Really Bad Science

Writing 1+1=3 on a blackboard.

The media often feeds people misinformation about medical science. Leading the deception are the so-called skeptics who claim to be hard-headed scientists.

One leading promoter of skeptic “science” is the physician Ben Goldacre. I took note of Ben Goldacre when he nominated meta-analysis as his Moment of Genius for the BBC. The BBC were asking people to describe their favorite turning point in the history of science. His choice might be described as Goldacre’s Error. One of the most egregious recent mistakes in medical science, meta-analysis is a sham way of presenting subjective information. Meta-analysis makes it possible to select the available data and get the answer you want. Selecting data is one of the biggest errors a scientist can make.

Let’s use Ben Goldacre’s book Bad Science to show how this works. I consider this book well named – it is very bad science indeed.

Here is an example of how Goldacre misleads by selecting his data. He begins by giving a graph of increased life expectancy in the UK covering the previous century.

BadSci1s

He explains that “we are living longer, and vaccines are clearly not the only reason why.” Goldacre suggests “measles incidence dropped hugely over the preceding century, but you would have to work fairly hard to persuade yourself that vaccines had no impact on that.” Read on and I think you will find it easy, rather than hard, to decide that his claims are bunkum and his argument deceptive.

In the next chart, Goldacre switches countries from the UK to the USA. Note that the new graph has also switched to cases not mortality. More importantly he shortened the period from 120 years to only 50 years. In other words, he has now hidden much of the period covered by his earlier chart. The half century from 1901 to 1950 is no longer displayed. Goldacre has selected the period making any vaccination effect appear larger! (See How To Lie with Statistics)

BadSc2s

We are supposed to believe that this chart suggests that the number of cases fell dramatically as a result of medicine introducing the measles vaccine.  Then Goldacre extends his argument to include the MMR vaccine.

BadSci3s

It now looks as if the MMR vaccine polished off what little remained of this nasty disease. But Goldacre has again selected his data switching from mortality to cases and on to notifications.

Where are the serious cases and deaths that might make vaccination worthwhile?

The data starts in the 1850s

The counter argument is simple just look at this full chart of measles mortality from the UK and make up your own mind. Firstly, notice that the chart extends across the range of available data from the 1850s. Can you see the relative effect of vaccination?

MeaslesMortality

Basically, the deaths from measles had plummeted down to near zero long before vaccines were introduced. Improvements in nutrition and living conditions had almost completely prevented mortality from measles.

Goldacre disregarded the massive reduction in deaths by selecting his data but he could not avoid acknowledging his sleight of hand. He stated that “there is absolutely no doubt that deaths from measles began to fall over the whole of the last century for all kinds of reasons” such as nutrition. (They had not just begun to fall – but had fallen to near zero before medicine introduced vaccination.) Is this a get-out-clause to avoid Goldacre being accused of selecting his data?

Goldacre also suggests that “the other thing you will hear a lot is that vaccines don’t make much difference anyway.” I suggest you look once again at the 1840-1980 mortality chart with the red arrow showing the start of vaccination and make your own mind up.

My interpretation of the data is that vaccination and MMR made no appreciable difference to measles mortality. Nutrition and lifestyle had already beaten the disease and it is a stretch to suggest that MMR/vaccination had even a minor effect. The mopping up attributed to MMR/vaccination is more sparingly explained by nutrition and lifestyle – just a minor continuation of the earlier improvement (Ocham’s Razor).

Pasteur had some impressive results with vaccination of sheep against anthrax but this was back in the 19th century. Unfortunately, medicine applied vaccination indiscriminately and abused the technology. Yes vaccination is a technology and it does not make sense for someone to be philosophically “for” or “against” vaccination. It depends on the application and implementation. If bitten by a rabid dog I would probably chose to be vaccinated. However, I find no benefit in the idea of being vaccinated against the risk of influenza, measles, mumps, and so on. With the widespread abuse of the technology and the unremitting propaganda, rational people may decide to avoid most and possibly all current offers of vaccination.

The decline of measles independent of both vaccination and mainstream medicine is not an isolated event. Deaths from other infectious diseases also dropped rapidly over the previous 150 years as a result of nutrition and lifestyle. Unfortunately, this improvement is not the case in all countries where pure water, good nutrition, and sanitation are needed. (Benefits arising from these basics will surely be wrongly attributed to vaccination.) Professor Thomas McKeown gave an account of the decline of infections in his book The Role of Medicine which was published back in 1979. The real information is widely available.

It is wise to check Ben Goldacre’s claims because they can be misleading and Really Bad Science!

Steve Hickey PhD

A little background for TB:

Progress with TB or a Return to the Dark Ages?

by Steve Hickey, PhD and William B. Grant, PhD

(OMNS June 17, 2013) Tuberculosis (TB) was formerly one of the most devastating scourges of mankind and remains a leading cause of death. The disease has been with humans over recorded history, and likely throughout the evolution of our species. Through the industrial revolution and into the 20 century, TB became a long term medical emergency particularly with the poor. Roughly one person in four was dying of the disease in England and similar death rates were observed in other modernising countries. One solution was to isolate the afflicted in sanatoria. The fresh air and sunlight solution practiced in those times may have been at least partly effective.

