Major Science Review Shows Vitamin C is a Game Changer

An in-depth review just out, authored by an international team of vitamin C experts and including over a hundred studies, shows that vitamin C plays a pivotal role in both severity of mild infections and saving lives in critical COVID-19 cases in intensive care units (ICUs).

This ranges from studies that show taking eight 1g vitamin C tablets during a cold, which may be COVID-19, can shorten infection to 24 hours, to cutting mortality in those with critical COVID-19 on ventilators by 68% compared to those given intravenous vitamin C versus placebo (sterile water).

The difference between steroid medication (dexamethasone) and placebo reported in June 2020 as a major breakthrough was a reduction in mortality of 30% for those on mechanical ventilators. Vitamin C needs to be taken seriously.

I was lead author on the study and I believe the evidence to date indicates that oral vitamin C (2–8 g/day) may reduce the incidence and duration of respiratory infections and intravenous vitamin C (6–24 g/day) has been shown to reduce mortality, ICU and hospital stays, and time on mechanical ventilation for severe respiratory infections including COVID-19.

Dr Anitra Carr, who is associate professor at the University of Otago in New Zealand, said, “When people get severe respiratory infections their requirement and utilization of vitamin C goes up significantly which is why they usually need intravenous infusions.”

Dr Carr points out that animals that make vitamin C increase their production significantly when under viral attack to always maintain adequate blood levels, with some vitamin C spilling into the urine. Only animals that don’t make vitamin C – primates, guinea pigs and bats – are susceptible to COVID-19.

The reviews show that the majority of patients coming into ICUs already have vastly depleted vitamin C levels.

According to co-author Professor Paul Marik, Chief of Critical Care Medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School “These critically ill COVID-19 patients often have undetectable vitamin C levels, as seen in scurvy. This is a disease induced scurvy.”

The vitamin C level of patients predicts their survival.

Vitamin C, as well as being a vital antioxidant and immune boosting nutrient, is stored in the adrenal glands and released, together with cortisol, when under attack. Together, they act as powerful anti-inflammatories calming down the ‘cytokine storm’ – the massive inflammatory reaction that occurs in the potentially fatal stage of COVID-19 as the immune system attacks dead virus particles.

Professor Paul Marik and others who use the combination of vitamin C with steroids and anticoagulant medication for their critically ill patients have reduced mortality to under 5%. “No-one is dying who doesn’t have both a pre-existing end stage disease and is over 85 years old.” said Marik.

“The body’s status in vitamin C is drastically reduced in conditions of severe stress such as infection, trauma, and surgery.” says co-author David Smith, Emeritus Professor of Pharmacology at the University of Oxford.

“There is evidence from other respiratory diseases that vitamin C treatment may be beneficial and currently there are some 30 trials in progress testing the therapeutic benefit of high dose vitamin C in late stage COVID-19. There is a prima facie case for a randomized trial to assess the effect of measuring vitamin C status in new COVID-19 patients.” Continued Professor Smith, who is presenting the evidence today to the National Institute for Clinical Evidence (NICE) which guides doctors in the treatment if disease.

The evidence is also being presented by Professor Philip Calder, Professor of Nutritional Immunology within Medicine from the University of Southampton, to the Nutrition Society, and members of the UK’s Scientific Advisory Committee of Nutrition (SACN) which advises Government.

Co-author Professor Iain Whitaker from Swansea University Medical School, who is NHS Consultant at the Welsh Centre for Burns and Plastic Surgery, says, “There is evidence that vitamin C, which plays an important role in immunity, is improving outcomes in critical care patients as part of multi modal therapy. Given its safety profile and relatively low cost, vitamin C should be considered based on emerging evidence from various critical care groups worldwide.”

A group of ICUs in the UK, part of the Chelsea and Westminster Foundation, which posted the lowest mortality across the UK, have started testing vitamin C status with a simple, inexpensive urine dip stick and have upped dosages from 2 to 6 grams of vitamin C a day accordingly in those vitamin C depleted patients.

I believe that given the favourable safety profile and low cost of vitamin C, and the frequency of vitamin C deficiency in respiratory infections, it may be worthwhile testing patients’ vitamin C status and treating them accordingly with intravenous administration within ICUs and oral administration in hospitalised persons with COVID-19.

The full scientific review paper, published today in the journal Nutrients, is viewable in the ‘science’ section of

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