It is ironic that a nutrient essential to life seems to “get no respect”. (Hence the reference in the title to the comedian who made that line famous.)
The average person might know that vitamin C can help prevent colds. While that’s true, that is actually one of its least impressive benefits. A very thorough US National Institutes of Health fact sheet on vitamin C notes that as far back as the mid-1700s it was known that a sailor could die of scurvy without sufficient vitamin C. At the time the British Navy did not yet know that it was the vitamin C in the limes that cured scurvy and thereby saved untold numbers of lives. Because of that, British sailors became known as “limeys”.
The US government claims that scurvy is no longer a problem. Okay, we no longer hear about people in Western countries dying of scurvy. However, I think the feds forget that, like most diseases, scurvy does not appear suddenly like a light switch turned on. Victims gradually develop the symptoms of low vitamin C and so their deaths may well be given a different label such as “infection” or one of the other maladies listed below. For example, bleeding gums (which are very common) are an early warning sign of scurvy. Gum disease develops because vitamin C is needed to build connective tissue such as the kind that holds gums to the teeth. Once that gum connection is weakened, bacteria can enter, and real trouble begins. (Oral bacteria are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Of course, a coroner will list the death as heart attack, not a vitamin C deficiency.)
My vitamin C file folder weighs about 2 pounds, so, to keep this from becoming a book, I’ll just pull a few representative factoids from it:
- Vitamin C (also known as ascorbate) is required for the repair of all body tissues including joints (think arthritis) and eyes (as in cataracts and macular degeneration).
- Vitamin C helps refresh other antioxidants and even is protective for smokers. (It’s still better to quit.)
- Vitamin C is a detoxifier.
- Vitamin C levels are 10 times higher in the brain than anywhere else—likely providing antioxidant protection for the delicate tissue.
- Because C is vital to the immune system, it has been found helpful not only against colds and flu, but even cancer and AIDS.
- Vitamin C helps eliminate the stomach bacteria that cause gastric ulcers.
- During the 2020 covid-19 crisis, many medical facilities around the world used intravenous vitamin C to keep patients from needing ventilators. Vitamin C calms the immune system’s runaway inflammation in the lungs — the real killer of most COVID-19 patients. (For the same reason, that procedure has already been saving lives from sepsis which is the immune overreaction that is the leading cause of death in hospitals.)
- Vitamin C protects the cardiovascular system as antioxidant, but it also lowers blood pressure and may help cardio health in other ways.
Bill Sardi wrote a great post about vitamin C. Here is an interesting highlight:
- Heart disease. We know that Vitamin C is required for the synthesis of collagen, the protein most critical in the maintenance of vascular integrity. Some scientists, like Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling, believe that “lipoprotein(a), [a dangerous form of cholesterol] takes the place of vitamin C in the inner arterial wall when C is in short supply. That switch leads to plaque formation.
Why do we need to supplement? Besides inadequate intake from fruits and vegetables and the lower amount in today’s diet, we may have increased need. For example, toxins from our increasingly polluted environment and food supply create free radicals that use up our vitamin C. Emotional stress also uses up C. With the excess of fast-acting carbohydrates in the diet, we should remember that blood sugar competes with vitamin C because it is a somewhat similar molecule.
How much to take? Everyone’s need is different. However, it is instructive to compare us to animals that make their own vitamin C from blood sugar. A goat the size of a 150 lb. human would make over 13,000 mg a day if under slight stress. The average produced by other animals would suggest we may need 3,500 a day. The government says that 2,000 mg a day is safe. We certainly need more than the pitiful RDA which is below 100 mg. I think a great solution is to take Formula 216 because this unique supplement seems to allow the body to increase its blood level to its need.
Vitamin C may not be a flashy new supplement, but the more you read, the more you will realize it is important to appreciate this basic.