(NaturalHealth365) Natural health proponents have long insisted that vitamin C can help to prevent life-threatening diseases, treat a variety of conditions and help to prolong life. But past scientific studies, with inconclusive and contradictory findings, have not always backed this assertion up – a result, some experts believe, of the limitations and flaws inherent in certain research methods.
Now, a recent, well-conducted study gives new credibility to the claims for vitamin C, linking it with reduced risk of mortality.
In a 14-year cohort study of 16,008 participants conducted by Columbia University and published in the July 2013 edition of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, researchers found that the individuals with the highest levels of vitamin C had the lowest over-all mortality rate, as well as lower rates of cancer death.
The team tested serum levels of vitamin C – a more reliable method of measuring vitamin status than merely interviewing participants about their intake – and discovered that people who took supplementary vitamin C had levels 48 percent higher than those who obtained vitamin C only through diet, and were 45 percent less likely to die from any cause. Moreover, participants with the highest serum levels of vitamin C had their risk of dying from cancer slashed by a dramatic 60 percent.
Vitamin C associated with better survival rates for breast cancer patients
In a meta-analysis published in May, 2014 in European Journal of Cancer, a Swedish research team examined 10 different observational studies involving over 17,000 breast cancer patients, with an eye towards exploring the relationship between the use of post-diagnosis vitamin C – both dietary and supplementary – and survival rates.
They found that vitamin C supplements were associated with a 19 percent lower risk of death from all causes, and a 15 percent lower risk of dying from breast cancer, as compared to cancer patients who didn’t take supplements.
And breast cancer patients who increased their post-diagnosis dietary intake of vitamin C by 100 milligrams – roughly the amount contained in a large orange – experienced a 27 percent lower risk of death from all causes, as well as a 22 percent lower risk of death from breast cancer. The team noted that their analysis of the effects of supplementary and dietary vitamin C on breast cancer survival rates post-diagnosis was the first of its kind.
They called for further study to examine the effects of vitamin C when used along with chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
Modern agricultural practices have decreased the nutritional value of our food
According to Dr Elaine Ferguson, physician and author of “Superhealing,” foods are not as rich in nutrients – including vitamin C – as they once were. Ferguson advises vitamin C supplementation as vital for boosting immune system health and preventing cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
Why is vitamin C so important?
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, performs a laundry list of essential functions in the body. It is the primary non-enzymatic antioxidant in tissues and plasma, protecting proteins, lipids, DNA and RNA from free radical damage and helping to counter the effects of toxins and pollutants. It also helps to “recycle” other antioxidants in the body.
In addition, this hard-working nutrient is vital to the production of collagen, carnitine – an amino acid – and neurotransmitters such as dopamine and epinephrine. And, finally, vitamin C increases the bioavailability of iron from the foods we eat.
Natural health experts agree: the current RDA is too low
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) in the United States for vitamin C is a paltry 90 milligrams daily for men, and 75 milligrams for women; smokers, who are under increased oxidative stress, are advised to tack on an additional 35 milligrams a day. Although this amount is billed as providing sufficient antioxidant protection, natural health experts disagree, and call for much higher dosages.
For optimal levels and maximum health benefits, The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University recommends at least 400 milligrams a day for adults, split into equal morning and evening dosages.
Dr. Ferguson advocates for even higher amounts, citing a French study in which researchers advise taking 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C a day. Be advised – this is in addition to the five daily servings of fresh fruit and vegetables that are recommended for optimal health.
Before starting a vitamin C regimen, speak with a knowledgeable naturopathic physician or nutritionist – especially if you take blood thinning medication. A trusted medical professional can help tailor a dosage that is right for you.
The best food sources for vitamin C. To increase your dietary intake of vitamin C, snack on fresh oranges, grapefruits, sweet red peppers, kiwi fruit and strawberries. The Linus Pauling Institute reports that five servings – about 2 and ½ cups – of fresh fruits and vegetables a day should yield about 200 milligrams of vitamin C.
Obviously, if you’re dealing with a serious health issue, you may need a much higher amount of vitamin C per day. And, of course, you will want to select certified organic fruit – free of unwanted pesticides and herbicides – to avoid harming yourself.
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