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Vitamin C deficiency, Collagen

Headed for a heart attack because of “marginal scurvy”

 By Dr. Gifford Jones  Thursday, October 21, 2010

Are you headed for a heart attack because of “marginal scurvy”, a condition resulting from a lack of vitamin C? Moreover, if vitamin C is sound medicine for gorillas, why isn’t it good for us? And in the 16th century, why did the ship’s cat survive long sea voyages when its sailors died from scurvy?

Today we know that sailors of old, lacking vitamin C, died of this preventable disease. A shortage of fresh fruit in their diet resulted in degeneration of blood vessels, hemorrhage and death.

Today scurvy is considered past history. But recent evidence shows that some people are suffering from marginal scurvy.

Dr. Carol S. Johnston, Associate Professor at Arizona State University, reports that 7 per cent of Canadians, 13 per cent of Americans and 15 per cent of college students tested were deficient in vitamin C.

Dr. Johnson says that many common fruits and vegetables are not rich in vitamin C. Moreover, 45 per cent of Americans do not consume fruit daily. And she cites cases that doctors failed to diagnose as scurvy.

A 12 year old girl developed swollen gums. Doctors diagnosed an abscessed tooth and prescribed antibiotics. Later a blood test diagnosed scurvy.

Another four year old boy suddenly found it difficult to walk. His doctors questioned poliomyelitis since he had not been immunized against this disease. Then an X-ray of the thigh showed changes due to scurvy.

A 36 year old woman developed multiple hemorrhagic lesions from the ankles to the thigh. The diagnosis again was scurvy.

Symptoms of marginal scurvy are less pronounced. Patients may complain of fatigue, weakness, weight loss, increased irritability and vague muscle pains.

Dr. Johnson’s report doesn’t surprise me. Several years ago I interviewed Dr. Linus Pauling, a two-time winner of the Nobel Prize. He warned for years that North Americans suffered from marginal scurvy. Humans and gorillas, unlike other animals, cannot manufacture vitamin C. That’s why the ship’s cat survived long sea voyages and sailors died.

What interested me was Pauling’s belief that marginal scurvy can result in coronary attack. Vitamin C is required for the manufacture of collagen. Just as mortar holds bricks together, collagen is the glue that binds cells together. If the glue is faulty, cracks and rough edges occur in coronary arteries setting the stage for atherosclerosis.

Dr. William Stebhens, Professor of Pathology at Wellington University in New Zealand, says the same thing in a slightly different way. He points out that coronary arteries are under greater stress than other arteries since they are anatomically closer to the beating heart. Stebhens believes this constant pounding injures the arterial wall and triggers atherosclerosis. High cholesterol, he says, is not the primary culprit of heart attack.

Of course Pauling and Stebhens may be wrong. But their theories have always made sense to me. It seems logical that marginal scurvy could result in faulty, weakened collagen. Add to this the increased pressure on the artery from close proximity to the heart and cracks could appear in the mortar. Atherosclerosis results. That’s why I take high doses of C.

Also food for thought is why gorillas in captivity are given 5,000 mg of vitamin C daily. Yet the recommended dose for humans is a mere 60mg.

I’ve always been a believer in vitamin C. It’s a powerful antioxidant and fights the waste products of metabolism. This helps to decrease the risk of aging problems. For instance, several studies show that vitamin C has a major effect in decreasing the risk of cataracts and also helps to fight arthritis.

Since I’m of Scottish heritage I save money by purchasing ascorbic acid powder (vitamin C) from the pharmacy or health food store. Pauling died at 93 and told me he took 20,000 mg of C daily. These high doses can cause diarrhea so C is also a good laxative.

Remember this column simply offers another viewpoint on the cause of heart disease. I’m not suggesting that anyone take large doses of C. This is my opinion only and not intended to take the place of your own doctor’s advice.

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Dr. Gifford Jones  Bio
Dr. Gifford Jones Most recent columns

W. Gifford-Jones M.D is the pen name of Dr. Ken Walker graduate of The Harvard Medical School. He’s been a ship’s surgeon, hotel physician and family doctor and later trained in surgery at McGill in Montreal, University of Rochester N.Y. and Harvard. His medical column is published by 60 Canadian newspapers and several in the U.S. He is the author of seven books. Dr. Walker has a medical practice in Toronto. His Web site is: http://www.mydoctor.ca/gifford-jones



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