Is 500 mg of Vitamin C Enough?
The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has long suggested that low doses of vitamin C (32 to180 mg/day) are completely absorbed, but less than 50% of a 1,000 mg dose is absorbed while the rest is excreted in the urine. This has led some to suggest that one just “pees out” high-dose vitamin C, and that there is no need to take more than, say, 500 mg daily. Based on this sort of thinking, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) has set the adult RDA for vitamin C at a mere 75 to 90 mg/day. This has led some to suggest that there is no need to take more than, say, 500 mg of vitamin C daily.
Is this really true? Is 500 mg of vitamin C enough?
As a clinical nutritionist for the past 35 years I have worked with thousands of clients who could absorb, utilize, and benefit from several thousand milligrams of vitamin C a day. My response to the thought that 500 mg of vitamin C is enough can be summarized in the following points.
- The body has very little capacity to store vitamin C. Thus, a regular and adequate intake is required to prevent hypovitaminosis C, or a deficit intake of ascorbic acid.
- The individual need for vitamin C can vary according to an individual’s toxic burden, stress level, overall antioxidant status, degree of inflammation, magnesium status, and their ability to regenerate ascorbate.
- The half-life of vitamin C within the individual body can vary a great deal from person to person. According to Dr. Russell Jaffe, ascorbate within the cell of a healthy person has a half-life of 30 days, but it is only 30 minutes in an unhealthy person (R. Jaffe, personal communication, Dec. 2019). Some of us “use up” vitamin C ascorbate much faster than others.
- All plants and most other animals produce vitamin C in high quantities. Humans, apes, guinea pigs, some birds, and fruit-eating bats all lost this capacity to produce vitamin C and they must all consume it. For example, a 155-pound unstressed goat produces within itself 13,000 mg of vitamin C. Further, when exposed to an immune challenge or stressor, animals can produce 13 times their normal level of vitamin C.
- Adult gorillas in the wild need to consume vitamin C just as we do, and, as reported in Irwin Stone’s The Healing Factor: “Vitamin C” Against Disease, their daily intake was estimated to be 4,500 mg (or 4.5 grams) when studied by G. H. Bourne in 1949.
- Vitamin C distributes readily in high concentrations into white blood immune cells and is consumed quickly during infections, indicating a prominent role in immune system regulation. With new, emerging infectious diseases such as the coronavirus, our bodies need to be supplied with abundant ascorbate antioxidant to defend themselves from these viral illnesses. Dr. Frederick R. Klenner, the doctor with the most clinical experience using high-dose vitamin C therapy, even said that, “White blood cells are useless unless they are full of ascorbic acid.”
- Exposure to heavy metals and chemical pollutants demands more ascorbate/vitamin C antioxidant just as does exposure to a viral load. The more polluted and toxic the environment, the more ascorbate vitamin C is needed. Studies have found vitamin C to be a protective agent against toxic metals such as lead, mercury, and cadmium, that cause oxidative damage. For instance, in the case of lead, a study examining 75 smokers (each smoked one pack of cigarettes a day) saw that 1,000 mg of supplemental vitamin C caused an 85% reduction in urine lead levels in one week. However, in the group given just 500 mg of supplemental vitamin C there were no differences in urine lead levels.
- Epidemiological studies indicated that hypovitaminosis C is the fourth leading nutrient deficiency in the United States.
How Much Vitamin C Does a Person Need?
In metabolically active cells no molecule is needed in larger amounts than ascorbate/ vitamin C. However, individual need for ascorbate is difficult to predict because it varies by oxidative stress and individual circumstance.
The half-life of vitamin C within some individuals can be several days while only several minutes in others (R. Jaffe, personal communication, Dec. 2019).
Vitamin C need is directly linked to total organism antioxidant requirements. An individual’s need for vitamin C is proportional to their total oxidative stress level.
Since vitamin C helps regenerate the all-important glutathione and vitamin E antioxidants it is wise to take enough vitamin C to protect from overall oxidative damage and to allow for the maximum generation of glutathione and vitamin E.
Clinical Experience Using Vitamin C
In my clinical experience I have found that most individuals looking to regain and maintain full health benefit from consuming 4,000 to 9,000 mg vitamin C daily. Those with illnesses or a viral load require more ascorbate/vitamin C. Other clinicians report similar findings. Dr. Russell Jaffe working with thousands of patients reported that in usual cases the need for ascorbate is 5,000 to 10,000 g/day, with complex cases taking much more and very healthy people needing less (personal communication Dr. Russell Jaffee, Jan. 2020). After studying the health benefits of vitamin C, Linus Pauling himself took 10,000 mg a day. Even more, Dr. Frederick R. Klenner routinely prescribed 10,000 mg of ascorbic acid daily for adult patients for maintenance of good health. In his words, “Adults taking at least 10 grams (10,000 mg) of ascorbic acid daily and children under 10 at least 1 gram (1,000 mg) for each year of life will find that the brain will be clearer, the mind more active, the body less wearied, and the memory more retentive." Dr. Klenner further went on to say, "I have never seen a patient that vitamin C would not benefit" and that “vitamin C should be given to the patient while the doctors ponder the diagnosis."
Timing of Vitamin C Intake
Given the short half-life of vitamin C it is recommended to spread out the dosage of vitamin C over the whole day. A common dosage is 1,000 to 1,500 mg of a fully buffered, fully reduced ascorbate three times a day (more when appropriate). The occurrence of excessively loose stools suggests that one should reduce the vitamin C dose and then increase it slowly over time. For more information on the dosing of vitamin C, see the work of Dr. R. Cathcart, who successfully treated 20,000 patients with high-dose oral vitamin C. https://isom.ca/profile/robert-cathcart/
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