IRWIN STONE: Vitamin C Pioneer
by Andrew W. Saul
(Reprinted with permission from Saul AW. Taking the cure: Irwin Stone: Orthomolecular educator and innovator. J Orthomolecular Med, 2005. Vol 20, No 4, p 230-236.)
"Irwin Stone was totally in love with ascorbic acid. On behalf of all humanity, I thank the stars that he was." (Abram Hoffer, M.D., Ph.D.)
It is odd that, in discussions about vitamin C, the word "stone" typically comes up for the wrong reason. There is one infamous stone that has never existed, and another Stone that existed without properly being honored. I refer, respectively, to the world-renowned but entirely mythical vitamin C-caused kidney stone, and, more importantly, to the great orthomolecular biochemist, Irwin Stone.
When you pick up a health or nutrition book and need to quickly know if it is any good or not, just look for these two key words: Stone, and Pauling. If a book has negative things to say about Linus Pauling, it probably omits any reference to Irwin Stone altogether. For it was Irwin Stone who put Linus Pauling onto vitamin C in the first place.
Over forty years ago, Stone postulated that we humans have inherited a genetic trait to need but not manufacture ascorbic acid. "Irwin Stone," writes Robert F. Cathcart, M.D., "pointed out the potential of vitamin C in the treatment of many diseases, the inability of humans to synthesize ascorbate, and the resultant condition hypoascorbemia. . . Stone has described the genetic defect whereby the higher primates lost the ability to synthesize ascorbate. This defect is caused by a mutated defective gene for the liver enzyme, L-gulonolactone oxidase." (1) This innate dependency may be made up for in diet, but not easily. Says Stone: "The present RDA for ascorbate is at least 300 times less per unit body weight than the amount of ascorbate produced endogenously each day by other mammals." (2)
Irwin Stone repeatedly stated that ignoring this fact is fatal. A prime example is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or Crib Death, which, Stone writes, "has been shown by the Australian workers, A. Kalokerinos and G. Dettman, to be a manifestation of infantile scurvy, due to the fact that all infants, born of mothers who depended solely on their diet as their only source of ascorbate, are born with the Chronic Subclinical Scurvy syndrome after nine months of intrauterine scurvy. SIDS can be prevented by increasing the infant's intake of ascorbate. This has been known and published since 1977. Yet 8,000 to 10,000 babies die of SIDS each year because the doctors and others involved with the management of these babies permit this annual slaughter to take place because they have become so complacent with scurvy that they refuse to even try this harmless treatment." (2, 3)
STONE MEETS PAULING
Bernard Rimland, PhD, writes: "In April 1966 Irwin Stone met Linus Pauling, who found him to be extraordinarily well-informed and convincing. Pauling credits this meeting with Stone as the starting point of his own interest in vitamin C." (4) Abram Hoffer, who was present at the meeting, adds: "Dr. Stone had assembled a large collection of vitamin C papers. He hated the term "vitamin C" and preferred the more correct term ascorbic acid. Dr. Stone first used the word megavitamin and the word hypoascorbemia. He considered scurvy not a deficiency disease, but a metabolic error. I urged him to publish his review of ascorbic acid which he did several years later. Irwin heard Dr. Pauling state that he wished he could live another 25 years because science was making so many interesting discoveries. Dr. Stone wrote to him and told him he could achieve his goal if he would take vitamin C in megadoses. Dr. Pauling tried it out, was convinced because he felt so much better, and lived another 30 years." (5)
Stone's classic 1972 book, The Healing Factor: Vitamin C Against Disease (6), contains over fifty pages of scientific references, making it one of the first, and still one of the best, reviews of megascorbate therapeutics. It is doubtful that many skeptics have been as thorough as Stone has in checking vitamin C literature. His book and published articles summarize the successful vitamin C treatment of infections (bacterial and viral), allergies, asthma, poisoning, ulcers, the effects of smoking, and eye diseases including glaucoma. Ascorbate's role in treating cancer, heart disease, diabetes, fractures, bladder and kidney diseases, tetanus, shock, wounds, and pregnancy complications is also discussed in the book that the National Health Federation said "may be the most important book on health ever written." (7)
INDUSTRY AND CONTROVERSY
Alan Cott M.D. provides a biographical sketch of Stone:
Irwin Stone, a biochemist and chemical engineer, born in 1907, was educated
in the public schools of
Bernard Rimland adds:
the 1950s it became clear to Stone that humans would benefit from ingesting
much larger amounts of ascorbate than the medical and nutritional
establishments considered adequate. After he retired from his paid employment
and moved to
SCHOOL OF VERY HARD KNOCKS
Irwin Stone's most intense learning experience with vitamin C literally saved his life. He tells the story himself:
Perhaps there is some slight understatement in Dr. Stone's account. His son Steven, a retired patent attorney, adds:
parents drove to
Stone's very hard won knowledge was confirmed, yet again, in 2002, when an Annals of Surgery study of over 500 victims of trauma showed that "early administration of antioxidant supplementation using alpha-tocopherol and ascorbic acid reduces the incidence of organ failure and shortens ICU length of stay." (11)
I have personally seen the value of ascorbate in surgical cases. One was my father's first hip replacement operation which, without vitamin supplementation, kept him in the hospital for nearly three weeks. A few years later, before and immediately after the same surgery on the other hip, he took massive doses of ascorbic acid. The second hospital stay was 4 days.
