What does a stubbed toe or a splinter in a finger have to do with your risk of suffering a heart attack, succumbing to colon cancer or developing Alzheimer’s disease? More than you might think. As scientists delve deeper into the fundamental causes of those and other illnesses, they are starting to see links to an age-old immunological defence mechanism called inflammation – the same biological process that turns the tissue around a splinter red and causes swelling in an injured toe.
Most of the time, acute inflammation is a lifesaver, marshalling a defensive attack against disease-causing invaders. Then, just as quickly, the process subsides and healing begins.
Every once in a while, however, the feverish production doesn’t shut down on cue, and inflammation becomes chronic rather than transitory. When that occurs, the body turns on itself – like an ornery child who can’t resist picking a scab – with after-effects that seem to underlie a wide variety of diseases.
Chronic inflammation appears to be a major player in the development, progression and ultimate destabilisation of atherosclerotic lesions in arteries
(blood vessels) ultimately leading to heart attacks and strokes. It chews up nerve cells in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’ disease. It may even foster the proliferation of abnormal cells and facilitate their transformation into cancer. In other words, chronic inflammation may be the engine that drives many of the most feared diseases of middle and old age.
Researchers from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University have made a major discovery about the way vitamin C functions in the body – a breakthrough that may help explain its possible value in preventing heart disease and cancer. This study, which explains for the first time how vitamin C can react and neutralise the toxic by-products of human fat metabolism, was published in 2005 in the journal of the National Academy of Sciences (USA). The toxic products produced by fat oxidation may not only be relevant to genetic damage and cancer, but are also very reactive compounds that damage proteins, attracting white blood cells, starting the inflammatory process.
In 1991 it was reported that supplemental vitamin C, received by incurable cancer patients, at some time during their illness, more than doubled their survival time. (Medical Hypothesis: 38). Indeed, Linus Pauling, two-time Nobel Laureate and PhD, and associates demonstrated that high dose intravenous vitamin C more than quadrupled the survival times of terminal cancer patients. (Proceedings Nat Acad. Sciences 1976). But, Pauling’s research was discredited later when scientists claimed as little as 150 milligrams of vitamin C saturates the blood plasma and any more vitamin C than that is excreted. Now researchers recognise they made a grave error. Because of the short half-life of vitamin C (30 minutes )in the body, five 100 milligram doses of oral vitamin C taken at intervals through the day, will raise average blood level more than a single 1000 milligram dose.
In August 2005, Mark Levine MD, and colleagues from the National Institutes of Health, exposed several different cancer cell lines, as well as normal cells, to vitamin C in a culture medium. Using vitamin C concentrations only achievable through intravenous administration, Dr. Levine found that 5 different cancer cell lines died, while normal cells were unaffected.
Coronary Artery Disease (CAD):
Only a few animals (the higher apes, the guinea pig and a species of fruit bat) ever show coronary heart disease. Other animals manufacture vitamin C inside their bodies (endogenously), and never demonstrate signs of CAD. The abundance of freely circulating vitamin C is used to patch damaged (leaky) blood vessels, essential to maintaining healthy arteries.
Some millions of years ago, a genetic mutation occurred, causing humans to rely on their diets for vitamin C. Low vitamin C levels trigger the enzyme HMG – CoA reductase to increase its activity, and catalyse the synthesis of more cholesterol, to ensure an adequate supply of “patch” material – cholesterol is actually the body’s “back-up” mechanism for repairing damaged blood vessels.
Lipoprotein A [Lp(a)] is a special cholesterol carrier found only in species that do not produce their own ascorbate. In non-ascorbate producing animals, the Lp(a) is inversely proportional to the amount of circulating ascorbate. This means that higher vitamin C levels lead to less production of the sticky L( a) particles.
Under stress, and when insufficient vitamin C is in circulation, the ability to produce Lp(a) allows the body to patch damaged blood vessels, due to the velcro-like surface of Lp(a).
The so-called “bad guys”, cholesterol, homocysteine, C-reactive protein and Lp(a) are really just markers of malnutrition – the body’s dire attempt to save itself.
Linus Pauling and Matthias Rath MD, using data gleaned from literally hundreds of published research papers by world class scientists, described the link between CAD and vitamin C deficiency. They proposed that the
genetic weakness of certain species (that do not produce ascorbate endogenously) must be addressed nutritionally to promote healthy blood vessels.
Bowel Tolerance Technique:
There is an extreme difference between the 45-50 milligrams Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) and the 10, 20 or more GRAMS of vitamin C suggested to therapeutically treat various illnesses. The very low RDA’s are the amounts of vitamin C which have been shown to prevent overt scurvy, and without this low amount of vitamin C, humans will die.
The myth that almost everybody believes, even in the face of extensive clinical evidence to the contrary, is that the body can only store a limited amount of vitamin C, and it is a waste of money to take any more than this amount, since it will only be excreted in the urine. The truth is that our bodily reserves of vitamin C fluctuate according to how much is needed to buttress the immune system, scavenge free radicals, regulate cholesterol and sugar metabolism, repair wounds, etc.
A well-nourished person would normally have more than 5 grams of vitamin C in their body. Most individuals’ vitamin C levels are far below this level, placing them at substantial risk for many problems related to failure of metabolic processes dependant on ascorbate.
While it is clear that there can be no hard and fast rule about exactly how much vitamin C to take for your particular momentary state of health, the absolute best way to know how much vitamin C you need, is to ask your body.
And this is what the “Bowel Tolerance Technique” is about: titrating your individual body chemistry at any particular moment in time to ascertain how much vitamin C you need. This method takes advantage of the body’s way of showing you when you have taken enough vitamin C, i. e. diarrhoea occurs. This is because when there is a concentrated solution (say of vitamin C) in the intestinal cells, this pulls water in from the surrounding cells, loosening the stool and producing diarrhoea. In other words, when you have exceeded the level of how much vitamin C you need at a particular time, your body lets you know by producing diarrhoea. Therefore the optimal level of vitamin C is just short of this “bowel tolerance” or diarrhoea-causing level. Start taking 1-2 g vitamin C 3 times per day. After a week, slowly increase the amount to 4 daily doses, then 5, until you reach the point where cramps and loose stools occur.
The bowel tolerance level of your body will shift quite dramatically, depending on how stressed your body is. The majority of people, perhaps 80-85 per cent tolerate vitamin C without any difficulty, however, a significant minority do suffer gastrointestinal upsets, including gas and diarrhoea. Buffered vitamin C preparations, such as Ester-CR ascorbate, produce less stomach and intestinal upsets.
In one of the best and most compelling studies on CAD, Khaw et al (Lancet 2001) found that vitamin C depletion was not only associated with increased heart disease, it was also associated with an increase mortality (death rate) from all causes. They found that the subjects with the top one-fifth vitamin C levels had only half the risk of death compared with the bottom one-fifth vitamin C levels.
Also, significantly, these researchers found this effect of vitamin C levels on total mortality to be independent of age, systolic blood pressure, blood cholesterol, cigarette smoking and diabetes.
If you are persuaded by the evidence that vitamin C can positively affect your health, you owe it to yourself to experience the optimum effect, which means going all the way to bowel tolerance level.
Stop America’s Nr 1 Killer
Thomas E. Levy MD
Sandra Goodman PhD