Sunlight and vitamin D played an early role in preventing and treating TB. In the early 20th century, TB patients were often sent to sanatoria in the mountains where they were exposed to solar radiation. Dr. Auguste Rollier set up such facilities in the Swiss Alps. [1] Sun exposure is associated with a lower incidence of TB six months later. [2]. It wasn’t until 2006-7 that researchers at UCLA determined how sunlight increased vitamin D levels and helps the body’s immune system prevent bacterial infections [3]. Higher blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D can reduce the time required to control TB during treatment. [4,5] Recent research suggests the sanatoria approach to treatment could have been at least partly effective.

The modern myth about conquering infectious diseases such as TB is that vaccination and antibiotics came to the rescue, saving humanity from the earlier suffering. However, TB like the other major life threatening infections had already declined to a low level before these interventions were introduced. The tubercle bacillus was identified by Robert Koch in 1882 [6] by which time the death rates in England and Wales had already reduced to about half the earlier levels. The introduction of the drug isoniazid in the early 1950s was a breakthrough in antibiotic treatment but had little effect on overall mortality. Similarly, BCG vaccination was first tried in people in the early 1920s but its widespread introduction was delayed until well after World War 2. A chart of mortality from TB shows its historical decline in England and Wales for which the most extensive historical statistics are available. [7] The decline of TB was similar to the reduction in mortality for the other major infectious diseases. This graph illustrates the relative contribution of vaccination and antibiotic chemotherapy. By the time these interventions had been introduced, the major infections had already been largely defeated.

The question raised by this graph is what really caused the decline in death rates from TB and other infections. We can answer this easily and directly. Firstly, TB did not go away. There is a reasonable chance that a reader is harbouring the disease. Roughly one person in every three in the world (2-3 billion) has the infection. However, only 10-20 million have the active disease. So only one person in every 100 or so infected will have any symptoms. The rest will happily coexist with their “infection” without concern.

TB Mortality Per Million

http://www.orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v09n12-graph.jpg

People who come down with TB have poor or compromised immune systems. The disadvantaged were living in crowded and damp slum conditions. Although such conditions facilitate spread of the infection this explanation is insufficient. Poor nutrition provides a more direct explanation of why only some of the infected go on to succumb to the illness.

TB and Vitamin C

Despite the data strongly suggesting the impact of nutrition, corporate medicine has consistently decried the use of supplements. Recently, however, there has been a long overdue development. Catherine Vilchèze and colleagues have returned to testing the extraordinary antibiotic properties of vitamin C for TB.[8] They found that “M. tuberculosis is highly susceptible to killing by vitamin C” [3] which is consistent with previous data. [9] Notably, the mechanism of action is similar to vitamin C’s anticancer role in generating hydrogen peroxide locally which kills the unwanted cells. [10] Notably, we have been using antibiotic treatment of TB as a model for the role of vitamin C based redox therapy for cancer. The same mechanism is used to protect the body against both microorganisms and abnormal cancer cells.

Supplementation with vitamin C may prevent TB infection from becoming overt. Furthermore, vitamin C could provide an effective biological treatment for TB with the advantage of a mechanism refined by millions of years of evolution. As scientific history demonstrates, good nutrition, particularly vitamins C and D, are likely to be far more effective than antibiotics and vaccination in preventing this and other dangerous infective diseases.

Vilcheze’s suggests that drugs with a similar mechanism of action to vitamin C might be developed (presumably with great commercial advantage). However, such drugs are an unnatural intervention, and are likely to have unnecessary side-effects while vitamin C is safe. The rather obvious implication of providing high-dose nutritional supplements is once again ignored. If supplementation were to be widely applied, our society may find controlling TB is unexpectedly easy.

The recent history of antibiotics is one of misuse leading to microbial resistance. Following Multiple Drug Resistant TB (MDRTB) and eXtensively drug resistant forms (XDRTB) we are now faced with Totally Drug Resistant forms (TDRTB). The increasingly ineffective antibiotics have helped promote the return to study vitamin C as a potential treatment. However, we may be faced with something far more threatening. The history of antibiotic abuse is not reassuring. It may be possible to generate more virulent forms despite Vilcheze’s confirmation that resistance to vitamin C is exceptionally difficult to induce. The use of drugs with a similar mechanism to vitamin C may lead to resistance to our basic biological defence mechanisms. In other words, corporate misuse of this latest development could return us to the dark days of uncontrolled infections when TB was killing 1 in 4 people in the developed nations.

Conclusion

Much of the recent freedom from deadly infectious disease reflects historical improvements in nutrition. Over time the mechanisms by which nutrients help people be more resistant to infections are being elucidated. Increased levels of vitamin D may have provided a lower risk of TB and other infections as well as the deficiency disease rickets. It now appears that vitamin C is “extraordinarily” effective in killing the TB microorganism. Importantly vitamin C kills TB in essentially the same way as it destroys cancer cells. Linus Pauling, Robert Cathcart and others may have been prescient in suggesting vitamin C provides a unique way of maintaining good health.

References:

1. Hobday R.A. (1997) Sunlight therapy and solar architecture, Med Hist, 41(4), 455-472.

2. Koh G.C. Hawthorne G. Turner A.M. Kunst H. Dedicoat M. (2012) Tuberculosis incidence correlates with sunshine: an ecological 28-year time series study, PLoS One, 8(3), e57752.

