Controversy has surrounded mega dosing with vitamin C since Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling advocated the practice in the 1950s. Over one-half century later, controversy continues to reign. In fact, it has expanded well beyond the usefulness of vitamin C in preventing or curing colds, which remains an unsettled issue. In recent years, some medical professionals have argued that vitamin C mega doses can be an effective treatment for cancer and heart disease, at least in some cases. The controversy is particularly confusing because research findings are all over the map.
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Vitamin C is a proven remedy for scurvy, a finding that was established in the 18th century. However, it is not necessary for those suffering from scurvy to take mega doses to cure the disease. As an article in the London paper "The Independent" stated, "just a couple of sucks of a lime were shown to prevent scurvy." And as of 2011, that's all scientists know for sure about the benefits of vitamin C, in regular doses or in mega doses.
Proponents of vitamin C mega doses claim that large infusions, either orally or by intravenous drips, can prevent or cure all sorts of diseases, and in many cases they have some evidence to support their views. Vitamin C mega doses are advocated for heart health by people such as cardiologist Thomas Levy, who also believes that people with diseases and illnesses ranging from cancer to AIDS to the common cold might also benefit from vitamin C mega doses. Dr. Julian Kenyon of the Dove Clinic in Britain also favors mega doses of vitamin C for cancer patients.
Research into the benefits of vitamin C for heart health have yielded mixed results. In 2004, for example, the "Journal of the American College of Nutrition" reported that mega doses of vitamin C lowered the blood levels of a protein linked to inflammation, which increases the risk of heart disease. Yet vitamin C supplements, when given to patients with heart disease along with anti-cholesterol medication, actually lowered the patients' good cholesterol numbers. In virtually every other study of the benefits of mega doses of vitamin C, ranging from cancer to cataracts to the common cold, clinical studies have been contradictory or inconclusive.
Vitamin C is considered to be generally safe in recommended doses. The maximum recommended amount is 2,000 milligrams per day. Mega doses of vitamin C, however, greatly exceed this amount. Some treatments for cancer patients, for example, range up to 75 grams per day. Mega doses of vitamin C can cause relatively minor side effects, such as nausea, heartburn, diarrhea and headaches, and serious side effects such as blood clots, kidney stones and kidney function deficiencies. If you are considering taking mega doses of vitamin C for any reason, check with your doctor before doing so.