It’s hard not to sneeze without someone warning you to take Vitamin C to stave off a cold. In fact, for decades, Vitamin C has been heralded as a cure-all of everything from cancer to the common cold. Can Vitamin C be used to cure the cold, or any ailment for that matter?
Vitamin C Debate
There are two camps in the Vitamin C controversy. There are those who believe that Vitamin C, particularly in very high doses (called megadoses) can relieve or completely cure a host of ailments. These are backed up by studies and anecdotal evidence. On the other side of the fence are studies that claim Vitamin C simply doesn’t work, and that statements of anything otherwise are either due to defective testing methods, flukes, or placebo effect. Pharmaceutical companies tend to dismiss studies as quackery. The pro-Vitamin C camp in modern times was championed by Dr. Linus Pauling, who was a two-time Nobel Prize winner.
I’m usually one to land on the side of science and studies, however in this case I tend to take a much more critical look at both sides. The problem with studies is that anyone can do one, and anyone can skew the results however they choose.
Here’s a short list of ailments that Vitamin C has been listed as helping or curing outright.
- Alzheimer’s Disease – Lund University found that “Treatment with vitamin C can dissolve the toxic protein aggregates that build up in the brain in Alzheimer’s disease.”
- Cancer – Perhaps the most controversial “cure” for Vitamin C is cancer. Most proponents point to the studies of Linus Pauling done in the 1970’s, while detractors point to a study by the Mayo Clinic done after that. Pauling claimed that Vitamin C therapy added nearly a year to terminal patients’ lives, while the Mayo study found no evidence to support Vitamin C. There were enough differences in the studies to argue that the May study doesn’t negate the Pauling study. There are many anecdotal stories of Vitamin C therapy working for cancer patients. A much larger of cancer and Vitamin C links here.
- Common Cold – This is the most commonly-cited cure for Vitamin C. It would appear that such a cure depends on dosage. Taking a small-dose vitamin C tablet when you’re sick probably won’t do much good. This cure, for example, suggests taking several grams of Vitamin C at the early signs of a cold.
- E.D. – Ehow.com and webmd have articles on this subject.
- Gastrci & Esophageal Cancer – An article by David Liu, PHD for foodconsumer.org discusses a study by Journal of the National Cancer Institute which claims Vitamin C, E, and Selenium can, “… drastically reduce risk of death from gastric cancer (stomach cancer) and esophageal cancer.”
- Heart Failure – A 2011 Korean study claims that their year-long study of patients with moderate to severe heart failure found that “Those who had low vitamin C levels and levels of more than 3 mg/l of hsCRP were nearly twice as likely to die from cardiovascular disease in that time.”
- High Blood Pressure – Science Daily reported recently about a Johns Hopkins study which claims that high doses of Vitamin C may have a moderate beneficial effect on high blood pressure.
- Pneumonia – Fred R. Klenner, M.D wrote of his experience in administering pneumonia cases Vitamin C. He wrote, “In almost every case the patient felt better within an hour after the first injection and noted a very definite change after two hours.”
- Pulmonary Function in newborns of pregnant smoking women – Cindy McEvoy, MD of Oregon Health & Science University Doernbecher Children’s Hospital reported that “that daily use of vitamin C (500 mg/day) by smoking pregnant woman significantly improved pulmonary function tests administered to their offspring at about 48 hours postpartum.”
- Radiation Damage – Orthomolecular Medicine News Service issued a press release which stated, “Workers with severe radiation exposure at the Fukushima nuclear plant had major reduction in cancer risk when supplemented with vitamin C and other anti-oxidative nutrients.”
- Sepsis – In 2010, Dr. Karel Tyml and staff at The University of Western Ontario and Lawson Health Research Institute found that Vitamin C could prevent and reverse sepsis.
- Scurvy – Perhaps the most indisputable cure in this list, scurvy is caused by a deficiency in Vitamin C.
- Whooping Cough – This paper by Suzanne Humphries, M.D., goes into great detail as to why large doses of Vitamin C ward off whooping cough.
The above list is only a sampling of all of the ailments Vitamin C will allegedly cure or ease. Visit the links at the bottom of this page for more information.
It’s natural to say “more studies are needed” to investigate the possibility of Vitamin C’s ability to ward off such a large list of ailments. There have already been hundreds of studies – with wildly different results. Who is funding and performing these studies?
One issue to consider when reading about such studies is dosage and delivery (oral vs intravenous). A study giving low doses of 200mg orally can hardly be compared to those of patients receiving 100,000mg intravenously. There are also accusations that studies backed by pharmaceutical companies have an agenda.
On a personal note, Jack LaLanne, who is this author’s fitness idol, was a champion of Vitamin C and Dr. Pauling. In his book Revitalize Your Life (pp146-147), LaLanne discusses and praises the work of Linus Pauling. As we know, Jack LaLanne lived a life of vitality and good health until he passed away in his mid-90s.
We’d like to hear from you. What ailments have you treated with Vitamin C? Did you find success with it, or was it a waste of time?
- Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University
- Vitamin C Foundation
- How to Get Intravenous Vitamin C Given to a Hospitalized Patient