Vitamin C – Ascorbic Acid
Vitamin C has wide ranging effects in the body. It is needed for collagen synthesis. It is a strong antioxidant defending the body against carcinogens, free radicals, heavy metals, pollution and other toxins. It has strong antiviral and mild antibacterial properties. It also acts to regenerate other antioxidants such as vitamin E and glutathione.
Synthesis of Stress Hormones and Aldosterone
It is present in high concentration in adrenal glands and is essential for the synthesis of stress hormones and aldosterone. Vitamin C is essential for both cellular and humoral immunity. Without sufficient vitamin C, the body cells are not able to produce energy.
It is important for the conversion of dopamine to noradrenaline. It is an important component of many drug metabolizing enzymes. Dietary sources include citrus fruits, green vegetables especially broccoli, tomatoes and potatoes. Smoking, hemodialysis, stress, pregnancy and lactation increase the requirements for vitamin C. Each cigarette can destroy 25 to 100 mg of vitamin C.
High Vitamin C Requirements
Vitamin C plays a very central role in many biological reactions in the body that life is not possible without it. Not like other vitamins, our body requires large amounts of vitamin C which could only be supplied by a diet high in fruits and vegetables. All mammals, with the exception of guinea pigs, fruit eating bats and primates including man make their own vitamin C from glucose.
The daily requirement for a man is probably in the region of 3g to 15g, with an average of 5.4g. Under conditions of stress or infection, the requirement may quadruple. The recommended daily dosage of 60mg may be sufficient to prevent scurvy but is probably far inadequate in patients with acute and chronic illnesses.
Treatment of Common Cold and Virus Infections
Large doses of vitamin C have been successfully used to treat common cold and other viral infections. To be successful, vitamin C treatment must be intensive. Vitamin C appears to remove the protective protein coat of the virus thus killing them. Herpes zoster, herpes simplex, adenovirus, measles and other viruses all appear to be susceptible to vitamin C.
Vitamin C also strengthens humoral and cellular immune systems and thus resistance to viruses. The role of vitamin C in eliminating viral infection may have a bearing on certain cancers including cancer of the cervix, breast and lymphoma. Vitamin C may prevent the recurrence of bladder cancer. Cancer patients require large doses of vitamin C to prolong their survival. Vitamin C may enable larger and more prolonged doses of radiation therapy to be carried out. It will also prevent radiation injury to tissues.
Relieve Symptoms of Urethritis
Large doses of vitamin C may relieve the symptoms of urethritis. In pregnancy, the requirement for vitamin C is increased. Intravenous vitamin C injection may reduce intraocular pressure to improve glaucoma. Vitamin C can also reduce the pressure of intervertebral disc in cases of disc herniation.
Vitamin C can protect against lead and mercury poisoning. Also, carbon monoxide poisoning can be averted by large doses of vitamin C. Some city dwellers are frequently exposed to 100ppm of carbon monoxide that may lead to carboxyhemoglobin level of up to 10%. This may have profound depressing effect on cardiac function.
Lack of Vitamin C Leads to Atherosclerosis
One theory of atherosclerosis proposes that relative lack of vitamin C leads to collagen weakness and thus damage to vessel walls which then lead to the formation of atherosclerotic plagues. In animals, high doses of vitamin C have been shown to reverse these plagues. Vitamin C reduces cholesterol level in the blood. The strengthening effect on the collagen further contributes to the increased strength and elasticity of the blood vessels.
Another theory implies infection, either viral or bacterial, as playing a part in the initiation of atherosclerosis. Here as well, the beneficial effects of vitamin C maybe present.
Heart Disease due to Chronic Vitamin C Deficiency?
Linus Pauling, who was awarded two Nobel prizes, for chemistry and medicine, proposed the unified theory for heart disease as a manifestation of chronic vitamin C deficiency. Since collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and is vitally important for the strength and elasticity of blood vessels and since vitamin C is essential for the synthesis of collagen, vitamin C deficiency leads to weakened blood vessel walls.
These occur at areas of turbulence which corresponds to the places prone to develop atherosclerosis. Thus, cracks and mini breaks occur at these places, leading to deposition of cholesterol and calcium in order to strengthen these areas. Lipoprotein-A is the initiator of this process, and its levels have been well correlated with the development of coronary heart disease.
Vitamin C supplementation, in adequate doses (3-6 g per day) strengthens the collagen and blood vessel walls, and has been demonstrated to lower the level of lipoprotein-A. This may lead to a reversal of atherosclerosis and a cure for heart disease.