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Ascorbate:  The Science of Vitamin C

Ascorbate: Science of Vitamin C





"It's not what we don't know that harms us, but what we do know that ain't

so." (Mark Twain)


What is it about a little left-handed molecule of six carbons, six oxygens,

and eight hydrogens that ticks off so many in the medical community?

Maybe it's cases like this one: Ray, a health professional I know, had an

11-month old son who was very sick for over a week. No one, and I mean

no one, in their family had had any sleep in a long time. They were up

night after night with this child, who had a high fever, glazed watery eyes,

tons of thick watery mucus and labored breathing. The child would not

sleep, and did little else but cry. The baby was under the care of a

pediatrician, who, in the infant's eleven months on earth, had already

prescribed twelve rounds of some very serious antibiotics. That they

clearly were not working was all too apparent to Ray, who out of

desperation decided to try something he previously had been taught to not

try: bowel tolerance quantities of oral ascorbate. Ray and his wife gave

their baby some vitamin C about every 15 minutes. As a result, the baby

was noticeably improved in a matter of hours, and slept through the night.

With frequent doses continuing, the child was completely well in 48 hours.

Ray calculated that the baby had received just over 2,000 mg vitamin C

per kilogram body weight per day. This is even more than what Dr.

Frederick Robert Klenner customarily ordered for sick patients.

Remarkably, at 20,000 milligrams of vitamin C/day, that 20-pound baby

never had diarrhea.


With such a little body, you have to marvel at where all of it was going. Of

course, it is the opinion of those who promulgate the US RDA and related

nutritional mythology that almost all of that baby's vitamin C went uselessly

into the toilet. Ray and his wife would tell you differently. They would say

that their sick child soaked it up like a sponge, and then promptly got



For the layman unable to obtain intravenous vitamin C, one of the most

important parts of Hickey and Roberts' new book, Ascorbate: The Science

of Vitamin C, is its attention to oral administration, divided dosing,

absorption, and vitamin C retention time in the bloodstream. With simple

graphs and uncomplicated language, the authors illustrate 1) how high oral

doses of vitamin C yield higher blood levels of the vitamin, and 2) how

dividing the oral doses maintains those higher levels. Although initially

seeming almost too obvious to mention, these are not self-evident

concepts. Government-based intake standards such as the RDA hinge on

ignoring them.


Hickey and Roberts zero in on this serious public health error. Their critical

analysis of research studies purporting to justify a mere 100 or 200 mg/day

ascorbate dose is worthy of Linus Pauling himself. Dr. Roberts says:

"Stressed and even mildly ill people can tolerate 1,000 times more vitamin

C, implying a change in biochemistry that was ignored in creating the

RDA. The RDA concept does not differentiate between short and long-

term effects of deprivation. The possibility that sub-clinical scurvy causes

chronic disease has enormous implications for health. In setting the RDA,

unsubstantiated risks of taking too much vitamin C have been accorded

great importance, whereas the risks of not taking enough have been

ignored. Real scientists understand that 'no scientific proof' is a fancy way

of saying 'we don’t like this idea.' Furthermore, there is no clear

mechanism for the RDA to be modified when new scientific evidence



Ascorbate: The Science of Vitamin C is a compellingly written, fast-paced

inspection of belief-based bias that permeates the scientific method. It is

not a tirade; Hickey and Roberts simply tell it the way it is. They are well

qualified to do so. Steve Hickey has a PhD in Medical Biophysics from the

University of Manchester, and spent about ten years in research at the

Manchester Medical School and associated hospitals. Interestingly, he had

initially trained as a biologist specializing in pharmacology, later switching

to biomechanics and medical physics. In addition to degrees in physiology

and computer science, Hilary Roberts' University of Manchester PhD was

on the effects of early life malnutrition. She spent ten years in research

and teaching at the university.


