Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is an antioxidant and a substance used in
manufacturing neurotransmitters and nerve cells. Vitamin C has Probably
gotten its greatest boost to fame from Dr. Linus Pauling, who claims it
can prevent the common cold. However, it does much more-so much, in fact,
that Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw regard vitamin C as a kind of miracle
drug. Dr. Ross Pelton, author of Mind Foods and Smart Pills, supports
Vitamin C stimulates the immune system, enabling one to better resist diseases. Terminal cancer patients taking megadoses of vitamin C live longer. It promotes faster wound healing and reduces the amount of cholesterol in the blood. It is a powerful detoxifier and protects against the destructive power of many pollutants. In addition, it protects against heart and blood diseases, reduces anxiety, promotes sleep, and is a natural antihistamine.
We are dependent on vitamin C from outside sources, because the body can't manufacture it. A severe deficiency causes scurvy, and eventually death. Mann points out in Secrets of Life Extension that although only a little vitamin C is needed to prevent scurvy, much more is needed for optimal health. The RDA of vitamin C is 45 mg. each day, which is just enough to Prevent scurvy. Mann points out that research by the Committee on Animal Nutrition shows that a monkey needs 55 mg. of vitamin C per kilogram of body weight. When this measure is extrapolated to humans, a 150-pound person would need 3,850 mg. of vitamin C each day. Mann blasts the attitude of the medical establishment that sets its standards at the minimum level needed to prevent deficiency.
Most importantly for the subject of this book, vitamin C is a key player in the better-brain sweepstakes. It increases mental alertness and functioning in a variety of ways.
Vitamin C is the main antioxidant that circulates in the blood When available in sufficient quantity, blood carries it around the body, washing over the cells to create a bath of protection. Like a martyr for a good cause, whenever a free radical turns up, a molecule of vitamin C gives up one of its own electrons to render the free radical ineffective, like a soldier neutralizing an enemy. According to Pelton, the battle between vitamin C and free radicals goes on repeatedly, maybe more than 100,000 or a million times a second, depending on the body's level of metabolism and the amount of vitamin C. The higher the metabolism rate and the more vitamin C, the more pitched the battle and the more radicals destroyed. Unfortunately, with each radical decimated, a molecule of vitamin C is lost, so the body rapidly loses its supply of vitamin C. But it's for a good cause, for with each C molecule lost, a cell is saved.
This process works, because the vitamin C operates like a kind of pump that Dr. Pelton calls the "vitamin-C pump" to clean up the cerebrospinal fluids surrounding the brain and spinal cord. The central nervous system has more unsaturated fats than any other organ in the body, making it more vulnerable to attack by free radicals and oxidation. The vitamin-C pump removes vitamin C from the blood as it circulates to increase the amount of vitamin C in the cerebrospinal fluid ten times. The pump then takes the concentrated vitamin C from the cerebrospinal fluid, and concentrates it tenfold again in the nerve cells around the brain and spinal cord. Pelton says that the vitamin-C bath that protects the brain and spinal cord cells has more than a hundred times as much vitamin C as the other normal body fluids. Like an attacking army the concentrated vitamin C goes after the free radicals threatening to damage nerve cells. The result is akin to a blood bath -- though perhaps it's more appropriate to describe this as a "vitamin-C bath" -- in which the vitamin-C soldiers lay down their lives for each free radical destroyed in their attack.
Vitamin C protects against the damaging effects of toxins consumed during smoking and drinking, including nicotine, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and nitric acid gas, cadmium, acetaldehaye, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, and N-nitroso compounds. Research has demonstrated that vitamin C destroys toxic substances, much in the same way that it combats the free radicals. A molecule of vitamin C gives up the ghost each time a toxic molecule bites the dust. Because this battle against toxins reduces the level of vitamin C, smokers and alcohol drinkers normally have much lower amounts of vitamin C in their blood serum than do those who don't smoke or drink. If you drink or smoke too much, taking extra vitamin C will help protect you from the damaging effects of the toxins associated with your indulgences, including the kind of muddled and confused thinking that can come from drinking too much.
Another important benefit of vitamin C is its contribution to the proper production and release of several important neurotransmitters in the brain, including dopamine and norepinephrine (also referred to collectively as catecholamine production and release).
Research has shown that vitamin C increases mental thinking ability and intelligence. For example, it was learned that geriatric patients in a British hospital who were experiencing mental confusion didn't have enough vitamin C. When given vitamin-C supplements, they improved dramatically. In another study, students with higher vitamin-C levels scored, on the average, five points higher on I.Q. tests than did students with lower levels of vitamin C. When the students with the low vitamin-C levels were given vitamin-C supplements, their average I.Q. scores went up almost four points, showing the power of vitamin C to improve intelligence.
Green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, kale, brussel sprouts, cabbage, collards, and mustard greens have high vitamin-C content. Other sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, pineapples, mangoes, and papaya. Nonetheless, research indicates that most people don't get enough vitamin C from diet alone. Generally, health practitioners concerned about nutrition recommend about 1,000 to 3,000 mg. per day of vitamin C, but most Americans get only about 50 mg. a day. Thus, supplements are usually recommended for the best health and protection from the potential damages to neurotransmitters by free radicals. Mann claims that very high doses of vitamin C can prolong life, delay wrinkling, ward off senility, and prolong youthful vigor.
Supplements are available in a variety of forms. Most common are regular and timed-release tablets. Vitamin C is also available in chewable tablets and powder form. The advantage of using the bulk powder is the inexpensive price. However, the powder is difficult to store, because when exposed to air, the ascorbic acid oxidizes to form a toxic substance called dehydroascorbate. Thus, it's important to mix powdered vitamin C fresh each time.
People with sensitive stomachs can have problems taking vitamin C in pills, which dissolve slowly while concentrating acid in the stomach. Powdered vitamin C can be a good alternative. It can be used as a lemon or vinegar substitute, and sprinkled on fish, vegetables, and salads. Or it can be dissolved in a glass of water to make a thirst quenching drink.
Vitamin C is available in a variety of preparations. Ascorbic acid, the acidic form, is the most common. Less acidic preparations, calcium ascorbate and sodium ascorbate, are also available. The fat-soluble form of vitamin C, ascorbyl palmitate, is more effective than water-soluble forms as an antioxidant in preventing the peroxidation of lipids and in protecting the heart, brain, and central nervous system from free radicals, Like many other vitamins, vitamin C is available in both natural and synthetic forms. According to Pelton, with the exception of vitamin E, most synthetic vitamins are as effective as the natural ones, and they are cheaper.
Researchers have found that a group of compounds called rutins and bioflavonoids or vitamin P are produced along with vitamin C in nature and increase the effectiveness of vitamin C. Taking the two substances together is generally recommended.
Vitamin C is considered to be very safe, even when taken in high doses of 1,000 to 3,000 mg. daily, which is well above the government RDA of 45 to 60 mg. daily. Vitamin C is safe even in very high doses of 10,000 mg. In fact, vitamin C encourages the production of other enzymes that use vitamin C; so the body can use the extra vitamin C that becomes available. Beyond a certain point, taking extra vitamin C probably won't make much difference in body or mental functioning.
Signs of vitamin C deficiency are bleeding gums and easy bruising. Fatigue, mental sluggishness, depression, low resistance to flus and colds, and slow healing may also signal a deficiency.
Signs of vitamin C saturation include gastritis, gas, and diarrhea, and are relatively minor. These are temporary and can be controlled by reducing the dosage. People taking vitamin C in large doses regularly and who wish to stop should do so gradually over a week or two. Stopping abruptly can lead to lowered resistance until the body adjusts to the lower amounts of vitamin C available.