3. Liu P.T. Stenger S. Tang D.H. Modlin R.L. (2007) Cutting edge: vitamin D-mediated human antimicrobial activity against Mycobacterium tuberculosis is dependent on the induction of cathelicidin, J Immunol, 179(4), 2060-2063.

4. Sato S. Tanino Y. Saito J. Nikaido T. Inokoshi Y. Fukuhara A. Fukuhara N. Wang X. Ishida T. Munakata M. (2012) The relationship between 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and treatment course of pulmonary tuberculosis, Respir Investig, 50(2), 40-45.

5. Coussens A.K. Wilkinson R.J. Hanifa Y. Nikolayevskyy V. Elkington P.T. Islam K. Timms P.M. Venton T.R. Bothamley G.H. Packe G.E. Darmalingam M. Davidson R.N. Milburn H.J. Baker L.V. Barker R.D. Mein C.A. Bhaw-Rosun L. Nuamah R. Young D.B. Drobniewski F.A. Griffiths C.J. Martineau A.R. (2012) Vitamin D accelerates resolution of inflammatory responses during tuberculosis treatment, Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 109(38),15449-15454.

6. Mörner K.A.H. (2005) Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1905, Presentation Speech, http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/1905/press.html.

7. McKeown T. (1979) The Role Of Medicine, Blackwell.

8. Vilchèze C. Hartman T. Weinrick B. Jacobs W.R. (2013) Mycobacterium tuberculosis is extraordinarily sensitive to killing by a vitamin C-induced Fenton reaction, Nature Communications, doi:10.1038/ncomms2898.

9. Hickey S. Saul A.W. (2008) Vitamin C: The Real Story, the Remarkable and Controversial Healing Factor, Basic Health.

10. Hickey S. Roberts H. (2013) Vitamin C and cancer: is there a role for oral vitamin C? JOM, 28(1), 33-46.

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Surviving Ebola!

Steve Hickey PhD and Hilary Roberts PhD

 

Emerging diseases, such as Ebola, pose an increasing risk to health as the virus adapts, allowing it to spread in the human population. People are understandably concerned about epidemics with such a high death rate: up to 90% in this case. It is possible for people to reduce their risk of death from this and other emerging viral diseases, using vitamin C. However, in order to avoid or survive an infection, vitamin C needs to be used in a particular way. This is a simplified explanation of how vitamin C works to fight infections.

The Internet contains many claims about the use of vitamin C. The primary claim, that vitamin C can help people survive and combat the disease, is correct. Much of the rest of the information is wrong, wishful thinking, or else it has been generated by commercial concerns, to encourage people to buy a version of the supplement.

If you are worried about Ebola (or other acute infections), this is what you need to know.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is the primary antioxidant in the diet. Most people do not take enough to be healthy. While this is true of many nutrients, vitamin C is a special case. The government will tell you that you only need about 100 mg a day and that you can get this amount from food. Whatever the politics, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is not science. For almost a century, some leading doctors and scientists have been telling people that they need more – much more.

The required amount of vitamin C varies with the person’s state of health. To prevent acute scurvy, you need only 5 mg a day, or even less. Avoiding acute scurvy is the rationale for the RDA. A normal adult in perfect health may need only a small intake, say 500 mg per day. However, people are not always in perfect health and more is needed when someone is even slightly under the weather. Similarly, to avoid illness, the intake needs to be increased.

The intake for an otherwise healthy person to have a reasonable chance of avoiding a common cold is in the region of 8-10 grams (8,000-10,000 mg) a day. This is about ten times what corporate medicine has tested in their trials on vitamin C and the common cold. Ten grams (10,000 mg) is the minimum pharmacological intake; in other words, 10 grams a day may help if you have a slight sore throat but more (much more) may be needed. To get rid of a common cold, you may need something in the order of 60 grams (60,000 mg) a day. With influenza the need might be for 100 grams (100,000 mg) a day. Since it varies from person to person, and from illness to illness, the only way to find out is to experiment for yourself.

Dynamic flow

The problem with oral intakes is that healthy people do not absorb vitamin C well. This is due to something Dr Robert Cathcart called bowel tolerance. Take too much of the vitamin in a single dose and it will cause loose stools. In good health, a person might be able to take a couple of grams at a time without this problem. Strangely, when a person becomes sick they can take far more without this side effect: as much as 20-100+ grams a day, in divided doses.

High dose vitamin C has a short half-life in the body. The half-life is the time for the level in the blood plasma to fall back to half its concentration. Until recently, some people claimed that the half-life of vitamin C was several weeks. We have shown that this long half-life applies only to low doses. By contrast, the half-life for high blood levels is only half an hour. This short half-life has many implications for the use of high dose vitamin C and implies that the period between doses needs to be short – a few hours at most.

The aim is to achieve dynamic flow, to get vitamin C flowing continuously through the body. Dynamic flow requires multiple high doses, taken through the day. When separated in time, each dose is absorbed independently. Two doses of 3 grams, taken 12 hours apart, are absorbed better than 6 grams taken all at once. Multiple large doses, say 3 grams four times a day, produce a steady flow of the vitamin from the gut, into the bloodstream and out, via the urine. Some of the intake is not absorbed into the blood and stays in the gut, as a reserve against the early onset of illness. As illness begins, the body pulls in this “excess” to help fight the virus.