When asked how he and his coauthor came to write the book, Dr. Hickey

said: "Since Linus Pauling's death, there seemed to be a great deal of

misinformation. The NIH had performed some questionable experiments

and were making the apparently ridiculous statement that blood plasma

and tissues became saturated with low doses of vitamin C. There was no

mainstream research on high doses and the establishment was making

wild extrapolations from their low dose data. We could not see how a

clinical trial with 200 mg of vitamin C, for example, could be used to

suggest that higher doses were not effective. The work of physicians like

Robert Cathcart, Archie Kalokerinos and Abram Hoffer intrigued us. The

reported effects, especially of intravenous vitamin C, were astounding. It

was difficult to find any reason to explain the lack of scientific follow-up.

We had friends and relatives that were sick or dying from diseases that

high dose vitamin C was claimed to cure. Eventually we felt we had no

choice but to write the book."


Dr. Roberts adds: "Most RDA standards are based on data which was not

measured in actual experiments on real people. Even the small amount of

data from the 19–30 year old subjects, who were measured, is based on

neutrophils, a white blood cell type that is known to have unusual vitamin

C biochemistry, along with an exceptional ability to pump the vitamin into

itself. Neutrophils have ascorbate levels from 25-60 times that of the

surrounding plasma. This cell type is not a reliable model for the whole



Additional topics discussed in Ascorbate: The Science of Vitamin C

include infectious disease, oxidation and illness, the safety of vitamin C,

and a presentation of the authors' dynamic flow model of continual vitamin

C-mediated tissue reduction. The book contains substantial sections

devoted to cardiovascular disease, with the welcome inclusion of an

efficient discussion of the roles of vitamin E and lysine. Two excellent

chapters on cancer take the starch right out of the Mayo Clinic "refutations"

of the Pauling/Cameron vitamin C studies. The authors state that Dr.

Charles "Moertel's switch to oral does would clearly have biased the

results" even though Pauling "stated clearly that intravenous doses are

more effective than oral doses and explained the reasons for the



Ascorbate: The Science of Vitamin C contains 575 references, and

especially good ones. Though not alphabetized, all are keyed to the text

with numbered footnotes. For a book this important, the index could be

and should be more detailed. A glossary is included for the general reader.

All will enjoy the well-selected epigrams that form the chapter lead-in



The authors expert command of their topic has enabled them to

successfully encompass an enormous, and enormously important, subject.

To make a 216-page book this comprehensive, and also so exceptionally

comprehensible as well, is no small achievement.


I wish I'd had a book of this caliber back in the 1970's when my kids were

infants. I raised my children all the way into college without a single dose

of any antiviral, antihistamine, or antibiotic. What they did get were

megadoses of vitamin C. We, like so many other parents, learned the

principles of vitamin C therapy (quantity, frequency, and duration) at our

kids' bedsides at three in the morning.  Now, the pioneering work of

megascorbate orthomolecular physicians has been concisely summarized

and very skillfully explained in Ascorbate: The Science of Vitamin C. It is a

thorough, up to date and very readable analysis of what, to some, may still

appear to be a controversial topic.


Those who use it know that taking enough C results in three C's: patient

comfort, low cost, and parental control.  Without necessitating the use of

invasive technology, nor the trauma of hospitalization, parents can regain

confidence and mastery over illness to a degree that they might never

have thought possible. For this reason, vitamin C therapy will, at least in

some quarters, continue be decried and denounced as irresponsible. It

takes some real ego strength for a parent to stand firm and say, "This is

what I am going to do: I am going to follow the Klenner/Pauling/Cathcart

vitamin C protocol." Hickey and Roberts' review of vitamin C research is a

solid buttress that makes such a stance possible. No bias or belief system

can withstand their first-rate presentation of the safety and effectiveness of

megadoses of ascorbate.


Hickey S and Roberts H. Ascorbate: The science of vitamin C. 2004. ISBN

1-4116-0724-4. Morrisville, NC:  


Reviewed by Andrew W. Saul.

You might also enjoy reading DOCTOR YOURSELF ( and FIRE YOUR DOCTOR! (]

Copyright 2005 by Andrew W. Saul.


Andrew W. Saul


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