Vitamin C: The Long and Short of It – Part Two

Vitamin C: The Long and Short of It – Part Two

As with all nutrients, vitamin C doesn’t exist in isolation in nature. The most important cofactors for vitamin C are bioflavonoids, which are polyphenolic compounds found in plants, especially in plant foods rich in vitamin C.

When I was a kid we would often eat the peel of the orange as well as the fruit, and the “white” of the citrus fruit is where the bioflavonoids exist. Kids, please don’t try this at home, unless your citrus fruit is organic. Non-organic citrus fruit has a number of nasty chemicals on the peel including pesticides, coloring agents, and waxes.

Since bioflavonoids exist naturally with vitamin C-containing foods, it makes perfect sense that having bioflavonoids with vitamin C supplements would have a synergistic effect.

“Some research has found that the addition of flavonoids may help to increase the absorption of vitamin C from supplements…Aside from the possible benefits of increasing bioavailability of vitamin C however, flavonoids have demonstrated significant health benefits in their own right. In plants, flavonoids help to reduce harmful oxidative stress and regulate growth. And when flavonoids are consumed in the diet they have been shown to have significant antioxidant and free radical scavenging abilities. In addition, they have demonstrated anti-inflammatory activity and offer cardiovascular, metabolic, neuroprotective, anti-cancer, hepatoprotective, potential antiviral benefits and more.”   (Source)

Aside from both vitamin C and bioflavonoids functioning as antioxidants, both serve to support connective tissues, and a deficiency of either can show up as bruising too easily. Flavonoids especially, keep the veins and capillaries strong, preventing spider lines, varicose veins, and hemorrhoids, and serve to promote circulation.

Cheap, and debatable as to their effectiveness, are what are called simply “citrus bioflavonoids”. These can consist of just citrus pulp waste, with little or no biological activity. Look instead for rutin, hesperidin, grape seed extract, or, for more powerful anti-inflammatory effects, quercetin (which can also help control symptoms of asthma and allergies).

Because of this synergistic effect of vitamin C with bioflavonoids, our NutriPods products all include a range of flavonoids along with our vitamin C (as calcium ascorbate).

Time-Release Vitamin C
As long as we are on the subject of vitamin C, I will briefly examine the time-release version.

Personally, I am not a fan of time-release vitamin C, based on something I read decades ago, though I cannot currently find any support for this idea. Which is that, since the pill is made of ascorbic acid, and since, given gravity, pills will sink to the bottom of the intestines, what we end up with is a tablet slowly releasing acid in roughly the same place for up to eight hours. This, it was believed, could lead to ulceration of the gut lining, eventually causing ulcers.

However, since at this time I can find no evidence to back up this theory, you can pretty much ignore it, unless you take time-release vitamin C and have unexplained gut pain. Meanwhile, some research does indicate that time-release is an effective delivery system for vitamin C.

Research has found that single doses of vitamin C greater than 200 mg have lower relative bioavailability, indicating that taking several smaller doses through the day may be more effective than a single large dose. Time-release versions aim to solve this problem by releasing the vitamin C more slowly throughout the day.  A number of studies have also evaluated the relative bioavailability of vitamin C from different tablet formulations and found that slow-release versions provide improved vitamin bioavailability.”   (Source)

How Much Vitamin C?                                                                                                               
One thing I remember from my early research on vitamins that the research does confirm, is the ability of vitamin C to elevate glutathione levels. This internally-generated antioxidant is essential for detoxification and healing, and, as I recalled, taking 500 mg or more, will cause a spike in glutathione.

In one study, adults took 500–1,000 mg of vitamin C daily for 13 weeks, leading to an 18% increase of glutathione in white blood cells.”  (Source)

Another study showed that taking 500 mg of vitamin C supplements per day increased glutathione in red blood cells by 47%.”  (Source).

Thus, my advice has always been to take vitamin C, at a dose of 500-1000 mg, at least three times daily. And, one can take much more if fighting an illness: for colds and flu many people take 3 or 4 grams, three times daily (watching out for bowel tolerance).

Generally speaking, it is best taken with food since vitamin C with a meal can increase iron absorption greatly. Also if you have a very fatty meal, like, god forbid, a burger and milkshake, as little as 500 mg will prevent the thickening of the blood that occurs. Nonetheless, when taking high amounts for therapeutic purposes, if the form of vitamin C is a powder mixed into water or juice, this is best taken between meals (as liquids dilute stomach acid and impede digestion).

Since vitamin C is required for hundreds of metabolic functions in the body, based on reams of scientific studies I’d have to say that vitamin C is the second most important nutrient to supplement with. (When I originally wrote this article, over a decade ago, I deemed vitamin C the single most important vitamin to take, however, that was before the vitamin D revolution.)