The idea behind dynamic flow is that the body is kept in a reduced (antioxidant) state, using high doses. There is always vitamin C available, to refresh the body and other antioxidants. Each vitamin C molecule (ascorbic acid) has two antioxidant electrons, which it can donate to protect the body. It then becomes oxidised to dehydroascorbate (DHA). This oxidised molecule is then excreted, so the body has gained two antioxidant electrons. The kidneys reabsorb vitamin C, but not DHA. So, the vitamin C molecule is absorbed, used up, and then the oxidised form is thrown out with the rubbish. Some so-called sceptics claim that high dose vitamin C only produces “expensive urine” – we hope you can see their fallacy.

The effectiveness of vitamin C is not directly proportional to the dose. If you take too little, the effect will be minimal. At a certain intake, there is a transition, above which vitamin C becomes highly effective. Below this level, the effect is small; above it, the effect is dramatic. The problem is that no-one can tell you in advance what intake of vitamin C is needed in a particular individual. The solution is to take more – more than you think necessary – more than you consider reasonable. Basically, the mantra is dose, dose, dose – or “Moar vitamin C!”

Types of Vitamin C

Straightforward, low cost ascorbic acid is the preferred form of supplement. Vendors May try to sell you “better absorbed” forms with minerals or salts such as sodium, potassium or calcium ascorbate, and so on. These are irrelevant, if not counterproductive, for high intakes. It is worth noting the following:

  1. Timing is more important than form. Two large doses of ascorbic acid taken a little time apart are better absorbed than a single dose of mineral ascorbate.
  2. Mineral ascorbates are salts and do not carry the same number of antioxidant electrons. Ascorbic acid has two electrons to donate while a salt typically has only one. With high doses, the “improved” forms are thus only about half as effective. This is consistent with reports that mineral forms are correspondingly ineffective in combating illness.
  3. Ascorbic acid is a weak acid, much weaker than the hydrochloric acid in the stomach. Mineral ascorbates may be better tolerated, as they make the stomach more alkaline than ascorbic acid. However, an alkaline stomach is not a good idea – there are reasons the body secretes hydrochloric acid into the stomach, including preventing infection. Furthermore, if you are coming down with a haemorrhagic viral infection, mild discomfort will not be something of great concern.
  4. For high intakes, capsules of ascorbic acid are preferable to tablets. This is because tablets are packed with fillers and it is not wise to take massive doses of these chemicals. Check the ingredients – you want to take ascorbic acid and very little else. Bioflavonoids are alright, and the capsules may be made with gelatine or a vegetarian equivalent.
  5. The cheapest way to take ascorbic acid is as powder, dissolved in water. If you do this, use a straw to avoid it getting on the tooth enamel, as it is slightly acidic. You will need a set of accurate electronic scales to monitor the dose. If you do not weight it carefully, it will be difficult to keep close to bowel tolerance.

Intravenous Vitamin C

Ideally, infected people would be given a continuous intravenous (IV) infusion of massive doses of sodium ascorbate. In this case, sodium ascorbate is used, as ascorbic acid is not well tolerated by injection.

  1. People who are sufficiently ill will not be able to take vitamin C by mouth.
  2. IV provides the highest possible blood levels
  3. IV means continuous drip, not an injection (short half-life)

Unless you are a medical professional who can treat yourself and your family, or are exceptionally rich, IV ascorbate will not an option in an Ebola epidemic. People will be asking for the treatment and doctors will be loath to provide it, as it would mean a direct risk to them and, indirectly, their families. (Medical staff are already reported to be deserting hospitals in some infected areas.)

Liposomes

In healthy people, liposomes help the absorption of oral vitamin C; in some circumstances this is also true for sick people. However, we need to dispel some myths propagated by doctors associated with supplement companies.

In a healthy person, higher blood levels (about 600 microM/L) can be achieved using liposomal vitamin C compared with standard ascorbic acid (about 250 microM/L). We were the first to demonstrate this fact experimentally. However, the two absorption methods are different and resultant plasma levels are additive, if both intake methods are used together (something like 600 + 250 = 850 microM/L). Since ascorbic acid is cheaper than liposomal vitamin C, it is cost effective for a healthy person to start with ascorbic acid and top up with liposomes, as required.

A sick person absorbs much more standard ascorbic acid than a normal person. Thus, when a person becomes ill they can absorb massive doses of standard ascorbic acid, using the dynamic flow approach. If you are sick, taking a gram of liposomal vitamin C instead of a gram of cheap ascorbic acid will provide little extra benefit. Both doses of vitamin C will be well absorbed and the liposome contains sodium ascorbate which is less effective. Liposomes only provide added benefit once the sick person has approached bowel tolerance levels, using standard ascorbic acid.

Liposomal vitamin C is NOT more effective than IV for fighting acute infections. This suggestion is unscientific and unsupported by data. We prefer liposomes for chronic infections and cancer, but this does not extend to acute illness. Wishful thinking is no replacement for rational thought.

There is a lot of hype around the fact that liposomes can be absorbed directly into cells. Many liposomes are absorbed from the gut and pass into the liver, where they are stored and the vitamin C released. Liposomes may also float around in the bloodstream, lymph nodes, and so on, waiting to release their contents or be taken up by cells. The cells that take up the liposomes are not necessarily those that are most in need of vitamin C. Moreover, the cells that take up the microscopic bolus of vitamin C may suffer side effects; liposomes are basically nanotechnology and have additional theoretical issues. Once again, people promoting the idea that liposomes are more effective than IV are often associated with companies providing the product.

