Benefits of Vitamin C
The most well-known health benefit of vitamin C is its boost to the immune system. But, did you know it is an antioxidant and can also boost your mood?
Indeed, if you take enough vitamin C per day, it will raise your norepinephrine levels producing an uplifting effect on your overall mood.
Like vitamin E, it is a potent antioxidant that has many other, lesser known, benefits to our health. Let’s learn a bit more about the vitamin before I tell you about my little experiment.
A Bit About Vitamin C and Evolution
The majority of animals can produce their own vitamin C. Humans (and a few other animals such as apes, guinea pigs and a few species of bird) lost this ability at some point in our early evolution, but exactly why is unknown.
The theory is that during periods of starvation, not having to expend energy to make vitamin C internally was a great advantage. Most of these species were primarily vegetarian, and it is speculated that the amount of ascorbic acid they consumed through diet alone was approximately 2.5 g to 9 g per day.
However, for the older population of a species, the inability to produce vitamin C may have led to a number of different illnesses including arthritis, heart disease, cancer and weakened immune systems. Once an organism is past its reproductive prime, it’s not really an evolutionary threat if that organism suffers from arthritis. What matters is that a large number of healthy offspring was left behind.
This isn’t so true in our lives today. While, from an evolutionary perspective, it still doesn’t matter if an older member of a species suffers from arthritis or other illness, to humanity it does. The inability to create our own ascorbate may have led to the high prevalence of chronic disease we see in our older population.
In fact, the typical diet of a human in this day and age is lacking considerably in vegetables rich in the vitamin. Because of this, there is a chronic state of malnutrition including a vitamin C deficiency. For women of childbearing age, this is cause for concern. The majority of children are born already suffering deficiency, mainly because we have lost the gene to produce our own.
What is Vitamin C?
Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, has several different properties:
- Cofactor in many enzymatic reactions
Vitamin C also regulates blood sugar levels, and can improve depression symptoms. The catch to this is the dosage. The RDA for an adult is 60mg, which is enough to prevent severe symptoms of scurvy.
But we still see scurvy in this country.
Vitamin C Deficiency: Scurvy
Most people know that Brits were called “limeys” at one point. Scurvy was highly prevalent on British ships, and many sailors died as a result. However, it was found that citrus fruits, particularly limes, prevented and cured scurvy; hence the term “limey’s.”
Scurvy is the result of a shortage of collagen, which is caused by vitamin C deficiency. Ascorbate (vitamin C) is imperative to the production of collagen, the substance that essentially binds everything together (like muscles, ligaments, and other tissues).
Symptoms of scurvy typically include
- Bleeding into the joints which causes swelling and pain
- Loss of both hair and teeth.
Susceptibility to stress and fatigue are two of the early symptoms of the disease that often go unnoticed or ignored because of the stress and fast pace of our current lifestyle.
Vitamin C as a Treatment
There were several pioneers involved in the study of ascorbic acid as a viable therapy for illness and chronic disease - most notably, Linus Pauling Ph.D., Irwin Stone Ph.D., and Frederick Klenner M.D.
Irwin Stone, Ph.D., found that vitamin C made a wonderful preservative for food as well as an antioxidant. He also saw the potential health benefits in it, and in the 1930s he began taking massive doses of the vitamin when it became available as a supplement.
He found that the recommended dose of ascorbate was much less (about 100 times less to be exact) than humans need, and he based this on the amount of ascorbic acid other mammals manufactured endogenously (within deep tissue).
Interestingly, Stone also theorized that SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) was a direct result of vitamin C deficiency.
Linus Pauling, Ph.D. supported Dr. Stone’s work and is probably the most infamous of the three men. He was a biochemist and, therefore, shunned by the medical community and made out to be a quack because he lacked a medical degree.
He studied how animals use and synthesize ascorbate finding that typically a high amount of the vitamin was required to maintain health. Rather than assume humans required the same high amounts of ascorbic acid to maintain health, Pauling estimated the amount of the vitamin in 110 raw plants, which supplied 2,500 calories. His estimate found that the amount contained in the raw plants was thirty-five times that of the recommended daily allowance (RDA).
Vitamin C Megadose Therapy
With a dosage of 8,000 mg and higher, vitamin C is lethal to bacteria such as tuberculosis and streptococcus.
At even higher levels, it is also selectively toxic to cancer cells. Dr. Frederick Klenner, M.D. was the first physician to treat numerous diseases with massive amounts of vitamin C. Some of the diseases he treated successfully are: