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Vitamin C – a bright future?

Vitamin C is one of the most widely recognised nutrients in the world and is vital to our health.

Since 1747, when Scottish doctor James Lind showed that eating citrus fruit prevented scurvy, our understanding of the important role of vitamin C has grown dramatically, but there is still much to learn, and cause for optimism for patients with cancer and many other diseases.

Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is well known as an antioxidant. Beyond this role, its use in medicine has been debated for decades. Linus Pauling, a two-time Nobel Prize winner, claimed that high doses could prevent and treat many illnesses, but mainstream medicine largely ignored him.

In the 1960s, Canadian doctor William McCormick noticed that cancer patients often had very low levels of vitamin C. In the 1970s, Scottish surgeon Ewan Cameron hypothesised that vitamin C could suppress cancer development, later joining forces with Linus Pauling to publish a study showing that cancer patients treated with high doses enjoyed a better quality of life and a four-fold increase in survival time.

Unfortunately, another study by the well-known Mayo Clinic showed no effect from vitamin C on cancers, and enthusiasm for research into this form of treatment dropped away.

More recently, enthusiasm has begun to grow again. The Mayo study relied on oral doses of vitamin C, while Cameron and Pauling’s trial delivered the nutrient via both orally and intravenously. Studies have since shown that there is a limit to the amount of vitamin C that can be absorbed through the gut – to reach the levels of the vitamin in the blood required to have an effect on cancer cells, it is necessary to bypass the gut and deliver it directly to the bloodstream.

With this new knowledge, studies over recent years have shown improvements in quality of life, by minimising pain and protecting healthy tissues from toxicity caused by chemotherapy. Research is also starting to show the pathways and mechanisms by which vitamin C could affect cancer cells.

There is now a growing optimism among researchers that further research into high-dose vitamin C could deliver improved outcomes for cancer patients.

We are particularly encouraged to see this information being published on official government health websites, as mainstream medicine finally acknowledges the potential of vitamin C.


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