Why We All Need to Supplement Vitamin C

  • 28 Feb 2010
  • Reading time 12 mins
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“Optimum Nutrition is the medicine of tomorrow,” said twice Nobel prize winner Dr Linus Pauling. Here I interview him on his research on vitamin C.

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?

The evidence shows that this is just not true. I myself, twenty 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 analysed it myself for the vitamin C content. Instead of nearly 10,000mg being eliminated in the urine I found only 1,500mg, 15 per cent 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 a third.

Well, this does good, protecting the lower bowel against cancer by destroying carcinogens that are present in the faecal 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, two thirds 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 Why has your work on nutrients been countered. Is it ignorance, is it prestige, is it money interests? Why is it being suppressed?

Well I have thought about that a great deal. Most scientists in general have accepted my idea and ideas of other pioneers. Of course I took over my ideas mainly from Irwin Stone and other early investigators of vitamin C.

So scientists have said usually "Well Linus Pauling has been right so often in the past, he’s probably right about this too". But then an ordinary physician has the duty of dividing his time and energy for the proper care of his patients. He doesn’t have time to read the literature, the scientific and medical literature, and think about a question such as whether there is something new and significant that has been discovered. He has to rely on medical and nutritional authorities and I blame them for having been lazy and biased, and not really willing to keep up with new developments. But why are they biased? Well I decided, 40 or 50 years ago, that when they were trying to understand the action of drugs and also of nutrients, they realised that you give a drug in the amount as large as possible so that its toxicity does not kill a patient in the hope that it will save the patient’s life. And there are certain drugs that have great value in protecting against certain diseases.

Doctors and investigators have worked hard to determine what the proper dose of a drug is. Now with vitamin C for example, I am sure they said we know what vitamin C does. It keeps people from dying from scurvy and investigators have studied human beings enough to know how much vitamin C they need to give in order to prevent the development of scurvy. It isn’t much, just a little pinch each day so they say we know the answer with vitamins just as with drugs. And the answers are the RDAs, 60 mg a day of vitamin C to prevent scurvy, and 2mg of a day of thiamin, vitamin B1, to prevent beriberi and so on. What they did not do was to ask this question: here is a substance which has no known toxicity, which can be taken in 1000 times the RDA, the amount that stops people developing scurvy, without causing harm to a person. Is there a possibility that very large doses of vitamin C and the B vitamins and vitamin A, beta-carotene and vitamin E, would have much additional value in improving the health of the people?

Twenty-five years ago, when I became interested in vitamins, it was just that question that interested me. I looked in the medical and nutritional literature to find out how much vitamin C a person should take in order to be in the best health, perhaps to control diseases other than scurvy. I couldn’t find anything and the result, of course, is for 25 years I have devoted much of my life and time and energy trying to find the answer to the question - how much of these very powerful and important substances should we take to be in the best of health?

Q How would you compare your vision of orthomolecular medicine and conventional medicine?

One of my colleagues in the field of orthomolecular medicine invented the word ‘toximolecular’ medicine to describe conventional medicine and this seems to me to be good in that conventional medical practice relies heavily on drugs, all of which essentially are toxic substances. It’s hard for me to think of an example of a drug that is like the vitamins in having nearly zero toxicity. With aspirin, some patients with severe ......

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