In the last few weeks there have been several excellent medical studies regarding nutrition. Due to the limits of blogging (and the amount of material our subscribers have time to read), I have tried to limit the amount of information provided in this blog to only one or two major points.
I was pleased to see a study published recently in the prestigious Journal of the American College of Cardiology on the benefits of vitamin C. In recent months, there have been many scathing articles in the press questioning whether essential vitamins such as C and E have any benefit whatsoever. This recent study involved the Harvard Nursing Registry. Back in the 1980s, Harvard enlisted approximately 85,000 women nurses in an ongoing clinical trial. Over the last fifteen to twenty years, these nurses have been followed periodically to determine how certain factors in their lives affected their health.
At the beginning of the study, the women were surveyed about their use of vitamins and the types of foods that they ate. They were then followed periodically for the next sixteen years. During the study period, 1,356 women out of 85,118 developed heart disease. The researchers then took into account ages of the women, whether they smoked and other factors and discovered that those women who took vitamin C in the form of a supplement decreased their risk of developing heart disease by 28% compared to those women who did not take supplemental vitamin C.
What was most interesting is that even those women who consumed foods rich in vitamin C but did not use supplements appeared to derive little benefit from their food. The researchers suggested that the use of vitamin C supplements may protect against heart disease. The researchers, however, added that the vitamin C pills may not actually be beneficial but rather people who chose to use such pills may simply represent a healthier segment of the population. In an editorial relating to this study, a Dr. Frei from Oregon State University indicated that a more balanced study would be for an inactive placebo pill to be tested directly against vitamin C but such a study involving tens of thousands of people would be “prohibitively expensive and impractical.”
Although I was obviously pleased with the results of the study, I was nevertheless frustrated and disturbed that the researchers had to make some additional comments questioning whether vitamin C does indeed reduce the risk of heart disease. There have been numerous studies in medical literature going back as far as the 1940s clearly indicating the beneficial effects of vitamin C when it comes to heart disease. It makes total sense that vitamin C would help heart disease since it helps to build and maintain collagen which is an integral part of the arterial wall forming the blood vessels throughout our bodies. In the 1970s, Dr. Linus Pauling likewise demonstrated the benefits of vitamin C not only for heart disease but also for cancer. As I have reported many times before in this blog, Linus Pauling took approximately 10 grams (10,000 mgs) of vitamin C daily for decades and lived to 93 without apparent heart disease. Along the way, he also won two Nobel Prizes.
The same Harvard Nurses Registry reported another study on the use of folic acid in the prestigious journal of the Annals of Internal Medicine a couple of years ago. It found that women who took supplemental folic acid for more than fifteen years reduced their risk of colon cancer by an enormous 75%. With numbers like these and nutrients that have been proven to be safe over decades of use, I ask myself why researchers are so hypercritical of vitamin supplementation. Unfortunately, I keep coming back to the same answer that there is tremendous bias against vitamin supplementation.
The pharmaceutical companies basically get a free pass. When Baycol, a statin drug, was taken off the market because of the deaths of more than a couple of dozen people, why didn’t all of the statins come under similar scrutiny? Instead you see studies repeatedly showing up in medical literature and the mainstream press about all the wonderful benefits of statins. As just a recent example, there was a study on the statin drugs out of Europe on only fifty people reporting possible benefits that may prevent heart failure. This study made the national press two days ago. If this was a vitamin study, it would not even get a small mention in any local newspaper. Unfortunately there is a clear profit motive in medicine which in many cases can override the overall well being of the patient. Our medical system is driven by the use of highly expensive and profitable drugs and procedures versus inexpensive, safe and effective vitamins.
But enough of my soap box rhetoric. Vitamin C is a core, essential nutrient that I recommend every man, woman and child take in supplemental form. There are many forms of vitamin C available, with the best being Ester-C. Ester-C is pH neutral and much gentler on the stomach compared to ordinary vitamin C (ascorbic acid). In addition, it has a better bio-availability and is retained longer in the body. Whereas ascorbic acid is excreted after about two or three hours, Ester-C stays in the body up to ten or twelve hours. By taking Ester-C twice a day, you are protected around the clock. The standard dose of Ester C that I recommend for an adult is between 500 to 1500 mg daily. You should also take bioflavonoids with vitamin C; quercetin is the most beneficial.
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