This is part 2 of my article about C-vitamin. Part 1 is: Vitamin C (part 1): Can Science be Trusted?
Most animals can synthesise vitamin C, but there are several exceptions, for instance certain rodents, certain bats, and some Primates (humans and apes). These species have to get their vitamin C through the food. The inability to synthesise the vitamin is due to a genetical defect, which prevents the last step in the synthetisation process.
Animals that can synthesise their vitamin C produce an amount which is far larger than humans normally get.
The best form of oral vitamin C is pure crystalline ascorbic acid. It is the form which is best absorbed and utilized. Its acidity can motivate the use of ascorbate instead, which is neutral. It can come in the form of e.g. sodium ascorbate, calcium ascorbate, etc. The mineral element serves as an antacid. These forms help your stomach tolerate more of the vitamin, since the gastric area can be irritated by the acid otherwise - but they are less efficient, and you must be careful not to get too much of the mineral. Overdosing sodium or calcium can be outright dangerous. Normally it is better to try to use the natural ascorbic acid, but take it after food, to reduce the risk for gastric irritation.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant, but it oxidises itself as well, and needs the protection of other antioxidants. Bioflavonoids serve this purpose well in nature. If you take high doses, it is wise to take at least moderate doses of all (or most) other antioxidants too, e.g. vitamin E, Beta carotene, Selenium, etc.
If you dissolve ascorbic acid in water, drink it within 30 minutes. After that time it oxidises and becomes harmful.
How often should you take the vitamin? Ascorbic acid is water soluble and leaves the body relatively fast. For practical purposes, a daily intake is usually recommended, or even more often than that. Yet the body is not depleted just that fast. A diet with absolutely no vitamin C at all leads to zero ascorbic acid in approximately:
Scurvy is a a symptom of vitamin C deficiency. It means that collagen and healthy connective tissue cannot be formed. This is as if the "glue" which ties cells to one another suddenly ceases to work properly. The symptoms of acute scurvy are bleeding gum, bad healing of wounds, discolouring of the skin, etc. Scurvy was common during long naval expeditions in the past. (Collagen is the principal protein of many tissues, e.g. skin, bones, cartilage, tendons, blood vessels, and teeth.)
The RDA of vitamin C is based on a level where acute symptoms of scurvy do not occur. But is it possible that there is chronic scurvy as well?
There is a theory, promoted by Matthias Raath, that atherosclerosis, heart attack, and stroke are a form of chronic scurvy, caused by long-term vitamin deficiency. This is not an uncontroversial idea, but it has its merits. Scurvy or not, I think Dr. Raath is on the right track here.
According to this paradigm, ascorbic acid lowers the cholesterol by removing the need for it. Much of the cholesterol is formed to repair damaged vessels. If they are in good shape (as they will be if you take enough vitamin C), there is no need for it.
Add to this that ascorbic acid lowers the cholesterol also in another way: by lowering the surface tension of the plasma.
I have previously written that vitamin C serves as fuel for detoxification of the liver. If it gets a sufficient amount of this fuel, its capacity of detoxification is almost unlimited. But when the vitamin is depleted, detoxification stops, no matter how much toxic substance you still have in your body.
Ascorbic acid protects against heavy metals too, no doubt a matter of detoxification.
Vitamin C increases the level of leucocytes in the blood, thus strengthening the immune system - except in cases of leukaemia, where it lowers the level (which is then desired). This shows that it is not blindly raising or lowering the level, but is optimising it, according to the situation. Moreover, it stimulates the formation of interferon in the immune system; which is an important part of the defence against viral attacks.
Allergic persons often (maybe always) have a too low level of ascorbic acid in their blood. Their capacity of detoxification is reduced, and the level of eosinophils (a certain form of leucocytes) in the blood increases. This is called eosinophilia, a condition which is developed during a number of diseases, but most commonly by parasitic infections and allergies. The eosinophils are produced to fight the disease, but are harmful in cases of allergy. The allergic person has an increased need for vitamin C, and an increased intake of ascorbic acid can help bring down the level of eosinophils - and beneficially affect the allergy.