Steven Stone says:
vitamin C first became commercially available at reasonable prices in the
late 1930's, my father started supplementing his diet with relatively large
amounts of vitamin C and became convinced that this contributed significantly
to his health. I remember that in the summers during WWII my mother suffered
from allergies and we would have to take weekly ferry boat rides from Staten
When I asked Steve Stone about the major obstacles to acceptance of his father's observations, he replied:
"One obstacle is insistence on double blind testing to validate the benefits of vitamin C. Each person has different requirements for C, which vary depending on stress. In order to get the full benefit, a person needs to adjust the amount of C being taken depending on stress levels and need to be able to titrate themselves. This is not doable in a controlled double blind situation."
As a result, the vast majority of controlled studies on ascorbate use ineffectively low doses, with inevitably minimal results. Robert F. Cathcart, MD, terms this "delay by intellectualization" and writes:
"As evidence of the value of nutrients, especially vitamin C, becomes more and more evident to the public, researchers produce a mass of articles on minute aspects of vitamin C. I have been consulted by many researchers who proposed bold studies of the effects of massive doses of ascorbate. Every time, the university center, the ethics committee, the pharmacy committee, etc. deny permission for the use of massive doses of ascorbate and render the study almost useless. Seasoned researchers depending upon government grants do not even try to study adequate doses. All of this results in a massive accumulation of knowledge about very little, which gives the impression that there is no more of real importance to be learned. This accumulation of minutia hides the great effects of ascorbate already known by some." (12)
person was, of course, Linus Pauling. Pauling was not only a vocal and
visible supporter of Irwin Stone's work, but also a personal friend as well.
Pauling attended Stone's 75th birthday celebration, and at least six
photographs of the event are archived at
Another was Albert Szent-Gyorgyi. In a 1982 letter (14), Stone tells Szent-Gyorgyi of a friend of his who, was diagnosed with prostate cancer at age 44 and then treated with surgery and radiation. A few years later, the cancer had metastasized to the pelvic bone and the patient was declared terminal and given about a year to live. However, Stone writes:
"Since he began taking 80 grams a day in 1979, his well-being has been excellent. He says he feels great most of the time, has also been able to continue working every day and lives a fairly normal life of the years since November 1978 when orthodox medicine said he would be dead. Visually he looks more like an athlete than a terminal cancer patient. . . In the last few weeks he has been able to improve his well-being by increasing his ascorbate intake to 130 to 150 grams per day! He has been taking oral doses every hour of 5 to 10 grams of a mixture of nine parts sodium ascorbate plus one part ascorbic acid dissolved in water. These doses are well tolerated and within "bowel tolerance" and he has had no trouble from diarrhea except just lately when he had to reduce the 150 grams a day to 130 grams. I believe his case is a classic and a good demonstration that if sufficient ascorbate is given to fully counteract all the incident stresses, then the cancer can be controlled. If given early enough in this disease, then cancer may no longer be a problem. Up to now we just haven't realized how big these daily controlling doses have to be."
Stone adds that the man's doctor "ran some ascorbate determinations on Joe's blood and came up with the highest blood levels I ever saw. At one point it was 35 mg%! Our so-called "normal" but scorbutic population averages 1 mg% or less, our kidney threshold is 1.4 mg%. . . I would like to see a crash ascorbate program started on terminal cancer patients using doses in the ranges found to keep his cancer under control. Since these "terminals" have been abandoned by orthodox medicine, they have nothing to lose but their ill health."
