Vitamin C is crucial for building collagen and for utilizing carnitine. Since carnitine helps you burn fat for energy, fatigue can be an early sign of vitamin C deficiency. But severe vitamin C deficiency causes symptoms far worse than fatigue. In the 1700s, severe vitamin C deficiency was experienced by sailors on long journeys without access to fresh fruits and vegetables. The deficiency was debilitating leading to wounds that won’t heal, bruising, bleeding gums, hair and teeth falling out, and joint pains.
Most mammals can make vitamin C within their cells as needed. But we humans aren’t so lucky: ascorbic acid is considered an “essential vitamin,” because we can’t manufacture it within our cells—we have to get it from food or supplements. Scurvy develops because, on long sea voyages, the sailors did not have access to fruit or vegetables– and so their vitamin C levels slowly dropped. Without vitamin C, the sailors were unable to make collagen. In one of the first controlled clinical experiments ever documented, British naval surgeon James Lind tried out a variety of possible ways to alleviate the symptoms of the sailors of the HMS Salisbury— and learned that oranges and lemons were the most effective remedies. Scurvy is easily prevented with just 20mg of vitamin C per day, which you can get from one serving of fruit or vegetables. (An orange contains about 70mg of vitamin C.) Nowadays, scurvy is very rare, but it is still occasionally seen in alcoholics.
Linus Pauling, considered the founder of the field of Molecular Biology, spent much of the latter part of his career advocating for high-dose vitamin C therapy. He felt that high doses of ascorbic acid could treat more modern ailments and symptoms which are all signs of aging. Although Dr. Pauling won two Nobel Prizes and is thought of as one of the finest scientists in history, his opinions about vitamin C were not accepted within the mainstream medical community. However, following Dr. Pauling’s work, intravenous ascorbic acid has been used for decades by naturopathic physicians as an adjunctive treatment for cancer. Dr. Paul Anderson, author of Outside the Box Cancer Therapies, has made significant contributions in this area, by determining what degree of electrolyte shifts are caused by various dosing regimens of intravenous vitamin C, thereby enabling proper electrolyte repletion with intravenous vitamin C infusions.
In the past few years, some exciting preliminary work has been published in allopathic medical journals exploring the use of intravenous vitamin C in patients. 1,2,3,4 This study looked at the toxins in a patients bloodstream that lead to rapid cardiovascular decline. Despite trials of many different potential treatment regimens and medications, the rapid onset of symptoms in these patients had proven stubbornly persistent. Therefore, it is surprising and encouraging to see the positive results that have been found this far with such an inexpensive intervention as vitamin C.
Many situations reduce absorption or speed up depletion of vitamin C—including things as simple as taking aspirin. At Curos, we are interested in the impact of epigenetic factors on vitamin C levels. Exposure to environmental toxins such as carbon monoxide, petroleum products, heavy metals or pesticides all lower plasma vitamin C levels. Taking sulfa antibiotics increases elimination of vitamin C from the body by two to three times the normal rate. And, of course, smoking has a dramatic impact on vitamin C levels. The recommended daily intake of ascorbic acid intake for smokers is 40% higher than for non-smokers, because of the oxidative stress caused by the cigarette smoke. Dr. Trutt and Dr. Anderson believe that, similarly, Vitamin C intake should be increased in people with other toxic exposures. It is also known that the elderly require a significantly higher intake of vitamin C to achieve the same plasma levels as a younger person.
Will boosting your vitamin C levels benefit your health?
There have been a few studies showing that higher plasma ascorbic acid levels are associated with a lower risk of a variety of ailments. A strong inverse association between plasma Vitamin C level and mortality was observed in the EPIC-Norfolk multicenter, prospective cohort study (5). Over the course of approximately four years of follow-up in 19,000 men and women (aged 45-79 years), a continuous relationship was observed such that each 20 μmol/L increase in plasma vitamin C levels was associated with a 20% reduced risk of death. Similarly, higher serum vitamin C levels were associated with a decreased risk of all-cause mortality in 16,000 adults in the NHANES III trial (6). But why? As we have noted above, toxins and smoking will lower vitamin C levels, while eating fruits and vegetables increases vitamin C levels. So, why did people with higher vitamin C levels have lower mortality? Was it because they supplemented with vitamin C, or was it because they were exposed to fewer toxins and they ate a healthier diet (more fruits and vegetables), and therefore their natural levels were higher? This remains to be definitively determined.
There is quite a lot of debate over how much oral vitamin C can be absorbed orally and utilized by your cells in a single day. (The metabolism of vitamin C when ingested is very different from the metabolism of intravenous vitamin C—so even if six grams of intravenous vitamin C help patients with sepsis, that does not mean that taking six grams a day orally will help an otherwise healthy person.) The Linus Pauling Institute these days advises that 400mg/day saturates cells in young, healthy non-smokers—while older people, smokers and those exposed to other environmental toxins (or even chronic stress) may need more.
We also know that Vitamin C is typically used by the body within four hours of ingestion. For this reason, it is often suggested that vitamin C supplements be taken more than once a day, just as you would get it from food more than once per day. (This is one of many reasons that we suggest Curos Essential be taken as three caps twice a day to get the full benefit.)