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No More War Against Vitamin C

by Bill Sardi by Bill Sardi

In 1958 Dr. Linus Pauling published his book, No More War. Today, if Dr. Pauling were still alive, he would probably write a sequel to that book entitled No More War Against Vitamin C. There is a renaissance in vitamin C supplementation underway. A series of events is unfolding so fast it is difficult to stay current on this topic.

It’s a resurgence that would cause Dr. Linus Pauling to be elated, having started one of these revivals in 1970 with the publication of his book, Vitamin C and the Common Cold. The consumption of vitamin C is reported to have jumped then by 300% and a dramatic drop in the mortality rate from coronary heart disease followed (public health authorities failed to report this). Dr. Pauling went on to write other books on vitamin C in 1986 and 1993 regarding cancer and longevity. During that era, before angioplasty, statin drugs or aspirin therapy were being touted, the number of annual deaths per 100,000 Americans due to coronary heart disease dropped from nearly 500 to about 250. [NIH Data]

The impetus to take vitamin C pills dwindled in 1992 when National Institutes of Health researchers, employing studies of no more than 15 people, and measuring blood levels 12 hours after consumption, errantly concluded high-dose vitamin C, beyond 200 milligrams per day, was worthless. The government researchers claim excesses of vitamin C are excreted in the urine. But in April of 2004 researchers published a paper that escaped public attention. Not only did researchers find that intravenous vitamin C could reach concentrations in the blood circulation 140 times greater than oral consumption and should be re-evaluated as a treatment for cancer (recall now, Dr. Pauling successfully employed intravenous vitamin C to treat cancer, but his work was discredited by the Mayo Clinic), but vitamin C pills can elevate blood levels three times greater than what was previously thought possible. [Annals Internal Medicine 2004 Apr 6; 140 (7):533—7] High-dose vitamin C wasn’t going to waste. For unexplained reasons, this landmark report never caught the attention of the major news media nor the National Institutes of Health which continues to mistakenly maintain that more than 200 milligrams of vitamin C per day is a waste of money.

Then a landmark report published in the British Medical Journal this past July revealed that blood vessels at the back of the eyes begin to narrow before high blood pressure develops. [British Medical Journal 2004 Jul 10; 329(7457):79] Any doctor with an ophthalmoscope can directly visualize these retinal vessels. Patients with narrowed retinal blood vessels can’t be placed on drugs because their blood pressure isn’t elevated yet. Modern medicine had made a great discovery that could lead to the prevention of millions of strokes and heart attacks, but it didn’t have a therapy in place.

However the report came to the attention of Sydney J Bush, PhD, Doctor of Optometry, Hull Contact Lens Clinic, in East Yorkshire near London. Dr. Bush, a devotee of Dr. Pauling, wrote two letters (July 23 and Nov 26) to the British Medical Journal citing his experience snapping digital photographs of the blood vessels at the back of the eyes while patients were on a daily regimen of supplemental vitamin C. Dr. Bush unequivocally shows narrowing of the blood vessels at the back of the eyes (and presumably throughout the body) can be reversed with 3,000 to 10,000 milligrams of daily vitamin C. The before-and-after photos below demonstrate the reversal effect of vitamin C. On the left, a photograph taken in 2002 shows retinal arteries have narrowed and some have dropped from view. The photo on the right taken in 2004 shows the arteries have widened and in some places reappeared. The public should begin to request photos like these from their eye doctors so they can evaluate the effect of supplemental vitamin C over time.

Left, digital retinal photo taken in 2002 shows narrowed arteries at the back of the eyes. Right, same eye, photographed (un-retouched) in 2004, shows widening of arteries and improved circulation following vitamin C therapy. Some blocked arteries opened up again.

Then another stunner — a review of nine previously published studies found that vitamin C, over 700 milligrams daily, an amount that can only be achieved by taking vitamin pills, lowers the mortality rate by about 25% over a 10-year period compared to Americans whose consume low amounts of vitamin C. [Am J Clin Nutrition 2004 Dec; 80(6):1508—20] The average American consumes just 110 milligrams of vitamin C from their diet. The mortality rate for more than 100 million Americans who consume low amounts of vitamin C would drop even further if they would take just one 1000-milligram vitamin C pill per day! This is enough information to create a worldwide shortage of vitamin C pills alone. But this rapidly unfolding story doesn’t stop here.

Within days another striking report was issued, this time from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. In 2001 a report in Science Magazine scared millions away from high-dose vitamin C. The false claim was that high-dose vitamin C could damage DNA and possibly lead to cancer. Now Linus Pauling Institute scientists say that was only half of the story. Scientists confirmed the results of the earlier study published in Science, which showed high-dose vitamin C can form compounds that can potentially damage DNA, but also showed that vitamin C bonds to other molecules and ends up being a detoxifier and DNA protector. The researchers emphasized this was not a test-tube study, as was the 2001 study in Science magazine. Their experiments showed this is the way the human body utilizes vitamin C. Their study is published in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Furthermore, another vitamin C book has been published, as if to finish what Dr. Linus Pauling started. Written by pharmacologists trained at the University of Manchester in Great Britain, Drs. Steve Hickey and Hilary Roberts, its title is arresting. It’s called the Ridiculous Dietary Allowance (available online at Lulu.com, free for a limited time, and $6 thereafter). Drs. Hickey and Roberts openly challenge public health authorities to find error in their book and call for an immediate re-evaluation of the recommended allowances for vitamin C (a paltry 90 milligrams) as set by the Food & Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences. Hickey and Roberts’ recommendation is that all adults supplement their diet with 2500 milligrams or more of vitamin C, taken in divided doses throughout the day. Hickey and Roberts led a professional challenge this past summer with their previous book, Ascorbate: The Science of Vitamin C (www.lulu.com/ascorbate), which twelve noted antioxidant researchers submitted to the Food & Nutrition Board as they called for a re-evaluation of the RDA for vitamin C. So far, the Food & Nutrition Board has been unresponsive.

Even this reporter has offered a new contribution to the understanding of this simple vitamin, writing an e-book describing how vitamin C prevents the formation of a particular type of unstable arterial plaque that triggers blood clots which in turn block coronary arteries and cause 80 percent of heart attacks. The e-book explains why your cholesterol number has little to do with preventing a mortal heart attack. The e-book, How To Lower Your Cholesterol Phobia and Cleanse Your Arteries of Plaque in 30 Days is a critical review of statin drugs and evaluates natural therapies like vitamin C for cholesterol control.

Other misconceptions about vitamin C have now been dispelled. The false notion that high-dose vitamin C promotes kidney stones, and the mistaken idea that withdrawal from high-dose vitamin C will cause "rebound scurvy," have confused the public and their doctors. The long war against vitamin C should be over. It isn’t. Efforts are now underway to limit the amount of vitamin C in pills, as if it were some sort of toxin in high doses. The transient diarrhea experienced when high-dose vitamin C is employed is just the way the body signals us to back off the dose a bit. When ill for any reason, or when stressed physically or emotionally, living cells require much more vitamin C for maintenance of health. Vitamin C intake levels are dynamic, not static. If every physician in the country prescribed a 1000-milligram vitamin C pill to their patients regardless of their state of health, mortality rates, insurance premiums and Medicare costs would tumble.

Bill Sardi [send him mail] is a consumer advocate and health journalist, writing from San Dimas, California. He offers a free downloadable book, The Collapse of Conventional Medicine, at his website.

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