A few evenings ago, during an interview on a major media outlet, I heard a noted physician and author state emphatically that people should not take vitamin supplements, because it is myth that they are beneficial! He went on to say there is no scientific proof that taking any type of nutritional supplement improves health, and in fact there are studies which indicate they are dangerous! I was stunned and speechless. I couldn't believe my ears. I honestly wondered where did this man come from? Where had he been hiding, and if he’d done his research appropriately, how could he have overlooked and ignored the thousands of studies, that anyone can find today, thanks to www.pubmed.gov, on the Internet, that speaks to their benefit?
Today, after writing the first draft of this article, I shared my thoughts about the interview with a medical student I’m mentoring who lives in England, and promised to send him the link to the interview. For some strange reason I couldn't find it, and that is a good thing, because I made an even greater discovery. I also learned this same doctor conducted a study on mice, that was reported throughout the media, a few years ago, because he claimed his research demonstrated that vitamin C dramatically accelerates tumor cells growth. I found that very interesting, since I have witnessed personally the clinical benefit of vitamin C treatment in cancer patients, having referred them to Cancer Treatment Centers of America, a hospital where I practiced over 20 years ago. Also, I’m very familiar with the research of the Linus Pauling Institute has substantiated the value of mega-doses of vitamin C in a variety of conditions. I also recalled the research of a North Carolina pediatrician, who reported reversing the effects of polio in children using high doses of vitamin C in the 1940s, prior to the development of the polio vaccine.
A Cautionary Tale of Vitamin Research Reporting
Nonetheless, I decided to find his intriguing research, and thanks to the Pub Med, I located his published studies in a few seconds. I carefully read his study that was reported in 1999 and it was designed specifically to determine the way vitamin C was transported into tumors in mice. His study noted that high levels of vitamin C are sometimes found in human cancer cells. It also noted the same occurs when tumors are implanted in mice (when ascorbic acid and dehydroascorbic acid are injected). They noted that cancer cells cannot direct transport vitamin C as ascorbic acid, and found that regular vitamin C (ascorbic acid) was converted to dehyrdoascorbic acid by certain cells in the tumor stroma (the tumor’s connective tissue) and the other malignant cells absorb it.
His findings made no assertion or conclusion about either form of vitamin C increasing or accelerating tumor growth!! In fact the study was not designed to make that determination, nor was there any mention in any part of the study about cancer cell growth. I was even more flabberghasted! I am not naming him, because he is not the issue. I am sharing this information with you, because it is a glaring example of how the true findings can data can be ignored, obscured, misrepresented, while an unsubstantiated misinterpretation can be exposed to confuse consumers about the true value of a natural, non-patentable substance. This has happened repeatedly both in the case of suppressing the truth about vitamin therapies misrepresenting their health enhancing benefits and the dangers of drug therapies. Just do a search on Celebrex, Vioxx, and the anti-diabetic drugs that caused heart attacks. Drug companies knew about these fatal, preventable side effects, and skewed, misrepresented or hid the vital data.
Substantive Contradictory Evidence
I was intrigued by what I read about DHA and I did another search on Pub Med to discover that it has been studied since the 1950s to determine its anti-cancer properties. In fact one study reported in 2008 notes noted researchers found in 1982 that had the remarkable ability to eliminate 4 types of aggressive mouse tumors. Another report published in 1993 found that cancer cells, (while normal cells don’t)contain very high levels of a toxic chemical, homocysteine thiolactone, and the DHA converts it to an even more toxic compound that kills cancer cells! The researcher also suggested that its effectiveness might be further increased by combining it with methionine (an amino acid) and/or methotrexate (a cancer drug) to increase the homocysteine concentration in cancer cells!
I found several (more than a dozen) additional studies that confirms this vitamins ability to kill cancer cells in a variety of animal cancers. I can’t imagine how this scientist wasn't aware of these findings. And I discovered a study conducted in 1984, 15 years before his study that indicated low levels of both forms of vitamin C “favors” (i.e.promotes) tumor cell growth in cell cultures, while higher levels interrupt it!
While planning to conduct a study, the first thing a scientist does it to review as much of the pertinent published scientific research as possible to determine the findings and how your theory relates to what’s preceded your own. A review of his research references listed none of the studies with promising findings that I found.
I also discovered that while this doctor publicly opposes vitamin supplementation, he conducted another study with positive findings that injected into mice that had an “experimental stoke” DHA, the same form of vitamin C that crosses the blood brain barrier (Ascorbic acid, regular Vitamin C doesn't) and that it “mediates potent cerebroprotection in experimental stroke.” Meaning, it provides powerful brain protection in experiment stroke. His words, not mine!
His report noted:
"As a naturally occurring interconvertible form of Ascorbic Acid (AA) with Blood Brain Barrier permeability, Dehydroascrobic Acid (DHA) represents a promising pharmacological therapy for stroke based on its effects in this model of cerebral ischemia."
"Although stroke is the leading cause of permanent morbidity worldwide current therapy is limited to thrombolysis, which has a narrow therapeutic window and requires sophisticated pretreatment imaging…There is still an urgent need for novel therapies that offer efficacy for a broad set of patients. Here we show that DHA, given i.v. in the setting of murine cerebral ischemia, significantly improves cerebral blood flow and functional outcome and significantly decreases the volume of infarcted brain tissue. The level of cerebroprotection achieved with DHA, not seen with AA, supports our hypothesis that the use of a potent antioxidant precursor, with clearly defined BBB penetrability, has promise in the treatment of thromboembolic stroke in humans."
Translation: This form of vitamin C, which can cross the blood brain barrier, is a promising drug therapy for stroke based on its effects in this experiment. Current therapy isn’t working, it’s limited to dissolving the stroke causing blood clot, with a very limited time of effectiveness, and there is a need for something better to help stroke patients. They used a form of Vitamin C, DHA that can be derived from it, and is important because it can cross the Blood Brain Barrier, and reach brain cells. The study using mice/or rats found that it improved blood flow to the brain, functioning, and decreased the size of dead brain tissue caused by the stroke. Their findings support their theory that using a powerful antioxidant that can penetrate the blood brain barrier has promise in the treatment of people who’ve experienced a stroke caused by a blood clot!
So, I recommend caution the next time you hear yet another major media story (and it will happen) about the ineffectiveness of a vitamin(s), and do your own independent research, and make your own conclusions!
Vitamin C treatment of polio
Effects of ascorbic and dehydroascorbic acid on the multiplication of tumor ascites cells in vitro
Dehyrdroascorbic acid as an anti-cancer agent
Vitamin C research information