What Do We Have in Common with Guinea Pigs?
Submitted by Rotarian and physician Dr. Dieter Brodehl
Twenty years ago, I had the flu at noon on Tuesday with a fever of 39° (102.2 °F). Instead of taking aspirin, I remembered the recommendation of 2-time Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling, who recommended using vitamin C to the "diarrhea limit".
Every hour I took a heaped teaspoon (approx.5000 mg) of vitamin C in 1 glass of water. The next day I was free of fever and the day after next I could go to the doctor's office again. If you take a lot of vitamin C, you may get diarrhea. However, I did not get diarrhea even though I was taking vitamin C 5000mg every hour.
Also, like many people, do you have concerns about taking more than the RDA (recommended dietary allowance) 100%= 100 mg. This is the recommended amount of supplements like vitamin C to maintain your health?
On the tin of your vitamin C tablets it says: 100 mg vitamin C = 100% RDA. This means: you will not get scurvy with this amount of vitamin C. So the amount is just enough so that you don't get a vitamin C deficiency.
This RDA recommendation is knowledge from 100 years ago: Vitamins participate in biochemical processes in the body as coenzymes. These coenzymes activate enzymes. Only when the enzymes of the cell are activated can the metabolic process begin.
We are told, at some point, all enzymes are active. When this is the case, a further supply of e.g. vitamin C no longer has any effect on the enzymes. It used to be said that the excess vitamin C is excreted.
But 50 years ago, an additional effect was discovered. This second, very important effect of vitamin C is the protection against free radicals. So what do the "free radicals" do? During metabolic processes, inflammations or environmental influences such as UV light, components in the cell, the so-called molecules, are deprived of an electron. What remains is an incomplete molecule, a so-called "free radical". These aggressive "free radicals" retrieve an electron from the surrounding cells and tissue. This means that the cells and surrounding tissue are attacked.
Let us consider a very simple example: If you cut open an apple, the cut becomes brown relatively quickly. This happens due to the formation of "free radicals". However, if you put lemon or vitamin C on the cut in time, the cut stays fresh and does not turn brown. In other words, if you give higher doses of vitamin C, it has an increased protective effect on all tissues.
The RDA indication on vitamin doses therefore only refers to the fact that one does not get a vitamin C deficiency. Prevention and thus the so important protection of the tissues are not in the foreground of our medical treatment.
The exciting thing is that most mammals can produce vitamin C from sugar molecules through an enzyme in the liver. Humans, great apes and guinea pigs cannot. They depend on absorption through food. The mammals that can form vitamin C from sugar in the liver, however, produce not only 100 mg, but 10,000 mg and more per day (converted to human body weight) which is 100 times more than the RDA-recommendation!
It is also interesting that the human genome contains the information for the enzyme L-gulonolactone oxidase, which forms vitamin C from sugar. We humans were also predisposed to the production of vitamin C. Our ancestors were able to produce vitamin C in the body themselves. Through a mutation, we have lost this ability over the millennia.
Now we understand why Linus Pauling, a two-time Nobel Prize winner, took 18,000 mg of vitamin C daily. If you take into account the absorption loss of vitamin C in the intestine, Linus Pauling comes to about the amount that most mammals can produce themselves.
Questions for Reflection
1. Do you also take vitamin C or other food supplements? If so, which ones and how much do you take?
2. Is the intake of vitamin C recommended in your country to promote health?
3. Would you have thought so? Google: Weber, Andrew, M.D.: New York hospitals are treating coronavirus patients with high dosages of vitamin C after promising results from China, Northwell Health Hospital, New York, (daily mail video), 17th Apr. 2020.
4. How could Rotary teach people (only of poor countries?) to use low-cost vitamin C to promote their health?