Prevention

To have a reasonable chance of avoiding a major viral infection, a daily intake of at least 10 grams of ascorbic acid is needed. The idea is to start low, say taking 500-1,000 mg, four times a day. Build up the intake to close to bowel tolerance; increased wind and large soft light coloured stools will occur before diarrhoea signals that bowel tolerance has been exceeded. At this stage, back off the dose a little, to a reasonably comfortable level.

At the first hint of an infection – feeling unwell, itchy throat, fatigue, and so on – take more ascorbic acid. If the hint of impending sickness is mild, take perhaps 5 grams every half hour or even more frequently. Anything more than a hint of infection, means taking as large a dose as you feel could be tolerated and follow this by taking 5 grams every half hour. The rule is to take as much as you can without going over the tolerated level: you will probably be taking too little, even though you are trying hard to take a massive dose.

If you are already in dynamic flow and want extra protection, then add liposomal vitamin C. Take it at the same intervals as the ascorbic acid, that is several times a day. The limit is once again bowel tolerance – take too much and it will give you loose stools. This will provide the maximum preventive effect, for the lowest cost.

Treatment

We assume that you are not a medical professional and do not have access to IV ascorbate. However, if IV ascorbate is available, it should be given slowly and as continuously as possible.

The first important thing is to start the treatment early. The longer a person waits after the initial symptoms, the less effective the treatment will be. If the illness has been allowed to develop, the sick person may not be able to take anything orally. A medical professional might be able to provide an IV, or a vitamin C and liposomal C enema, but we shall ignore that possibility here. Medical professionals can deal with such things with little difficulty, but others may do more harm than good.

Once again, the idea is to get dynamic flow going with as much ascorbic acid as can be tolerated. In this case, the doses are massive. Five to ten grams every half hour, through the day, will provide 120 to 240 grams a day. Even at this high intake, the blood plasma levels may be low or undetectable, at most 250 microM/L will be achieved. So the question then becomes how much additional liposomal vitamin C the patient can tolerate.

A practical approach would be to start with 5 grams of ascorbic acid and a similar amount of liposomal vitamin C in very frequent doses. Remember the key is dose, dose, dose. Moar vitamin C!

How it Works

The mechanism of action of high dose vitamin C is known and understood. In normal healthy tissues it acts as an antioxidant. In other tissues, it generates hydrogen peroxide, the chemical that platinum blondes use to bleach their hair. Hydrogen peroxide is formed in sick and inflamed tissues, for example in a malignant tumour. The process is typically a form of Fenton reaction, generating free radicals. The oxidation and free radicals arising from the hydrogen peroxide kill bacteria and inactivate viruses. In other words, vitamin C acts as a targeted bleach and antiseptic.

Vitamin C plays a dual role. It makes normal tissues healthier by providing abundant antioxidant electrons. It refreshes other antioxidants. At the same time, it drives processes that inactivate viruses, or kill bacterial and cancer cells. It reprograms cells, switching genes ON and OFF, in response to local inflammation. In addition, it provides signals for cell communications. It upregulates the immune system and helps activate the white blood cells that fight infection.

Vitamin C is unique, because it has low toxicity and can be taken safely in massive amounts. Other antioxidants and supplements will not have a similar effect. Do not be confused and think that Echinacea, for example, will help. Yes, there may be supplements and herbs that provide a little immune system support. This is Ebola we are talking about – get real!

Note, vitamin C is not some magical antitoxin. A disease such as Ebola is not caused by toxins that are inactivated by vitamin C. Free radicals are not toxins. Oxidants are not toxins. Vitamin C nearly always acts by transferring electrons, as an oxidant or antioxidant. It is just basic chemistry. Also, it does not matter if you have poor dental hygiene, this will hardly affect how massive intakes of vitamin C tackle an acute viral infection.

The reason vitamin C helps with viral infection is the massive flow of a substance that acts both as a selective antioxidant and a selective oxidant, throughout the body. In this respect, vitamin C is unique.

Practical Stuff

Sugar interferes with the uptake of vitamin C. If you are using vitamin C to combat a viral infection, do not eat any sugar or carbohydrate (long chain sugars). A low-carb diet is important, otherwise the vitamin C will not be absorbed properly. We stress that this means no sugar and no carbs, at all.

Unfortunately, smoking releases enormous amounts of oxidants and free radicals into the bloodstream. The vitamin C will expend itself, trying to mop up the chemicals from the smoking. We have no moral objections to people smoking: it is a personal choice. However, smoking will hinder even massive doses of vitamin C from preventing infection. Once infected with Ebola, smoking will stop the vitamin C from keeping you alive. If Ebola comes, we suggest a taking a break from smoking and from sugars and carbohydrates.

It is sensible to also supplement with a form of chelated magnesium, such as magnesium citrate, which helps overcome the theoretical risk of kidney stones. For once, RDA supplement levels of magnesium are sufficient. The available data on kidney stones indicates that the issue is probably just fear mongering by corporate medicine, but magnesium supplements are low cost and widely available. In reality, the only established risk from high dose vitamin C supplementation is loose stools. There are some contraindications. People with kidney disease, iron overload disease, or glucose-6-phosphatase deficiency should not take high doses of vitamin C. Such considerations are of little importance to most people in the emergency setting of an epidemic of Ebola or a similar emerging disease.