An acquaintance of mine took Stone's point very seriously. He had terminal lung cancer, and was constantly coughing up blood such that he had a mostly-red handkerchief in his hand anytime you spoke with him. He was too sick to get out of his recliner. In was in this chair that his life played out, day and night. He could not walk. He was in too much pain to even lie down. He spent the night in his chair. He did not want to eat. But he was more than willing to try what Dr. Stone's friend had tried, and did. He took a level teaspoon of ascorbic acid crystals, about 4,000 mg, every half hour he was awake, day or night. His total daily intake approached 100,000 mg. Within days, he stopped coughing up the blood. If ascorbate had done nothing else, this alone would have been more than enough benefit. But there was more good news within the week. His appetite returned, and he was now able to lie down in the bed. He reported that he was sleeping much better and was in much less pain. Within two weeks, he was able to walk around the house with a cane, and even go out into the yard. His quality of life was extraordinarily enhanced by the vitamin C. He never got diarrhea.
Stone's initial report of such benefit to a cancer patient from oral doses of ascorbate at 80 to 150 grams a day is striking; his report of such high measured blood levels of ascorbate is astounding. It is a clear and uncomfortable challenge to all physicians, dietitians, and governmental bodies that a sick human organism can in fact absorb quite a bit more than a few hundred milligrams of ascorbate daily.
A LIFE WELL LIVED
Steve Stone says:
May 1984, almost 22 years to the day after the
Recently, Steve Stone has added that "No autopsy was performed so there is no definitive cause of death. Some thought that choking, contributed to by the injuries to his throat sustained in his automobile accident, was the cause. But others thought a heart attack was most likely and I am in that group." (15)
immensely productive 77-year lifetime, Irwin Stone, building on the work of
Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, constructed both the theoretical and practical
foundations of megascorbate therapy with such skill
that it became the focus of 25 years of Linus Pauling's life. One testament
to the brilliance of Stone's work is that there are two forewords to his
book, The Healing Factor, and each is written by a Nobel laureate: one by
Pauling; the other by Szent-Gyorgyi. Furthermore,
Pauling cites Stone thirteen times in his landmark How to Live Longer and
Feel Better (16), published two years after Stone's
death. Irwin Stone was inducted into the Orthomolecular Medicine Hall of Fame
at the international Nutritional Medicine Today conference in
1. Cathcart RF. Vitamin C, titration to bowel tolerance, anascorbemia, and acute induced scurvy. Medical Hypothesis 7:1359-1376, 1981. This paper is posted on the internet at http://www.orthomed.com/titrate.htm and at http://www.doctoryourself.com/titration.html .
2. Stone I. Eight decades of scurvy: The case history of a misleading dietary hypothesis. Orthomolecular Psychiatry, 1979. Volume 8, Number 2, p 58-62. Also: Australas Nurses J. 1979 Sep; 8(11):28-30. http://www.whale.to/v/c/index.html
3. Kalokerinos A. Every second child. Thomas Nelson (
4. Rimland B. In memoriam: Irwin Stone 1907–1984. Journal of Orthomolecular Psychiatry, 1984. Volume 13, Fourth Quarter, p 285. http://www.whale.to/v/c/index.html
5. Hoffer A. The vitamin paradigm wars. Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients, No. 155, 56-60, 1996. http://www.doctoryourself.com/hoffer_paradigm.html and http://www.internetwks.com/pauling/hoffer.html )
6. Stone I. The healing factor: Vitamin C against disease. Grosset and
8. Cott A. Irwin Stone: A tribute. Orthomolecular Psychiatry, 1985. Volume 14, Second Quarter, p 150. http://www.whale.to/v/c/index.html
9. Stone I. Fifty years of research on ascorbate and the genetics of scurvy. Orthomolecular Psychiatry 1984, Volume 13 Fourth Quarter, p 280. http://www.whale.to/v/c/index.html
10. Interview in the Doctor Yourself Newsletter. Vol. 4, No. 23, November 5, 2004 http://www.doctoryourself.com/news/v4n23.txt
11. Nathens AB et al. Randomized, prospective trial of antioxidant supplementation in critically ill surgical patients. Ann Surg. 2002 Dec;236(6):814-22.
