VITAMIN C COMPLEX
By Zoltan P. Rona, M.D., M.Sc.
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) may well be the most controversial of all the vitamins. Most of the medical establishment still objects to the use of mega doses of vitamin C for treatment of cancer, the flu, allergies, stress, adrenal fatigue or just about anything else. All this negativity may not be warranted because there is now a growing body of medical literature supporting the use of vitamin C in very high doses.
Vitamin C and its closely related bioflavonoids can be found in all citrus fruits and numerous other fruits and vegetables. In fact, vitamin C was first isolated from lemons in 1932 but it was well known to be a factor in the prevention of scurvy back in the 18th century. Vitamin C is used by the body in the formation of collagen, a protein required by all joints, ligaments, skin, cartilage, capillary walls, bones, teeth and connective tissue. Vitamin C is needed to help heal wounds and to maintain healthy blood vessels. It has been proven to help speed healing of burns, fractures, bedsores, ulcers and post-surgical wounds.
Vitamin C is crucial in the metabolism of tyrosine, folic acid and tryptophan. The levels of important brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine and epinephrine are to a large degree dependent on an abundance of vitamin C. Vitamin C also aids in thyroid hormone production as well as cholesterol metabolism by increasing its elimination from the body.
In addition to these roles vitamin C works as an antioxidant, preventing cellular injury and damage by free radicals. Vitamin C also protects other vitamins from being broken down too quickly, especially vitamins A, E and some of the B vitamins. Vitamin C is a good detoxifier from the side effects of many drugs and helps rid the body of mercury, cadmium, lead and arsenic. Vitamin C decreases the production of histamine, thereby reducing the severity of any allergic reaction. One of the quickest ways for an adult to achieve an antihistaminic effect is to quickly take 10 grams of pure ascorbic acid.
Vitamin C in larger than physiological doses has been successfully used to treat a wide range of viral, bacterial, fungal and inflammatory conditions including colds, flus, mononucleosis, herpes simplex infections and shingles. Vitamin C boosts the production of interferon, a potent anti-viral and immune enhancing substance. Chronic inflammatory conditions not necessarily related to infectious disease will also respond to vitamin C therapy. These include arthritis, bursitis, gout (vitamin C pushes uric acid out of the body), asthma and chronic musculo-skeletal pain of any origin.
Another underestimated benefit of vitamin C is in the treatment of withdrawal reactions from drug addictions, narcotics, alcohol, caffeine and sugar. These are common addictions but can be helped to a large degree with vitamin C therapy. Vitamin C has a laxative effect and may be of great help to those suffering from constipation. The main side effect of too much vitamin C intake is diarrhea and so the dose must be individualized to prevent any unpleasant bowel side effects.
Vitamin C improves iron absorption from the gastrointestinal tract, improves the utilization of blood glucose in diabetics and can help prevent both glaucoma and cataracts. Vitamin C can help some cases of infertility because it prevents sperm from clumping together and this then improves sperm function. Vitamin C also prevents platelet aggregation, a factor responsible for the formation of plaques and clots.
Most other animals, except guinea pigs, man and apes produce ascorbic acid in the liver from glucose and do not need to get vitamin C from food. The daily requirement of vitamin C is still in debate but most would agree that the RDA of 60 mg is too low an estimate of actual human need. Vitamin C is used up quickly during conditions of stress, allergies, diseases like diabetes and by tobacco smoke, numerous drugs, antibiotics, alcohol, mercury and other toxic heavy metals like lead and cadmium. Some vitamin C is stored in the adrenal glands, pituitary, brain, eyes, ovaries and testes and is in greater demand whenever the immune system or any connective tissue is stressed.
The best food sources of vitamin C are the citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, limes, tangerines, and grapefruits). Other fruits with high amounts of vitamin C include rose hips, acerola cherries, papayas, cantaloupes, and strawberries. The best vegetable sources are red and green peppers, garlic, onions, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, asparagus, parsley, dark leafy greens, cabbage, and sauerkraut. Sprouted grains contain some modest amounts of vitamin C but no animal sources would be considered adequate to prevent deficiency symptoms.
Linus Pauling was right! Long before his death, he had published a great deal about vitamin C’s ability to effectively fight cancer when given in doses greater than 10,000 mg daily. On September 20, 2005, a team of scientists from the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD published the results of a landmark study done using human lymphoma cells. The study argues strongly for the use of intravenous vitamin C treatment as a scientifically proven way of beating cancer.
