Why collagen is critical for cancer and heart disease prevention
(NaturalHealth365) Cancer, which claims roughly 630,000 lives a year, remains the second leading cause of death in the United States – right behind heart disease. Sadly, experts say that a startling 90 percent of cancer deaths aren’t a result of the original tumor – but of its dangerous metastasis (or spread) into surrounding tissues and organs. Now, research is highlighting the potential of collagen – the unifying intracellular substance that helps give form and structure to skin, ligaments, cartilage and bones – to help prevent cancer’s invasion.
In order to spread, cancer must first break through connective tissue, which is formed primarily of collagen. And some natural health experts, including noted German physician Mathias Rath, MD, maintain that a weak collagen matrix may actually encourage the spread of cancer. In fact, some experts refer to cancer as a “collagen disease.”
Warning: Cancer spreads when the integrity of collagen is threatened by specific enzymes
Researchers have found that cancer cells utilize enzymes known as matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) to “melt away” collagen and connective tissue so the cancer can spread.
In fact, a weak or inferior collagen matrix is particularly vulnerable to MMPs – allowing cancer cells to “tunnel” through and spread to other sites in the body.
Note: Collagen is something of a “double-edged sword” when it comes to cancer progression, with some researchers reporting that collagen can be “hijacked” by cancer to actively encourage the spread of the disease. However, there is agreement that collagen can function as a barrier to cancer cells, and can help prevent it from developing in the first place.
Dr. Rath, a German physician who worked with Nobel Prize-winning scientist Linus Pauling, has devoted much of his career to focusing on how to naturally stop the metastasis of cancer. And, he believes the answer lies with a specific, collagen-supporting combination of micronutrients.
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Important news: Vitamins and amino acids can not only strengthen collagen, but “neutralize” MMPs
Dr. Rath reports that he has found that certain natural substances can deactivate the MMPs in cancer cells, thereby inhibiting the invasion of neighboring tissue. He lists vitamin C – and the amino acid lysine – as particularly beneficial.
Vitamin C, which helps to produce collagen, is absolutely essential for protecting connective tissue against the invasion of cancer cells. It also gives a powerful boost to the immune system.
But, wait, there’s more.
According to Dr. Rath, vitamin C – when in its fat-soluble form as ascorbyl palmitate – can destroy abnormal cells, while simultaneously protecting healthy cells. And, lysine protects against the deterioration of collagen by blocking sites on collagen fibers where destructive enzymes attack.
Other micronutrients recommended by Dr. Rath include the polyphenol ECGC – a potent antioxidant that inhibits the proliferation of cancer cells – and the collagen-building amino acid arginine.
Not only are these natural nutrients each beneficial in their own right – but they appear to have a synergistic effect, in which each component helps to reinforce the cancer-fighting activity of the others.
Alert: Deficiencies in vitamin C can threaten collagen production and set the stage for heart disease
According to famed scientist Linus Pauling, collagen – which is produced by vitamin C and the amino acids lysine and proline – is a major player in heart health as well.
And, a shortage in any of the three collagen “building blocks” can, in turn, cause a collagen deficiency that helps encourage heart disease.
In 1989, Pauling published his Unified Theory of Heart Disease, a bold manifesto that challenged conventional medical wisdom – and that illustrated the connection between vitamin C, heart health and collagen.
Pauling’s theory holds that heart disease – along with supposed triggers of heart disease, such as elevated homocysteine and oxidized cholesterol – is actually an early manifestation of scurvy, the medical term for severe vitamin C deficiency.
A long-ago genetic mutation leaves humans unable to synthesize vitamin C – with dire consequences
The trouble starts because humans, unlike animals (with the notable exception of primates and guinea pigs) don’t produce their own vitamin C, and must obtain it through diet or through quality supplementation.
According to Pauling, heart disease became an issue when humans stopped eating the large amounts of vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables on which our ancestors feasted.
As a result of chronic vitamin C deficiency, arteries become fragile and begin to rupture. Obviously, another “modern day” problem, is the increasing amount of environmental toxins – which cause oxidative stress and an increased risk of chronic disease.
Pauling maintained that the accumulation of plaque in arteries – viewed by conventionally-trained physicians as a destructive event that hastens the advent of heart disease, heart attacks and strokes – is actually the body’s attempt to repair ruptures in arteries, using a type of cholesterol known as lipoprotein (a).
In recent years, Pauling’s theory has been supported by the work of other researchers. For example, studies have shown that plaque only forms in parts of the arteries that are damaged.
And, in studies with animals that can’t produce their own vitamin C, researchers found that cutting dietary vitamin C levels caused collagen levels to drop – and arteries to become thinner and more fragile as a result.
It’s clear that collagen – which gives arteries their form and structure – is indispensable for arterial health. For Pauling, the solution to heart disease was simple.
Taking appropriate amounts of supplementary vitamin C, lysine and proline help increase collagen production – while at the same time preventing and removing plaque and strengthening arteries.
Pauling recommended 3 to 5 grams of vitamin C a day (later amended to 5 to 10 grams a day) as an effective dose to prevent atherosclerosis – along with 3 grams each of proline and lysine.
These recommendations were later expanded to include CoQ10, the amino acid l-carnitine, the B complex vitamin niacin and vitamin E. Of course, when dealing with any health issue, check first with a qualified, integrative physician before supplementing.
Thanks to the work of forward-thinking researchers like Linus Pauling and Dr. Rath, the true importance of collagen for heart health and cancer prevention has been realized. Remember, there is no better way to ensure healthy collagen production than getting adequate amounts of the life-sustaining nutrient known as vitamin C.
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Sources for this article include: