Vitamin C As Disease Therapy
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbate, is a major antioxidant component of our daily diet. Antioxidants like vitamin C are essential in an environmental where the disease processes almost invariably involve free-radical attacks, which only antioxidants can modify.
One reason why vitamin C therapy has been so controversial is the fact that it does not act in the same way that a typical drug does. The confusion that surrounds vitamin C is the lack of knowledge about the way it works in the body.
In vitamin C therapy, question such as “How much vitamin C does a person need to maintain good health?” and “How much vitamin C is needed to prevent the onset of chronic disease?” are important. This is quite different from asking “How much vitamin C does a single individual need?”.
Humans vary in many fundamental parameters such as sex, size, hair color and age. Each individual is biologically unique, similarly each individual has specific requirements for vitamin C.
Since it is not possible to measure the variation between individuals, the recommended minimum vitamin C intake should be high enough to cover the whole population, including those who have a higher than average requirement.
In disease prevention and treatment, the amount of vitamin C needed is much higher than the amount needed for maintaining good health. Thus, there is a clear borderline between nutrition (the amount needed to stay healthy) and pharmacology (the use of vitamin C as a drug for a direct biological effect).
The amount of vitamin C required to treat a disease, once it has taken hold, may bear little relationship to the amount required daily for good health.
There is genuine confusion over the difference between a pharmacological dose and a nutritional dose, which has led to the use of inappropriately low doses of vitamin C in treating diseases.
To dispel the confusion, a Dynamic Flow model has been developed by researchers to explain how vitamin C acts when used in large doses.
An individual with excess vitamin C in the diet will have a continuous flow of vitamin C in the tissues. It is useful to have a dynamic flow in the body even though not all the ascorbate is absorbed.
During times of stress or infection, ascorbate absorption is increased; the surplus dietary ascorbate then acts as a reservoir which the body can draw on without delay.
The primary role of ascorbate in the body is an antioxidant. It flows in the bloodstream and diffuses through the tissues, providing protection from free radicals as some cell types have critical requirements for ascorbate and actively accumulate it above the levels found in plasma, using biochemical pumps.
In the Dynamic Flow condition, large amounts of vitamin C are continuously available to fight free radicals. The dose required by Dynamic Flow varies according to the quantity of free radicals being produced throughout the day.
The Dynamic Flow model, when used in disease prevention, suggests that when a disease is at an early stage, or is small or localized, a lower concentration of ascorbate is needed. If a person in a state of Dynamic Flow is exposed to a virus or infection, extra escorbate is available immediately from the surplus that is normally not absorbed. This additional vitamin C may often be sufficient to quench the disease before it has time to become established.
Oral doses, even massive ones, may be ineffective for treatment of disease. Such doses are limited by bowel tolerance and may not be fully absorbed. In such cases, intravenous ascorbate is a useful alternative.
The Dynamic Flow model allows us to make predictions about the effectiveness of different doses of vitamin C. In conclusion, the Dynamic Flow model allows us to take a new look at the claims for vitamin C as disease therapy. It provides an explanation of the positive results attained and suggests that the potential benefits of ascorbate have been underestimated.