Hot Buttons

Hot Buttons

Is vitamin C a placebo?

That question was the subject line of an e-mail I received from an HSI member named David who writes, “NPR’s Morning Edition ran a piece this morning on Vitamin C featuring a medical researcher from Consumer Reports. The conclusion was that Vitamin C in mega-doses provides nothing but flatulence and diarrhea, according to the many studies they have reviewed. Given your strong and frequent advocacy of Vitamin C mega-doses, I thought you should know and might care to respond to NPR’s story.”

David seems to be aware that he’s offered several hot buttons here. I’ll put on my Ove Glove, because I’m going to press them all.

Missing the point on purpose?

I didn’t catch the NPR report that David mentions, so I can only say that this does sound like something we’d expect from Consumer Reports (CR).

In several e-Alerts I’ve taken CR to task over dietary and medical assessments. As I’ve often said: If you want an exhaustive comparison and evaluation of air conditioners, toaster ovens, and MP3 players, Consumer Reports is the place to go. But for insights into alternative medicine, dietary considerations, and supplement use, again and again, CR just doesn’t get it right.

Do large doses of vitamin C cause flatulence and diarrhea? They certainly can. That’s how you know you’ve reached “bowel tolerance.” It’s a signpost that says, “You’ve exceeded your personal limit for vitamin C.”

But anyone who points to studies showing that the ONLY thing you get from vitamin C is flatulence and diarrhea (I’ve never seen any such study) is ignoring the vast number of studies that offer overwhelming evidence of vitamin C’s importance to our health.

But maybe David missed a detail or two. Maybe the CR researcher correctly noted that two trials in the 1970s tested vitamin C as a cancer treatment and found the vitamin to be ineffective. High doses were used, so you can be sure that diarrhea was a common side effect.

But these are the studies that mainstreamers always single out to dismiss vitamin C therapy for cancer. The problem is, they’re ignoring the most important aspect of these studies: The cancer patients were given oral vitamin C. As we’ve seen in subsequent trials, vitamin C is an effective cancer fighter ONLY when administered as intravenous ascorbic acid (IAA). A 1971 IAA clinical trial with 50 terminally ill cancer patients, and a similar trial in Scotland a few years later showed that IAA therapy extended the expected life spans of the subjects.

One woman’s story

The medical mainstream has little interest in mounting studies that might reveal the effectiveness of vitamin C in cancer therapy. Drug companies and oncologists stand to lose a lucrative source of profits if a relatively inexpensive therapy works just as well as chemotherapy or radiation. There are a couple of IAA/cancer studies underway, but until we get those results, we’ll have to rely on case studies.

Over the past year I’ve detailed several IAA case studies in the e-Alert, and I recently came across another to add to our collection.

According to a report from Boston’s CBS affiliate, Denise McCabe reacted to chemotherapy for breast cancer as many do.  She felt so debilitated that she “couldn’t get off the couch.”

After several rounds of IAA to address her cancer (which had spread to other parts of her body), Ms. McCabe felt better, had more energy, and her cancer markers started to drop. Unfortunately, the report is short on details, such as the number of IAA sessions she had, what the dosage level was, and if any other nutrients were combined with the ascorbic acid. Nevertheless, she credits IAA with saving her life.

If you know someone who might benefit from IAA therapy, you can find orthomolecular practitioners who administer IAA at Just choose “Resources” in the main menu.

And if you’d like to read other, more detailed case studies, you can find them in the e-Alert “Just Getting Started” (4/11/06), at this link: