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Sometimes called the 'sunshine vitamin' because it is found in high levels in citrus fruits, vitamin C has a uniquely regenerative role in hormone health and cancer prevention that has been overlooked for over twenty years!
Truly groundbreaking research on the regenerative potential of vitamin C therapy for hormone health as well as cancer prevention was performed over twenty years ago, and yet still today it has received little to no attention.
Published in 1993 in the journal Radiation Physics and Chemistry and titled, "Photo-induced regeneration of hormones by electron transfer processes: Potential biological and medical consequences," Austrian researchers explored the role that vitamin C plays in preventing the degradation of steroid hormones into toxic and cancer-promoting metabolites known as "hormone transients." Their stated goal was "to investigate if hormone transients resulting by e.g. electron emission can be regenerated."
The molecular structure of progesterone, estrone (a form of estrogen) and testosterone is such that when exposed to differing biological and/or environmental conditions, e.g. UV light, pH, temperature, they lose electrons, becoming toxic and often carcinogenic metabolites that represent a burden on the body's eliminative capabilities. Vitamin C is a well-known electron donor, which is to say a substance that donates electrons to another compound (i.e. a 'reducing agent'). Vitamin C's ability to donate electrons can have an antioxidant effect as far as neutralizing free radicals, or as is the case with transient hormone metabolites, a structurally regenerative one.
The study's design and results were summarized as follows:
"Investigations were performed using progesterone (PRG), testosterone (TES) and estrone (E1) as representatives of hormones. By irradiation with monochromatic UV light (λ=254 nm) in a media of 40% water and 60% ethanol, the degradation as well as the regeneration of the hormones was studied with each hormone individually and in the mixture with VitC as a function of the absorbed UV dose, using HPLC. Calculated from the obtained initial yields, the determined regeneration of PRG amounted to 52.7%, for TES to 58.6% and for E1 to 90.9%."
Remarkably, vitamin C was capable of almost complete regeneration of estrone and quite significant regeneration of both progesterone (52.7%) and testosterone (58.6%).
These experimental results have profound implications if they prove to carry over to human physiology. For instance, vitamin C may offer an alternative (or at least adjuvant and/or 'drug sparing' effect) to hormone replacement therapy, which suffers from the problem of 'feeding the deficiency,' i.e. negative feedback loops operative within our endocrine system can result in the down-regulation of endogenous steroid hormone production when exogenous forms are supplied.
The researchers noted that this was (at the time) the first scientific evidence proving:
"[H]ormone transients originating by the electron emission process can be successfully regenerated by the transfer of electrons from a potent electron donor, such as vitamin C (VitC)."
While a preliminary study, the researchers identified two possible implications of their research to human medicine:
- Cancer Prevention/Treatment: "The regeneration of hormones by electron transfer process using a potent electron donor, such as VitC, might offer a new pathway for an efficient reduction in the formation of metabolites, also such initiating cancer among others."
- Hormone Replacement Therapy: "The reported results concerning the ability of VitC to act as electron donor in the regeneration of hormone transients might also be of benefit in the clinical application of hormones (e.g. contraceptive, HRT)."
Vitamin C, of course, is exceptionally safe at high doses and has hundreds of proven health benefits (view our Vitamin C health benefit database), whereas conventional chemopreventive agents for cancer, e.g. Tamoxifen, and hormone replacement therapy using animal derived and/or synthetic hormone analogs, cause a wide range of adverse health effects, including at times increased mortality.
For additional related research you can read two previous on vitamin C's role in cancer treatment in intravenous form and vitamin C rich foods like pomegranate as an alternative to hormone replacement therapy.