12. Cathcart RF. Comment at http://www.orthomed.com/index2.htm
(13) The Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Papers, Photographs and
Images, 1873-1995, 1983i.100-106.
15. Stone S. Personal correspondence with A. Saul, October 2005.
Pauling L. How to live longer and feel better.
Irwin Stone: Additional Bibliography
Stone I. Studies of a mammalian enzyme system for producing evolutionary evidence on man. Am. J. Phys. Anthro. 1965; 23:83-86.
Stone I. On the genetic etiology of scurvy. Acta Geneticae Medicae et Gemellologiae, 1966, Volume 15, p 345-350. http://www.whale.to/v/c/index.html
Stone I. The genetic disease, hyposacorbemia: A fresh approach to an ancient
disease and some of its medical implications. Acta Geneticae Medicae et Gemellologiae, Volume 16, Number 1, 1967, p 52-62. http://www.whale.to/v/c/index.html
Stone I. Hypoascorbemia, our most widespread disease. Nat. Health Fed. Bull. 18, No. 10, 6-9, 1972.
Stone I. The natural history of ascorbic acid in the evolution of the mammals and primates and its significance for present day man. J. Orthomolecular Psychiatry, Vol. 1, Nos. 2-3, 82-89, 1972. http://www.whale.to/v/c/index.html
Cancer therapy in the light of the natural history of ascorbic acid. J.
Stone I. Humans, the mammalian mutants. American Laboratory Vol. 6, No. 4: 32-39, 1974.
Stone I. Megascorbic therapy of the disease called leukemia. Cancer Control J. 2: No. 1, 1-4, 1974.
Stone I. Megascorbates in health, longevity and therapy. Bull. Nat. Health Fed. 20: No. 10, 15 17 27 30, 1974.
Stone I. Megadoses of vitamin C. Nutrition Today 10:No 3:35, 1975.
Stone I. Smoker's Scurvy: Orthomolecular preventive medicine in cigarette smoking. Orthomolecular Psychiatry, 1976, Volume 5, Number 1, p 35-42. http://www.whale.to/v/c/index.html
Stone I. The genetics of scurvy and the cancer problem. J. Orthomolecular Psychiatry Vol 5, No. 3, 183-190, 1976. http://www.whale.to/v/c/index.html
Stone I, Hoffer A. The genesis of medical myths. Orthomolecular Psychiatry, 1976, Volume 5, Number 3, p 163-168. http://www.whale.to/v/c/index.html
Stone I. The CSS Syndrome, a medical paradox. Northwest Acad. Prev. Med. 1: No. 1. 24-28, 1977.
Stone I. My daily megascorbic regimen for full health and long life. Better Nutrition, December 1977.
Libby A and Stone I. The hypoascorbemia-kwashiorkor approach to drug addiction therapy: A pilot study. Orthomolecular Psychiatry, 1977, Volume 6, Number 4, p 300-308. http://www.whale.to/v/c/index.html
Libby A and Stone I. Letter: Vitamin C and drug addiction. Orthomolecular Psychiatry, 1977, Volume 7, Number 3, p 176. http://www.whale.to/v/c/index.html
Stone I. Sudden death. A look back from ascorbate's 50th anniversary. Australas Nurses J. 1979 Jul;8(9):9-13, 39. Posted at http://www.whale.to/v/c/index.html
Stone I. The possible role of mega-ascorbate in the endogenous synthesis of interferon. Med Hypotheses. 1980 Mar;6(3):309-14.
Stone I. Inexpensive interferon therapy of cancer and the viral diseases now. Australas Nurses J. 1981 Mar;10(3):25-8.
Stone I. A new orthomolecular protocol for treating multiple sclerosis and related diseases. Med Hypotheses. 1982 Dec;9(6):635-8.
Stone I. New hope for multiple sclerosis victims via an improved, inexpensive, orthomolecular, interferon clinical protocol. Australas Nurses J. 1982 Apr;11(3):13-5.
Copyright 2005 Andrew W. Saul.
Andrew Saul is the author of the books FIRE YOUR DOCTOR! How to be Independently Healthy (reader reviews at http://www.doctoryourself.com/review.html ) and DOCTOR YOURSELF: Natural Healing that Works. (reviewed at http://www.doctoryourself.com/saulbooks.html )
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