Vitamins were only discovered a century ago,
…which is surprising since we can’t live without them. Our bodies need vitamins for all bodily functions, to produce energy from the food we eat, to make brain chemicals, to detoxify and protect against disease and aging. Sectors of the medical establishment, however, still seem intent on downplaying the essential role of vitamins in health and disease. Even worse is the EU’s food supplements directive, which will ban hundreds of essential nutrients in 2005 and limit the doses of vitamins allowed in products. The effect of this directive will be to safeguard the market for more profitable medicines – those which can be successfully patented, whilst strangling the supply of natural remedies.
I spoke to Dr Steve Hickey who (with Dr Hilary Roberts) has just published a new book called “Ascorbate: The Science of Vitamin C”. He told me that clinical trials with vitamin C have rarely used more than 300-400 mg and that much of the conventional research is seriously flawed and misleading. Dr Hickey argues that we need a constant, dynamic flow of vitamin C through the body in order to prevent damage from free radicals. If sufficient amounts of this essential antioxidant are present, free radicals are neutralised and damage to bodily tissue prevented. In his view, a young healthy adult needs at least 2000mg per day in divided doses (e.g. 500mg four times per day with meals). An unhealthy person would require significantly more.
Officials claim that our basic demand for vitamin C is met by eating “a balanced diet”. However, as a water-soluble vitamin, it’s very easily destroyed during food storage and preparation. Around 25% of vitamin C can be lost by simply boiling or steaming food for a few minutes, and the same loss occurs during the freezing and unthawing of fruit and vegetables. Longer cooking periods (10 – 20 mins) reduce the vitamin C content of fruit and vegetables by at least a half. Canned and reheated vegetables lose 2/3 of their original vitamin C content.
Nobel prize winner, Dr. Linus Pauling, was one of the first scientists to understand vitamin C’s crucial role in the maintenance of a healthy body, but was ridiculed by the medical establishment, the standard treatment meted out to those who fail to ‘toe the official line’. He realised its importance in making collagen, the “glue” upon which our skin, connective tissue and blood vessels rely. Without sufficient vitamin C, we would simply fall apart. Our artery walls are protected against wear and tear with vitamin C, but if we don’t get enough from our diet, the body compensates by patching up our leaky arteries with a sticky plaque – a major risk factor for heart disease.
Sadly, we have lost the ability to produce our own vitamin C. Most other mammals make several grams of vitamin C daily for good health. Pauling believed that many diseases can be prevented or cured with sufficient amounts of vitamin C, such as the common cold, cancer and the slow degradation of arterial walls leading to heart disease.
It has been ten years since the death of Linus Pauling, but medical authorities are no closer to recognising or understanding the importance of vitamin C in humans. The recommended daily amount is still a ludicrous 60mg per day which will (just) prevent the onset of scurvy. Dr Steve Hickey is calling upon the authorities to revise this amount, as a chronic deficiency in vitamin C is responsible for causing much ill-health and could be used as a high-dose therapy for life-threatening infectious diseases.
“Ascorbate: The Science of Vitamin C” by Dr Steve Hickey is available from www.lulu.com/ascorbate
© 2011 Martina Watts MSc Nut Med, First Published Brighton Argus July 2004