Is Megadose Vitamin C Safe?

Ever since Dr. Linus Pauling did his Nobel prize-winning work regarding the uses of megadoses of Vitamin C, we have openly embraced the practice. Vitamin C tablets have become common to every household. We feed them to our children, ourselves, even our pets. The common use of Vitamin C is for colds and flu in spite of the fact that evidence-based medicine has not been able to come up with a study proving that Vitamin C either helps shorten or prevent these ailments.

Vitamin C is used in megadoses by some holistic practitioners as treatment for certain conditions of excess, including heart disease and stroke caused by plaque and fat accumulations in the vessels. Dr. Pauling himself takes 18,000mg daily, 300 times the recommended daily allowance for adults.

A recent study has now raised serious questions regarding this practice, stating that megadoses of Vitamin C actually may cause hardening of the arteries. This evidence-based study looks very convincing. So, what do we do now? Let's not quite throw the baby out with the bath water! After all, most of us are not taking the kind of megadoses this study is referring to.

What do we know?

Vitamin C is a very powerful antioxidant increasing interferon production ( a serum within the human body that fights disease) and stimulates T cell activity. It's powerful antioxidant properties reduce lipid production in the brain and prevent free radical damage throughout the body.

Humans evolved eating whole foods -- grains, roots, tubors, nuts and some grasses. Today when we isolate individual vitamins, minerals or supplements and utilize them without their working components, the body cannot always maintain its balance. This is especially true in the liver, which becomes confused in its metabolic role, with disharmonious effects differing from person to person.

What's in question?

Dr. Pauling, among others, claim that unlike many other mammals, humans have lost their ability to manufacture Vitamin C and that large doses are needed to keep us healthy. Japanese research suggests that Vitamin C is generated from healthy human intestinal flora.

Proponents of megadose Vitamin C say to determine your needs by taking the largest amount possible without inducing diarrhea. For many individuals, the dose may be as high as 10,000mg. Doses above 1,250mg have been proven to reduce chromium uptake and reduce the availability of calcium. This biounavailable calcium, a component in artery plaque caused by high dose Vitamin C, may be part of the problem.

Possible solutions

One solution which is always available to us is to use more whole foods. That would include herbs, high in natural Vitamin C, which do not create the problems that synthetic forms may. Try some green pepper, parsley, dandelion greens, watercress, broccoli and mustard greens -- all at least three times higher in Vitamin C than a glass of orange juice. Herbs high in natural Vitamin C are garlic, fennel, goldenseal and kelp.

Another alternative would be to use the new patented Vitamin C, Ester C. Regular Vitamin C, ascorbic acid, stays in the body for only a few hours following ingestion. Ester C is chemically bound to a brown fat, esterified. Fat, which is slower to digest and metabolize, holds Vitamin C in the body up to 24 hours after ingestion allowing you to take much smaller doses yet maintain higher levels of Vitamin C in the body.

Megadoses of supplements -- be it Vitamin C or others -- should always be used with caution. The body responds best when treated gently.

Till next time, Rebecca.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online March 14, 2000

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