So, my dad never stops talking about vitamin C. Are you sick? That’s too easy: vitamin C. Are you tired? Well, still vitamin C. Achy? Blurred vision? Tinnitus? Broken leg? Dog won’t stop barking? Need a job? FOR FUCK’S SAKE, TAKE SOME VITAMIN C.
To be fair, the answer to all the above should you ask my mom is “Take a shower.” True story. Sometime in my teens I started to notice that whenever my sister or I had any physical complaints my mother would say in her most medically professional voice (which is formidable — 20 years of nursing does that to you) “You’ll feel so much better if you take a shower.” Now, in her defense, we were filthy ragamuffins and needed showers, but it wasn’t until I was older that I started to understand the wisdom of her advice. You do always feel better if you take a shower.
Anyway, this is about my dad and his healthy man-love for Linus Pauling.
In quick summary, since I’d rather that you read his book instead of relying on my paraphrasing, Pauling believed this: mega-doses of vitamins C, E, B and A are not only safe, but necessary for an ideally healthful life. And this is contrary to what you’ve been told.
To get more specific, the RDA recommends 60mg of C, but Pauling recommends a minimum of 6,000mg. And despite being one of the greatest scientists in the world regularly ranked along side Einstein and Crick, despite winning two Nobel prizes (one for chemistry and one for peace), despite winning almost every scientific award you can think of, despite living well into his 90′s and staying physically¹ and mentally fit for the duration, despite being a certified genius, the thing Pauling is known best for is his “quackery” of vitamin mega-dosing.
Basically, it goes like this: Pauling learned that the RDA’s daily requirement for vitamin C was 60mg, and that they came to this number because it is the minimum the human body needs to keep from entering into scurvy. Take special note of that previous sentence: it’s the amount needed to keep from entering a fully diseased state. Pauling quotes Dr. Albert Szent Gyorgi (emphasis is mine):
“… So the medical profession said that if you don’t get scurvy, you are all right. I think this is a very grave error. Scurvy is not the first sign of a deficiency, but a premortal syndrome, and for full health you need much more, very much more.”
In other words, if you’re taking the RDA vitamin C dose, you’re still deficient, you’re just not going to immediately die from the deficiency. Uh. Awesome.
Even now people struggle to dismiss Pauling’s work, citing that there’s no difference between people who took “normal” (read: low) doses and people who took mega-doses. If you start to dig into these studies, particularly a large Mayo Clinic study that sought to disprove Pauling on almost every claim, you find a personal vendetta against him from another scientist who openly disliked Pauling for being anti-establishment².
I don’t know what’s going on here, but I like it.
I’ve also found the regular truncated version of Pauling’s studies stated as follows: he thinks vitamin C cures cancer. In fact, Pauling did not believe that. He merely proved that people lived longer and felt better.
He was among the first scientists to openly advise the public to eat less meat, less sugar and to above all struggle to be happy. This was during a political and social climate that encouraged the opposite: Meat is American! Sugar means freedom! And working hard is a patriotic duty! And while he spoke gentle platitudes about the positive effects of happiness, underneath was a unapologetic, seething, number crunching genius who’d just as soon tell you that the intellectually sound thing to do would be to defer to his far more intelligent, educated experience. And I for one am inclined to do so³.
So is my dad, who has been taking mega-doses of vitamins since the mid-80′s, and to this effect: his doctors are always amazed at his health. His cholesterol was too low and his doctor advised him to eat more eggs. He rarely catches a virus. The diabetes on his side of the family has never touched him. He’s slender, despite eating a diet consisting almost entirely of spaghetti. His blood pressure is even-steven. I’m not saying he’s in perfect health (DAD, THE FOOT? PLEASE SEE SOMEONE ABOUT IT?), or that these positives are a direct result of the vitamins, but it is worth noting that his parents, at his age, were already quite sick people. It would seem he’s doing something right. Of course, he’s batshit crazy, but I blame that on the mercury fillings in his teeth.
¹If you don’t count the fatal run-in with prostate cancer.
² Pauling had a habit of advising people not to go to doctors unless they were shooting blood out a stump from where there arm used to be, because doctors were not educated in what Pauling called orthomolecular medicine, or the careful monitoring of the body’s vitamin, mineral and fatty acid levels as a way to regulate health. Pauling felt the human body was capable of healing itself of any illness a person might imagine (not any damage – I don’t mean to imply he felt the body could put itself back together after being blown up or anything) provided it had enough resources. This is not quackery. We know now that we could regrow lost limbs if we could just learn how to tell our DNA to do so. Also: a lot of scientists believed that Pauling was a communist.
³I started ramping up to 10,000mg of C a few days ago. I was already taking mega-doses of B. I’ll increase the E and A when I know the C is stable.