Many cases of male sterility has been successfully treated with relatively small doses of vitamin C, often as little as 500-1000mg per day.
There are widespread rumours that vitamin C can terminate pregnancy. This is insufficiently researched, but the vitamin affects the hormonal balance, and it is possible that high dose ascorbic acid during early pregnancy can have an effect in that direction on some women. In any case, if you want your child, it can be wise to avoid taking very high doses during pregnancy. Note that vitamin C should not be totally avoided, the child needs it to develop normally.
In vitro experiments have shown that, under certain conditions, vitamin C can be a pro-oxidant. Serious studies on this matter suggest that ascorbic acid can be a pro-oxidant in low concentrations, while in high concentrations it is an anti-oxidant. There are also signs indicating that ascorbic acid in combination with large doses of iron can increase oxidation.
It is a well-known fact that ascorbic acid stimulates resorption of several minerals, like calcium and iron. Getting too much of these minerals is highly harmful, even dangerous, so high dose intake of vitamin C should not be combined with an intake of calcium or iron above a reasonable daily need.
Iron is an essential mineral for cancer cells to live and multiply. If they are starved of iron, they die. This is the reason why iron supplement is madness, unless an obvious iron deficiency is at hand. If you want better transportation of oxygen than you presently have, there are other alternatives, to which I will return some other time.
Ascorbic acid can reduce the effect of traditional cancer cures, like chemotherapy or radiation therapy. They are working by oxidation, thus killing the cancer cells, a process that can be blocked by the anti-oxidative effect of ascorbic acid. In itself, however, ascorbic acid is useful against cancer, because it regulates the respiration process in mitochondria, which is essential for a healthy cell.
There is an ongoing dispute whether high dose vitamin C can actually cause cancer. The results are confusing, to say the least, and very few credible studies have been made. The fact remains, however, that there are many convincing examples of the benefits of high dose ascorbic acid in real-life cases, while the theoretical foundation for the warning is shaky. My first suspicion when I hear about a negative result, is that it MIGHT be a result of a too isolated use of ascorbic acid. As I have stated before, it needs other anti-oxidants for its own protection, and in nature it works in combination with other substances (as does any nutrient). Megadoses of just one substance are not beneficial to the organism, be it ascorbic acid, water or oxygen.
Even if food contains too little ascorbic acid for the purposes discussed in this text, we should look at that too.
A certain amount of ascorbic acid is present in all fresh fruit and vegetables, and good natural sources of vitamin C are, for instance, acerola, kiwi, rose hip, strawberries, various citrus fruit, paprika, black and red currants, sour berries, tomatoes, parsley, and potatoes.
Vitamin C is reduced by heating; it is best to eat fresh/raw fruit and vegetables.
Storage of foodstuffs destroys the C-vitamins. If you have cut a fruit so the interior is exposed to oxygen and/or light, destruction occurs very rapidly.
If you boil, for instance, potatoes, first let the water boil, then put the potatoes in. This will shorten the time the vitamins are exposed to heat, but more importantly - there are enzymes destroying vitamin C, and they are activated at moderate temperature, but "die" at boiling temperature. By putting the potatoes (or other foodstuff) into boiling water, you eliminate the exposure of the vitamins to these enzymes. If you put them in the water while it is cold and gradually heat it all up, the potatoes will pass through moderate temperatures, which will partly destroy the vitamins.
Even better, boil the water some minutes before you add the foodstuff. Then a lot of oxygen will be gone from the water, and oxygen is an enemy to vitamin C.
WARNING! If you are a diabetic, you should never take high dose vitamin C, unless you are under the supervision of a competent professional. Your need for insulin might become drastically reduced, and your medication must be adjusted accordingly.
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(The lead image shows vitamin C capsules. Photo by ivabalk/Pixabay, CC0/Public Domain.)
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