Vitamin C vs cancer revisited

vitamin C is high in other foods besides oranges and grapefruit

vitamin C is high in other foods besides oranges and grapefruit

Vitamin C – cancer killer?

It’s not a new concept.  When vitamin C was first promoted as a universal cure-all, back in the 1970’s, cancer was on the list.  Along with the common cold, the flu, heart disease and old age.  That’s a lot of responsibility for one vitamin, and none of it panned out after years of research.

But now the idea of vitamin C fighting cancer is being resurrected in a novel new way.  Back in the 70’s, people popped vitamin C tablets in the vain hope that their cancer would be vanquished.  Unfortunately, blood levels of vitamin C can never rise above a certain limit before the kidneys start flushing it out.  New research bypasses that problem by injecting a form of vitamin C directly into the blood system.  In other words, IV vitamin C.  Don’t try this at home.

Injected vitamin C behaves differently, and according to the researchers, concentrated levels disrupt cancer cells, but leave normal cells alone.  The vitamin C facilitates hydrogen peroxide formation, damaging a number of critical metabolic cell systems, which kills the cancer cells.  The study was done on a mouse model of ovarian cancer, as well as with patients who were also getting chemotherapy.  The vitamin C treatment made the cancer cells more susceptible to chemotherapy, and reduced chemo side effects in patients.

Why aren’t more cancer patients being treated with vitamin C?

  1. The FDA.  Even though vitamin C is a nutrient, this use of injected vitamin C is more drug-like.  The FDA would have to approve it, after years of exhaustive studies on cancer patients.
  2. Drug companies.  Vitamin C is a nutrient.  You can’t patent it and make money off that patent for decades.  So there is zero incentive for drug companies to study the effect of vitamin C on cancer cells.  And without money, the FDA-required studies won’t exist.

Researchers want research funds from independent sources, but funds are tight these days.  The best we can hope for is some cancer doctors who are willing to try a novel unofficial treatment method, and cancer patients who are willing to try that treatment.

One important point: this study has nothing to do with cancer prevention.  It’s about using vitamin C like a drug, to treat an existing disease.  Vitamin C is a nutrient at normal intake levels, and plays an important role in dozens of metabolic pathways.  Clearly, many people still believe that mega doses are a good idea, judging by the rows of vitamin C pill bottles on the supplement aisles.  In fact, taking more than about 250 mg per day is pointless, since excess is immediately dumped by the kidneys.

Before there were pills, there was food.  Vitamin C is found in fruit and vegetables.  Grains, nuts, legumes and animal foods are not sources.  Some of the most concentrated food sources include:

  • oranges
  • guava
  • grapefruit
  • kiwi
  • tangerine
  • strawberries
  • papaya
  • sweet peppers
  • chili peppers
  • tomatoes
  • broccoli
  • kale
  • brussels sprouts
  • potatoes
  • peas
  • cauliflower
  • cabbage

The National Cancer Institute has more information about high-dose vitamin C for cancer treatment.

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