The Humble Vitamin C – Informed Opinion

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By Patrick Massey, MD, PhD, Daily Herald Columnist. Posted March 6, 2012.

Almost all of God’s creatures make vitamin C…and make it in robust amounts. Humans, apes and guinea pigs do not make vitamin C. We have the genes for vitamin C but simply do not make it for whatever reason. 

Vitamin C is not a vitamin. It is an essential nutrient and we need a lot of it. Now the FDA states that all you need is 60-70 mg per day. To some degree they would be right is all you had to do was prevent scurvy (index disease associated with vitamin C deficiency). However, vitamin C is involved with many different biochemical reactions and acts as a profound antioxidant. It is concentrated in the brain, adrenal glands and white blood cells. One could easily hypothesize that vitamin C is important for brain function, stress and preventing infections/cancer. There is good medical data to support all three hypothesis

Most of us do not take enough vitamin C. In animal models (unstressed and healthy), they consume enough food to provide at least 5,000 mg of vitamin C per day – based on human size. So we probably need a lot more then the 60-70 mg recommended by the FDA. In animals that produce vitamin C, the production of vitamin C increases dramatically (by as much as 10 fold) when ill or under stress. One could argue that, in our stressful lives, we may need more than the 5,000 mg per day. 

There is robust research in the traditional medical literature on the benefits of vitamin C…and yes some studies did not show benefit for colds and flu but the doses were too small. Vitamin C has been shown to: reduce the risk of gastric cancer, reduce side effects of chemotherapy, enhance immune system including cancer kill cells, improve wound healing, increase energy and, in the test tube, it is toxic to many different cancer cells. Long term use may reduce the risk of heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease. 

I use intravenous vitamin C for many patients as well as professional and top level amateur athletes. I have seen some pretty dramatic results including increasing a professional athlete’s career. A number of patients use intravenous vitamin C to help with the stress of their careers…and I have included below an article on its benefit with work-related fatigue. 

The bottom line is that regular vitamin C is important for your health in the short term and down the road.

From the Desk of Dr. Massey, Vitamin C