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Vitamin C is generally considered to be an important "nutrient," but its perceived value usually ends there. Only rarely does the public (and the medical profession) glimpse its true potential in the prevention and treatment of disease -- and this because, by legal definition (in the US), only FDA-approved drugs can prevent, treat and cure disease.
This does not mean, however, that essential nutrients like Vitamin C cannot in fact prevent and treat disease, i.e. only because it is illegal to speak truthfully about something, doesn't mean that that something isn't true. The National Library of Medicine, in fact, contains thousands of studies demonstrating vitamin C's ability to significantly improve health, with 220 disease applications documented on the research site GreenMedInfo.com alone. The best thing 'we the people' can do, despite our lack of medical degrees and licensure, and without the FDA's iron-fisted legal and regulatory apparatus on our side, is to use the peer-reviewed research at our disposal to inform and protect our treatment decisions.
Perhaps we must revisit an important moment in history to regain a sense of how profoundly vitamin C deficiency and vitamin C therapy can affect health. James Lind (1716-1794), pioneer of naval hygiene in the British Royal Navy, conducted the first ever clinical trial proving that citrus fruits cured scurvy. Lind's discovery saved tens of thousands of seamen from the ravages of scurvy, spurring England's naval supremacy, putatively changing the course of world history.
If significant historical events like these don't provide enough evidence to vindicate the efficacy of nutrients like Vitamin C, molecular biology and the science of genetics can help to fill in the gaps.
It is a little known and under-appreciated fact that all humans are born with a serious, life-threatening genetic defect: namely, the inability to manufacture Vitamin C.
This defect occurred approximately 63 million years ago, when our haplorrhini ("simple nosed") primate predecessors lost the gene (Gulnolactone oxidase pseudogene – GULOP), responsible for the manufacture of Vitamin C from glucose.
The ability to synthesize Vitamin C, in fact, has been lost several times in vertebrates, e.g. in guinea pigs, some bats, some fishes, passeriform birds and in primates of the suborder Haplorrhini, which includes monkes, apes and humans.
It was Linus Pauling, two time Nobel Laureate, and the world's foremost vitamin C proponent, who first brought this inborn error of metabolism to popular light. Pauling advocated taking large doses of Vitamin C (up to 10-12 grams a day) in order to offset the deficiencies of our modern diet. He believed that it was our movement away from a vitamin C rich fruit-and-vegetable based diet that explained the modern epidemic of heart disease.
According to this perspective, without adequate Vitamin C we are unable to produce the collagen necessary to heal our arteries. The Vitamin C starved body compensates for this by increasing the production of a very small and sticky type of cholesterol known as lipoprotein A, which leads to the formation of atheromatous plaque (clogged arteries). Linus Pauling advocated taking large amounts of vitamin C in combination with the amino acid lysine to reverse the damage done to the arteries, and to prevent recurrence.*
Indeed, a study published in 2008 showed that higher plasma vitamin C levels are associated with a significantly reduced risk of stroke. Scientists from the clinical gerontology unit at Addnbrooke's University Hospital in Cambridge, UK, tracked 20,649 men and women aged 40 to 79 years, between 1993 and 1997. The group was followed through March 2005. Individuals who had the highest vitamin C levels showed a 42% reduction in stroke risk! If you compare this with Plavix's 8.7 – 9.4% risk reduction, and the profound side effects drugs like these generate, one begins to understand why the media projection of "vitamins are toxic" propaganda serves only the interests of the drug companies.