Taking a gram (1000 mg) or three of ascorbic acid per day is not going to be an issue for most people (though there are some people who can’t take any acidic vitamin C without it upsetting their stomach.) However, if you choose to take high dosage levels, say 6,000 mg daily, you are adding to your load of acidic substances, as well as depleting the body of the minerals required to cope with that acid load. If you are familiar with the acid/alkaline theory of health, you will appreciate that most people already ingest too many acidic substances, leaving them in an over-acidic condition, which leads to disease.

The answer here is obviously to ensure that you take in extra minerals, to help compensate for the extra acid you are ingesting (such as Mineral Mix).

Doses higher than 500 mg may not elevate glutathione levels much more, but it can have other therapeutic effects. For example 6 to 12 grams, divided throughout the day, can fight most forms of infection in the body from colds and bladder infection to abscess and prostatitis, and it is a building block for collagen.

Dr. Linus Pauling, the man who put vitamin C on the map, himself took 18 grams daily, maintaining that most mammals near to our body weight would produce at least 10 to 12 grams per day.

Pauling made it to 92 years old, though, truth be told, he also took one baby aspirin and a shot of vodka per day, in his later years. Both these things prevent platelet clumping in the blood, helping to prevent heart disease, and vitamin C also has a role to play here.

Heart Disease                                                                                                       
Vitamin C reduces LDL (“bad”) cholesterol: “Supplementation with at least 500 mg/d of vitamin C, for a minimum of 4 weeks, can result in a significant decrease in serum LDL cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations”.   (Source)

And it can support HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels: “Our results demonstrate that vitamin C inhibits lipid oxidation in HDL and preserves the antioxidant activity associated with this lipoprotein fraction”.   (Source)

In fact, Pauling believed that heart disease is simply a form of advanced scurvy.

Symptoms of scurvy, or extreme vitamin C deficiency, are fatigue, bleeding and bruising easily, weakening of blood vessels, and hair and tooth loss. Since vitamin C helps synthesize collagen, the structural component of blood vessels (as well as tendons and ligaments), we can see that a decline in the protective qualities offered to blood vessels, veins and capillaries, could be related to arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

The research on vitamin C is endless (and often contentious) but to my mind there is no doubt that supplementing with vitamin C is one of the best forms of health insurance there is, and even low doses provide a surprising amount of protection, as this study indicates: “Vitamin C may play critical roles in the prevention of Coronary Heart Disease, cancer and cataract. Based on the available data, vitamin C intakes of at least 80-120 mg per day are associated with lowering the risk of these chronic diseases. The literature documents that these and much higher intake levels of vitamin C are safe.” (Source)

Remember that the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) of a vitamin is only the level at which a nutrient is required to forbid disease. So, the current RDA of 75 to 90 mg of vitamin C, for adults, will prevent scurvy from manifesting but it won’t necessarily be the ideal amount for optimal health and longevity. Certain clinics actually give vitamin C intravenously at doses up to 70 grams per day to treat cancer, alcoholism, and heroin addiction.

Can we get enough vitamin C from fresh fruits and vegetables? Maybe, if you live in the tropics and can actually consume fresh fruit. But I’ve seen a test done on a juicy orange that showed it had no vitamin C in it because it had been in cold storage for nearly a year.

How much vitamin C to take is a personal decision, based on your health and your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables. Also consider that certain drugs, including antidepressants and oral contraceptives, alcohol, and especially tobacco, deplete vitamin C from the body. Moreover, given the above mentioned material concerning vitamin C being used intravenously at 70 grams daily, we know that high amounts of vitamin C can be taken daily with no fear of toxicity nor any damage to one’s health.

Yet, as you may recall from my writings on the B-vitamins, any consistent excessive intake of isolated nutrients can lead to the body using it less effectively. This has been shown to be true with vitamin C as well. The person who takes 15 grams daily will be more prone to showing signs of scurvy faster when they are no longer able to acquire, or just stop ingesting, that amount. Whereas those taking a more reasonable dose, say 3 to 5 grams per day, won’t have this effect, known as “rebound scurvy”. Pregnant women should generally take no more than 5 grams daily or the infant could become dependent, and also develop scurvy too easily.

Aside from damage to tooth enamel from chewing ascorbic acid tablets, the only other worry would be if one has too much iron in the blood (for example, those with hemochromatosis), since vitamin C increases iron absorption from food up to 40%.

Of course, the ideal way to get all the benefits of vitamin C at a relatively low dose is to use Liposomal Vitamin C.

Since liposomal vitamin C enters the cells directly, unlike regular vitamin C which operates outside of the cells, it has a therapeutic effect far greater than such a dosage would allow when using conventional vitamin C products.

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