Similar positive findings were also published in the usually conservative Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ, March 28, 2006). This research basically demonstrated that, once in the bloodstream at high doses, vitamin C increases hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). This natural body biochemical then destroys cancer cells while leaving healthy cells and tissues unharmed. Hydrogen peroxide is also one of the body’s best defenses against bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites and other microbes. Theoretically and in practice, IV vitamin C can therefore successfully fight a long list of infectious diseases through this peroxide mechanism.
Doesn’t the oral form of vitamin C work as well? Oral vitamin C, although beneficial for immunity, will not work to reverse cancer. One must get this nutrient in an intravenous form, using doses ranging from 25 to 75 grams (75,000 mg) for an anti-cancer effect.
The late Dr. Hugh Riordan and his research group in Wichita, Kansas, studied the effects of intravenous vitamin C in cancer therapy for over 28 years. His findings and that of other independent investigators give new hope to cancer victims. Of further interest is the fact that intravenous vitamin C will work for practically all kinds of cancer regardless of the stage of the disease.
All cancer treatments, natural or otherwise have potential drawbacks. While recent studies at NIH and elsewhere have shown no side effects or toxicities associated with intravenous vitamin C there are some relative contra-indications and theoretical dangers. These include local pain at the infusion site, rapid tumor death (necrosis) with resulting toxemia, allergic reactions and hemolytic anemia due to hereditary G6PD (glucose-6-phosphate-dehydrogenase deficiency). With the exception of G6PD deficiency, all of these issues can be successfully dealt with to achieve the treatment benefits.
Vitamin C Myths and False Beliefs
The commonest misconception about vitamin C is the idea that it should only be supplemented during the winter. The idea is that, since most of us consume more citrus and other fruits during the summer months, we do not need to supplement with vitamin C during the summer months. The truth is that people often need much greater levels of vitamin C during the spring, summer and the fall months because of environmental allergies or because of other special concerns like asthma, arthritis, coronary artery disease, cancer and a long list of infectious disease.
Let us not forget that people get summer colds, sinus infections and pneumonias in the summer too. In the fall, when our kids return to school, colds and flus become much more common. Adequate levels of vitamin C from foods alone will not meet people’s needs to deal with all these stresses. Supplementation is definitely required.
It has been falsely reported that vitamin C in mega doses can cause high blood levels of oxalic acid and oxalate kidney stones. Research over the past two decades has proven the opposite to be true – vitamin C actually prevents kidney stones. In those who already suffer from kidney stones who wish to use IV vitamin C, supplementation with vitamin B6 (100 – 300 mg daily) should be taken as a way of reducing oxalic acid levels in the body.
Why Not Ester-C or Mineral Ascorbates?
The Vitamin C Foundation does not recommend Ester-C primarily because it is not the natural form of the vitamin. Ester-C does not match what animals make naturally in their livers or kidneys.
Well over 80,000 studies by Linus Pauling and hundreds of other scientists were not done with this buffered (esterified) version of vitamin C but with L-ascorbic acid. These studies were also not done with the mineral ascorbates, another inferior choice when you purchase vitamin C.
According to Dr. Robert Cathcart, probably the best known physician using high dose vitamin C for a long list of adverse health conditions:
"...it was not entirely clear that the dramatic effects are always with ascorbic acid orally and sodium ascorbate intravenously. I have not been able to achieve the ascorbate effect with mineral ascorbates orally. Mineral ascorbates are fine forms of vitamin C but when you are really sick, the mitochondria are failing in their refueling of the free radical scavengers with electrons. The ascorbic acid carries 2 extra electrons per molecule where the mineral ascorbates seem to carry only one (plus per molecule the mineral ascorbates are heavier due to the mineral weighing more than the hydrogen the mineral replaces). So the mineral ascorbates are not potent enough to accomplish the ascorbate effect. There may be other reasons that we do not appreciate additionally."
Bioflavonoids are a type of plant pigment normally found in existence with vitamin C. Some of the more potent sources of bioflavonoids are citrus fruit, blueberries or bilberry, green tea, grape seeds, parsley, green peppers, wine, dark chocolate and rose hips. There are over 5000 naturally occurring bioflavonoids and they are classified into categories called anthocyanidins, isoflavones, flavonols, flavans, flavanones and flavones based on their molecular structure.
Some of the best-known flavonoids include hesperidin, rutin, citrus bioflavonoids, genistein (from soy) and quercetin (from onions).
Within the family of anthocyanidins is bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus). The flavans are the type of bioflavonoid found in tea and apples. Some bioflavonoids can be synthesized into proanthocyanidins (tannins) and polyphenols, both classes having strong antioxidant effects.
Bioflavonoids act mainly as antioxidants and immune system boosters protecting plants and humans that consume them.