The reaction that generates hydrogen peroxide in sick tissues can be enhanced a little. To this end, we would take a high dose of selenium with the vitamin C. However, selenium is more toxic than vitamin C, and, in describing the dose as high, we mean relatively normal supplement levels. Methylselenocysteine is a less toxic form and this would be our choice. The normal intake is perhaps 100-200 micrograms (0.1-0.2 mg) a day. We would take 400 micrograms a day during an epidemic and up this to 1,000 micrograms (one milligram) a day, at the initial onset of symptoms. It is possible to go up to 3 mg for short periods, with medical supervision. Anyone taking high dose selenium supplements needs to be aware of the potential side effects and to have appropriate medical support.

Minor supplements may be synergistic with vitamin C. These include alpha-lipoic acid and vitamin K. Alpha-lipoic acid can be taken at reasonably high levels reasonably safely. We would take up to a gram or two a day (1,000-2,000 mg). Vitamin K also helps with blood clotting and is safe in the recommended amounts – we would get the highest dose vitamin K2 supplement available. Note vitamin K is contraindicated in those with clotting disease or those on blood thinners such as warfarin.

Liposomal vitamin C is expensive. Ideally people would order their liposomal vitamin C as a quality product from a reputable company. Where this is not possible we suggest using a method described in a US patent (US20120171280 A1). The ‘recipe’ is under the heading: Example 1 Preparation of Sodium Ascorbate Entrapped Liposomes. However we suggest that the final mix is subject to sonication for several minutes in a standard ultrasound bath. There are some recipes for homemade liposomal C on the internet but the method described in the patent seems more reliable. Note we are not encouraging people to dishonour the patent – this information may be lifesaving if the commercial product is unavailable.

Why Put This Out?

People need to know that vitamin C is an option for fighting Ebola, and how it works. Also, there is a great deal of misinformation, particularly on the internet, from corporate medicine and from supplement vendors and their medical consultants. Moreover, in an Ebola epidemic vitamin C supplements may be hard to source.

This account is intended for intelligent adults, who can make their own rational decisions and take responsibility for their health. We strongly promote the idea that medicine should be based on rational patients, rather than authoritarian doctors. Doctors are there to provide the information for patients, to help them choose between available options. We are scientists, not medics, and we do not give medical advice. This is information only – what you decide to do with it is up to you.

Our opinion is the use of vitamin C in Ebola is a no-brainer. Get the illness and you have at best a 50-50 chance of surviving without vitamin C. Corporate medicine has no effective treatment. Furthermore, if a drug were available, it would be untested and almost certainly unavailable to you, dear reader. Vitamin C is considered safe and should do no harm. The cost of treatment is low. The clinical reports of vitamin C in viral infection are that if you get the dose right, you will survive. Vitamin C is known experimentally to inactivate viruses.

We consider that any reasonably intelligent adult can weigh the information and come to their own rational conclusions. Some people can do little but conform to what is expected. We support the so-called skeptics that think they and their friends in corporate medicine have a better grasp of the science behind vitamin C than we have. They should go with their opinions. There will be no Darwin Awards for those who remove their genes from the population through foolishness in an Ebola epidemic. In the event, we hope people make rational decisions.

Further reading

There are lots of other sources but these make a good fast start for a person beginning an investigation into the antiviral properties of vitamin C.

Yuanpeng Zhang (2012) Method of making liposomes, liposome compositions made by the methods, and methods of using the same, US patent US 20120171280 A. www.google.com/patents/US20120171280 Description of simple way of making liposomal vitamin C.

Hickey S., Saul A. (2008) Vitamin C: The Real Story, the Remarkable and Controversial Healing Factor, Basic Health. The book gives an easy readable account of the story of vitamin C.

Archive of the Journal or Orthomolecular Medicine. Decades worth of clinical observations and reports on vitamin C are available. www.orthomolecular.org/library/jom/index.shtml.

Pubmed www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed contains mostly abstracts of medical research papers. Unfortunately, most of these have been selected to exclude observations on high doses of vitamin C.

Dr Cathcart’s main papers from bowel tolerance to dynamic flow:

Cathcart R. (1981) Vitamin C, Titration to Bowel Tolerance, Anascorbemia, and Acute Induced Scurvy,  Medical Hypothesis, 7:1359-1376.

Cathcart R. (1985) Vitamin C, the nontoxic, nonrate-limited antioxidant free radical scavenger, Medical Hypothesis, 18:61-77.

Hickey D.S., Roberts H.J., Cathcart RF. (2005) Dynamic flow: A new model for ascorbate, J Orthomolecular Med, 20(4), 237-244.

Antioxidants and Cancer

New Scientist magazine has just reported the claim by James Watson that antioxidants promote cancer growth (Nobel-winner Watson: Do antioxidants promote cancer?). They did not mention that these ideas are out of date. James Watson recently claimed an important idea that antioxidants can promote cancer growth. This idea is not new, though his version is incomplete and misleading. The relationship between antioxidants and cancer was described several years ago. Antioxidants prevent cancer but only specific antioxidants are useful for treatment.

