I interviewed Dr Thomas Levy, who has provided the definitive proof in his book ‘ Vitamin C, Infectious Diseases and Toxins: Curing the Incurable’.He is one of the world’s experts in effects of vitamin C on viruses. Here’s what he says “I have not found any flu virus for which vitamin C does not exert a virucidal effect, as long as enough vitamin C reaches the virus, such as in any acute infection. I don't know about Tamiflu, but the vitamin C is virtually devoid of negative side effects.”
Although I know of no studies yet published specifically treating swine flu with vitamin C, immune expert Dr Robert Cathcart, who has treated thousands of cases of life threatening infectious diseases with high dose vitamin C says “Treatment of the bird flu with massive doses of ascorbate would be the same as any other flu except that the severity of the disease indicates that it may take unusually massive doses of ascorbic acid orally or even intravenous sodium ascorbate. I have not seen any flu yet that was not cured or markedly ameliorated by massive doses of vitamin C but it is possible that the bird flu may require even higher doses.”
Antiviral drugs, such as Tamiflu (oseltamivir), work by inhibiting something called neuraminidase, produced by viruses and essential for their ability to replicate. So too does vitamin C according to recent research. This study tested the effects of a combination of ascorbic acid, green tea extract, lysine, proline, N-acetyl cysteine, selenium among other micronutrients on cells infected with influenza. This combination was also tested in a study on cells infected with bird flu, in many respects similar to swine flu. According to the authors the nutrient mixture "demonstrated high antiviral activity evident even at prolonged periods after infection. Antiviral properties were comparable to those of conventional drugs (amantadine and oseltamivir); however, the nutrient mixture had the advantage of affecting viral replication at the late stages of the infection process."
Unlike the drugs, there are no significant side-effects. The effect of vitamin C alone was less than that of the combination of nutrients and, in combination, moderate doses of vitamin C exerted a significant anti-viral effect. The other nutrients given included the amino acids lysine, proline, N-acetyl cysteine, and selenium. N-acetyl cysteine and selenium both promote glutathione levels within cells, which has anti-viral activity. The mineral zinc, in doses of 50 to 100mg a day, has also proved to be anti-viral and is available in lozenges for coughs and colds as found in one study. I recommend half this level in zinc lozenges, for short-term use only.
On a daily basis, as prevention, I recommend supplementing 15mg a day. Supplementing this amount of zinc has been shown in recent research to make the body's T cells much more effective, hence boosting immunity. Neuramidase inhibition, which prevents viral release from infected cells, is only one of more than ten ways that vitamin C helps knock out viruses, both by inhibiting the virus itself, and by strengthening the body’s own immune response, for example by improving immune cell function (eg macrophages and t-lymphocytes), upping interferon and nitric oxide and making more antibodies which target viruses. In the combined nutrient study I discuss above one of the most significant anti-viral effects was inhibiting viral nucleoprotein, which means the virus cannot multiply. This occurred within 24 hours. Vitamin C, in high doses, has been well proven to be non-toxic in both adults and children over many years. The same cannot be said for this new generation of antiviral drugs.
One of the most concerning and rarely mentioned reported side-effects of Tamiflu is bizarre psychiatric problems in children treated with the drug, prompting the US FDA to recommend new warnings concerning possible dangerous psychiatric side effects. The ideal amount of vitamin C for any flu is up to ‘bowel tolerance’. Start with 3 grams immediately, then 1 gram an hour and if you get diarrhoea, then halve this dose. If you don’t, double it. There are some forms of vitamin C, notably sodium ascorbate with riboperine, and lipospheric vitamin C that allow even more to be absorbed without reaching bowel tolerance. They are marginally better than straight ascorbic acid. Some people find ascorbic acid too acidic, in which case an ascorbate, such as sodium ascorbate, can be taken.
It might be useful to have a supply at hand if a flu epidemic does break out. There is no harm in having 100 grams a day short-term, stopping once all symptoms are gone. If even this didn’t stop the flu I’d find a doctor who could administer intravenous sodium ascorbate. The trick with any infection is not to get it in the first place by keeping your immune system strong. I take 2 grams of vitamin C every day. If swine flu breaks out I’m doubling that to 4 grams – one every 6 or so hours, as well as supplementing zinc and selenium on a daily basis. As the studies above show a combination of immune-boosting nutrients appears most effective. Viruses get into body cells by puncturing their walls with tiny spikes made of a substance called hemagglutinin.
According to research by virologist Madeleine Mumcuoglu, working with Dr Jean Linderman, who discovered interferon, an extract of elderberry disarms these spikes by binding to them and preventing them from penetrating the cell membrane. ‘This was the first discovery,’ said Mumcuoglu. ‘Later I found evidence that elderberry also fights flu virus in other ways.’ In a double blind controlled trial she tested the effects of the elderberry extract, called Sambucol, in people diagnosed with any one of a number of strains of flu virus. Their results, published in 1995, showed a significant improvement in symptoms – fever, cough, muscle pain – in 20 per cent of patients within twenty-four hours, and in a further 73 per cent of patients within forty-eight hours.
After three days 90 per cent had complete relief of their symptoms compared to another group on a placebo, who look at least six days to recover. In another double-blind controlled trial it cut recovery time in those with influenza by four days. So this is an added bonus. Sambucol has proven to reduce the viral load without toxicity in an in-vitro trial on swine flu. I'd also recommend ensuring your vitamin D level is good. A study earlier this year, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, of 19,000 people found that with the lowest average levels of vitamin D were about 40 per cent more likely to have a recent respiratory infection, compared to those with higher vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is made in the skin in the presence of sunlight. During autumn and winter months we just don't make anything like enough.
Most experts recommend at least 30mcg a day - half an hour sun exposure and eating oily fish three times a week and half a dozen eggs might give you 15mcg a day, so I also supplement 15mcg in a multivitamin on a daily basis. Most multis, however, only contain 5mcg, the desperately out of date RDA. One interesting observation is that most of the so-called 'high risk' groups - namely asthmatics, diabetics, smokers, pregnant women, babies and the elderly - have all been reported to have lower vitamin C status and/or a greater need. Even so-called healthy young adults are often vitamin C deficient. For example a recent study in Canada of 979 non-smoking 20-29 year-olds found that 33% had sub-optimal vitamin C levels and 14% were deficient according to blood tests. various drugs that might be used during flu treatment, such as aspirin and corticosteroids, further deplete vitamin C. it is possible that a greater need, low intake from diet, depletion from eg drugs, alcohol, smoking, and further depletion from treatment-related medication might all increase risk.
As far as I'm aware no-one has investigated the possible link between flu-related mortality and vitamin C depletion but there is good reason to. If you'd like to know more about how to Boost Your Immune System read my book on the subject, or complete your on-line 100%Health Check which helps identify the key changes that will give your health, and your immune system, a boost.