Bioflavonoids, like vitamin C, are anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and anti-cancer. They protect the body from oxidative damage by free radicals caused by pollution, tobacco smoke and the body’s normal metabolic processes.
Without bioflavonoids, aging would occur more rapidly. Diseases prevented by regular intake of bioflavonoids include cancer, heart disease, easy bruising, cold sores, capillary fragility and cataracts.
This bioflavonoid is from the flavonol family and contains a sugar called rutin. Sources of quercetin include onions and blue-green algae. It is well known to work taken in high doses to reduce inflammation from any source and to prevent allergic reactions to any substance. In my practice, I often recommend it to people who suffer from multiple food and environmental allergies as an effective alternative to prescription antihistamines and steroids. Its antioxidant activity allows vitamin C to work more effectively in the body and it can inhibit an enzyme called reverse transcriptase that spreads viruses like HIV. Quercetin is also very effective therapy for hemorrhoids, varicose veins and bruises.
Quercetin stabilizes the mast cell and basophil (a type of white cell) membranes thereby preventing these cells from spilling their content of pro-inflammatory, allergy symptom producing histamines into the blood vessels. This prevents inflammatory responses such as wheezing, sneezing, nasal congestion, sinus pain and swelling when exposed to an allergen such as ragweed or a food. Asthma attacks can be either prevented or blunted significantly with regular use of quercetin.
Unlike prescription anti-histamines, steroid inhalers and other immune system suppressing drugs, quercetin has no significant allergies or cancer promoting properties. Therapeutic doses for asthma range from 1000 – 2000 mg daily and this is quite safe for extended periods of time (years).
Rose hips are a potent source of vitamin C and bioflavonoids (60% more than citrus fruit). Its use became popularized as a way of strengthening the entire vascular system, notably the capillaries. Rose hips are also a source of vitamin E and vitamin K and have been recommended to successfully treat uterine cramps, heavy menstrual flow and some breast disorders.
Rose hips also contain calcium, citric acid, iron, niacin, phosphorus, tannin, vitamin A, B1, B2, and P. By itself, rose hips have been used as a natural laxative and as a natural diuretic. Natural health care practitioners often recommend rose hips to fight stress, improve the health of the skin, the immune system, and the urinary bladder and to prevent kidney stones. There are no detrimental effects of taking rose hips although the rare individual complains of some stomach upset, headache or insomnia. Normally these side effects can be corrected by either lowering the intake to tolerance of continuing with the same dose until the body becomes used to the intake level.
Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus)
This bioflavonoid originates from blueberries and is well known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It contains flavonoids called anthocyanosides that protect the collagen structures in the blood vessels of the eye. It is a proven therapy for hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and many eye problems including macular degeneration, diabetic neuropathy and cataracts. Bilberry helps the eyes to adjust to changes in light quickly.
Bilberry is also effective against venous insufficiency, a condition that causes swelling (edema) and varicose veins. It relieves pain and itching, fights skin ulcers on the legs and treats Raynaud's disease (extremely cold extremities) effectively.
Bilberry's strong antioxidant properties make it an excellent free radical scavenger thus preventing premature aging and degenerative disease. Bilberry is also effective against menstrual cramps and any condition involving poor circulation such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
Side effects related to the use of bilberry are rare but stomach upset, dizziness, or headaches are possible. In some sensitive individuals, bilberry could cause diarrhea but there are no known adverse reactions with any medications.
Effective dosages for bilberry range from 20 to 160 mg. People with specific conditions, such as macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma or varicose veins may benefit from much higher dosages.
Dr. Zoltan P. Rona practices Complementary Medicine in Toronto and is the medical editor of “The Encyclopedia of Natural Healing.” He has also published several Canadian best-selling books, including “Vitamin D, The Sunshine Vitamin.” For more of his articles, seewww.mydoctor.ca/drzoltanrona
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Qi Chen*†, Michael Graham Espey‡, Murali C. Krishna‡, James B. Mitchell‡, Christopher P. Corpe*, Garry R. Buettner§, Emily Shacter†, and Mark Levine*¶ *Molecular and Clinical Nutrition Section, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892; ‡Radiation Biology Branch, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892; §Free Radical and Radiation Biology Program, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242-1101; and †Laboratory of Biochemistry, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, Food and Drug Administration, Bethesda, MD 20892 Pharmacologic ascorbic acid concentrations selectively kill cancer cells: Action as a pro-drug to deliver hydrogen peroxide to tissues Communicated by J. E. Rall, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, August 2, 2005 (received for review June 1, 2005)
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Why The Foundation Does Not Recommend Ester-C http://www.vitamincfoundation.org/esterc.htm