We do not consider Watson’s limited description and understanding helpful. Steve Hickey and Hilary Roberts have been reporting the actual mechanism for almost a decade, while being careful not to misrepresent the idea as “antioxidants promote cancer.” The process is explained in terms of redox signaling, redox being a term used for reduction and oxidation. Redox signals and the antioxidant/oxidant state of a cell are important in both prevention and proliferation of cancer. Healthy cells are in a relatively quiescent reduced (low oxidation) state. Increasing the oxidation level will signal the cell to grow and divide more frequently. Benign tumor cells are slightly more proliferative and have a higher oxidation level than healthy cells. Malignant cancer cells are more oxidizing still and proliferate uncontrollably. The effect of antioxidants depends on the current redox state of the cell.
In 2004, Hickey and Roberts provided a schematic of the relationship between the levels of antioxidants/oxidants and cancer proliferation, in their book Cancer: Nutrition and Survival. In the diagram, healthy cells and benign cancer cells (left tail) proliferate as the oxidation level increases. By contrast, malignant cells (right tail) proliferate when antioxidants are added.
Redox cancer signaling

Redox Cancer Signaling

While Hickey and Roberts were careful to avoid misleading generalizations about antioxidants and cancer proliferation, their description was clear, for example:

“The action of antioxidants on cancer cells is far from simple: it may depend upon the cells’ redox state and the stage of the cancer. Some cancers may find an external supply of antioxidants beneficial. For example, in healthy mouse cells, the antioxidant supplement, NAC, can decrease growth, by lowering the oxidant level. However, in cancer cells, another antioxidant, the enzyme thioredoxin, stimulates growth and prevents cell suicide. This apparent paradox may be explained if we consider that the levels of oxidants in some malignant cells are so high as to be almost fatal to the cell. Thioredoxin may lower these levels enough to restore the cell to relative health and stimulate growth. Increased levels of thioredoxin occur in many human cancers and are a sign of resistance to therapy.”

Also Andrew Saul and Steve Hickey explained the relationship between membrane redox potentials and proliferation briefly, in their book Vitamin C: The Real Story. We find Watson’s claims inexplicable as we thought everyone with an interest in antioxidants and cancer knew this stuff!

Antioxidants Prevent Cancer and Some May Even Cure It

Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, January 24, 2013

Commentary by Steve Hickey, PhD

(OMNS Jan 24, 2013) It is widely accepted that antioxidants in the diet and supplements are one of the most effective ways of preventing cancer. Nevertheless, Dr. James Watson has recently suggested that antioxidants cause cancer and interfere with its treatment. James Watson is among the most renowned of living scientists. His work, together with that of others (Rosalind Franklin, Raymond Gosling, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins) led to the discovery of the DNA double helix in 1953. Although his recent statement on antioxidants is misleading, the mainstream media has picked it up, which may cause some confusion.

Antioxidants: What’s Going On

Dr. Watson claims to have discovered that antioxidants promote the growth of late stage metastatic cancers. He says that this is “among my most important work since the double helix.” [1] We agree that the finding is fundamentally important, although it was not uniquely Watson’s discovery. Rather, it is standard orthomolecular medicine and has been known for years. [2,3] Within the body, antioxidant levels act as a signal, controlling cell division. In healthy cells and benign tumors, oxidants tend to increase cell proliferation, whereas antioxidants inhibit it. By contrast, the malignant tumor environment can be so strongly oxidizing that it is damaging and triggers cell death by apoptosis. In this case, antioxidants may help tumor cells proliferate and survive, by protecting the cells against oxidation and stimulating the malignancy to grow. For this reason, antioxidants may sometimes be contraindicated for use with malignant tumors, although there are particular exceptions to this.

And Oxidants?

The balance between oxidants and antioxidants is a key issue in the development of cancer, as has been known for decades. Watson appears to be behind the times in his appreciation of nutritional medicine and, surprisingly, to have misunderstood the processes of oxidation and reduction as applied to cancer. He correctly asserts that reactive oxygen species are a positive force for life; this is basic biology. They are also involved in aging, chronic illness, and cancer. Oxidants also cause free radical damage, thus the body generates large amounts of antioxidants to prevent harm and maintain health.

Back in the 1950s Dr. Reginald Holman treated the implanted tumors of experimental rats, by adding a dilute solution of hydrogen peroxide to their drinking water. [4] Hydrogen peroxide, an oxidant, delivers a primary redox (reduction/oxidation) signal in the body. The treatment cured more than half the rats (50-60%) within a period of two weeks to two months, with complete disappearance of the tumors. Holman also reported four human case studies, concerning people with advanced inoperable cancer. Two patients showed marked clinical improvement and tumor shrinkage. (Please note: we are not suggesting that people should consume hydrogen peroxide.) He published his findings in Nature, one of the most prestigious scientific periodicals of the day and, of course, the same journal that had presented Crick and Watson’s double helix papers, just four year earlier.

Orthomolecular medicine has advanced since those days; we now have safer and more effective techniques with which to attack cancer. Intravenous vitamin C is a good example. [5] Nevertheless, both modern orthomolecular and conventional treatments often rely indirectly on increasing hydrogen peroxide levels, and thus deliberately causing free radical damage within the tumor. Watson correctly identifies oxidation and free radical damage as primary mechanisms through which radiation and chemotherapeutic drugs slow cancer growth. He also states that cancer cell adaptation to oxidation is the method by which it becomes resistant to such treatment, although once again, this has been standard in cancer biology for decades. We agree with some of Watson’s assertions: that cancer research is overregulated; that a primary aim should be to cure late stage cancers; and that a cure for cancer could be achievable, given 5-10 years of properly targeted research. [6] However, we think he should become more familiar with progress in orthomolecular medicine, which is currently leading the way.

