)
Vitamin C to prevent cataracts?
I spend a lot of time researching the best prices for supplements on the internet. In my opinion the best prices for vitamin C on the internet are here. I also like Puritan Pride's special "Buy 1 Get 2 FREE" promotions on vitamin C. To enhance the antioxidant properties, it is best to take vitamin C with the other antioxidants, as there is strong evidence of synergy between various antioxidants. Vitamin C can be taken in many different forms, which will be the subject of another article. Vitamin C in powder and crystals form, Ester C, buffered vitamin C, vitamin C in chewable form, in liquid form, etc. The important thing is to make sure vitamin C is part of your diet.
(1). S.K. Gaby and V.N. Singh, "Vitamin C," – Vitamin Intake and Health: A Scientific Review, S.K. Gaby, A. Bendich, V. Singh and L. Machlin (eds.) Marcel Dekker, N.Y. 1991 p. p. 120-121.
(2) V.S. Vasil'ev, V.l. Komar and N.l. Kisel, "Humoral and Cellular Indices of Nonspecific Resistance In Viral Hepatitis A and Ascorbic Acid, Ter-Arkh; 1989 61(11); p. 44-6.
(3) Circulation October 30, 2001;104
(4) Circulation June 29,1999;99:3234-3240.
(5) Stroke October, 2000; 31: 2287-94.
(6). S.K. Gaby and V.N. Singh, "Vitamin C," – Vitamin Intake and Health: A Scientific Review, S.K. Gaby, A. Bendich, V. Singh and L. Machlin (eds.) Marcel Dekker, N.Y. 1991, p. 108.
(7). S.K. Gaby and V.N. Singh, "Vitamin C," – Vitamin Intake and Health: A Scientific Review, S.K. Gaby, A. Bendich, V. Singh and L. Machlin (eds.) Marcel Dekker, N.Y. 1991, p. 108 & 110.
(8). S.K. Gaby and V.N. Singh, "Vitamin C," – Vitamin Intake and Health: A Scientific Review, S.K. Gaby, A. Bendich, V. Singh and L. Machlin (eds.) Marcel Dekker, N.Y. 1991, p. 109.
(9). S.K. Gaby and V.N. Singh, "Vitamin C," – Vitamin Intake and Health: A Scientific Review, S.K. Gaby, A. Bendich, V. Singh and L. Machlin (eds.) Marcel Dekker, N.Y. 1991, p. 109.
(10). Gladys Block, "Vitamin C and Cancer Prevention: The Epidemiologic Evidence," American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; 1991; 53:270S-82S.
(11). Jacques PF, Chylack LT, Jr., Hankinson SE, et al. Long-term nutrient intake and early age-related nuclear lens opacities. Arch Ophthalmol. 2001;119(7):1009-1019. (PubMed)
(12). Simon JA, Hudes ES. Serum ascorbic acid and other correlates of self-reported cataract among older Americans. J Clin Epidemiol. 1999;52(12):1207-1211. (PubMed)
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