How Does Cancer Grow?

Cancer develops when cells multiply in the presence of oxidation and other damage. According to micro-evolutionary models, cells become damaged and change their behavior, growing uncontrollably, and act like the single-celled organisms from which they originally evolved. The cancer cells’ individualism overwhelms the cooperative control processes that are essential to a complex multicellular organism. Importantly, antioxidants limit oxidative damage and thus inhibit early benign cancer growth, preventing cancer from developing.

As cancers become malignant, they exhibit incredible genetic diversity. Whereas a benign tumor is like a colony of similar abnormal cells, a malignant tumor is a whole ecosystem. At this late stage, some (but not all) antioxidants can indeed promote cancer cell growth. Thousands of different cell types coexist: cooperating, competing, and struggling to survive. A consequence of the anaerobic conditions that prevail during the early development of a malignancy is that cancer cells differ from healthy cells, in that they have been selected for the way they generate energy (i.e. anaerobically, using glucose). This is the well-known Warburg effect [7], another finding from the 1950s. [8]

How Does Cancer Stop?

Certain “antioxidant” substances, such as vitamin C, are able to exploit the differences between cancer and healthy cells; they kill cancer cells while helping healthy cells. [9] Such substances have the ability to act either as antioxidants or as pro-oxidants, depending on their environment. In tumors, they act as pro-oxidants, producing hydrogen peroxide that attacks the cancer; whereas, in healthy cells they act as protective anti-oxidants.

The dual nature of these substances is crucial, because standard chemotherapy or radiation harms healthy cells almost as much as it does cancer cells. The idea of a drug with a limited selective activity against cancer cells has apparently impressed Watson, who suggests that “highly focused new drug development should be initiated towards finding compounds beyond metformin that selectively kill [cancer] stem cells.” [10] Metformin is an antidiabetic drug that acts against cancer by lowering blood glucose levels. Interestingly enough, carbohydrate reduction and other methods of “starving the cancer” are standard methods in orthomolecular cancer therapy. [2]

Selective anticancer agents of the kind Dr. Watson advocates are already known to exist: they include vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin K, alpha-lipoic acid, selenium, and others. A research agenda to investigate the synergistic operation of such substances in cancer treatment is required urgently. It is time for conventional medicine to come to terms with their failure in cancer research and embrace selective orthomolecular methods. The public should stick with nutritional therapies while we wait, perhaps for some time, for medicine to focus on patients rather than profits. Don’t be warned off the very substances that can most help you.

References:

1. Watson J. (2013) Nobel laureate James Watson claims antioxidants in late-stage cancers can promote cancer progression, The Royal Society, latest news, 09 January, http://royalsociety.org/news/2013/watson-antioxidants-cancer.

2. Hickey S. Roberts H. (2005) Cancer: Nutrition and Survival, Lulu Press.

3. Hickey S. Roberts H.J. (2007) Selfish cells: cancer as microevolution, 137-146.

4. Holman R.A. (1957) A method of destroying a malignant rat tumour in vivo, Nature, 4568, 1033.

5. http://www.doctoryourself.com/RiordanIVC.pdf, http://www.riordanclinic.org/research/research-studies/vitaminc/protocol/ and http://www.doctoryourself.com/Radiation_VitC.pptx.pdf

6. Lettice E. (2010) James Watson: ‘cancer research is over regulated’ The Guardian, Friday 10 September, http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/sep/10/james-watson-cancer-research.

7. Gonzalez M.J. Miranda Massari J.R. Duconge J. Riordan N.H. Ichim T. Quintero-Del-Rio A.I. Ortiz N. (2012) The bio-energetic theory of carcinogenesis, Med Hypotheses, 79(4), 433-439.

8. Warburg O. (1956) On the origin of cancer cells, Science, 123(3191), 309-314.

9. Casciari J.J. Riordan N.H. Schmidt T.L. Meng X.L. Jackson J.A. Riordan H.D. (2001) Cytotoxicity of ascorbate, lipoic acid, and other antioxidants in hollow fibre in vitro tumours, Br J Cancer, 84(11), 1544-1550. http://www.nature.com/bjc/journal/v84/n11/abs/6691814a.html

N.H. Riordan, H.D. Riordana, X. Menga, Y. Lia, J.A. Jackson. (1995) Intravenous ascorbate as a tumor cytotoxic chemotherapeutic agent, Med Hypotheses, 44(3), 207-213, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/030698779590137X

10. Watson J. (2013) Oxidants, antioxidants and the current incurability of metastatic cancers, Open Biology, January 8, doi: 10.1098/rsob.120144.

Fukushima Radiation Protection

Antioxidants and particularly sulphur containing antioxidants can protect against the free radical damage of ionising radiation.

The following video was made by The Japanese Collage of Intravenous Therapy in an attempt to help the Japanese people.

Obviously, it would be preferable to avoid unnecessary radioactive contamination, but that option is no longer available. It is particularly sad that the Japanese government has been inept, irrational, and dishonest in dealing with this tragedy.