Vitamin C on TV

By Guest Author 16/09/2010 11


needleBy Michael Edmonds

Last night 60 Minutes ran another piece on intravenous vitamin C, presenting several cases where high dosage intravenous vitamin C appears to have had phenomenal effects in treating severe illness. Now we all know that correlation is not causation and science isn’t based on anecdotes, but I suspect that many New Zealanders will soon be demanding such treatments for gravely ill family members. Given the possible groundswell of interest and the potential that lawyers will now be used to demand such treatments for their clients, perhaps it would be sensible to introduce trials to test vitamin C efficacy. If patients are going to force doctors to use high dosage intravenous vitamin C then at least it should be done under conditions that will allow its efficacy to be assessed once and for all.

In the usual mainstream media approach, seeking ’balance’, two expert proponents of vitamin C therapies were interviewed. I always find it interesting to do a little googling of such experts. Professor Ian Brighthope has impressive sounding credentials (as well as a wonderful surname) and has spent his career advocating nutritional solutions to many diseases. This is a very admirable approach as I believe that nutrition can have a key role in human health. However, several things in his online biography bothered me. First he has co-authored two books with the titles ’You can knock out AIDS with vitamin C and immune nutrients’ and ’The AIDS fighters’. While I will accept that nutrients play a key role in health, I am very wary of unsubstantiated claims that they can cure diseases such as AIDS. Professor Brighthope also appears to have commercial interests in a natural products company, which some may suggest introduces a degree of bias.

The second supporter of high dosage vitamin C therapies, Professor Avni Sali, of the National Institute for Integrative Medicine (NIIM) in Australia also appears to have an impressive medical background with a strong interest in what are often referred to as alternative medical treatments. The Wellness Centre associated with NIIM offers both intravenous vitamin therapies and intravenous chelation therapy — a treatment claimed to remove toxins and heavy metals from the blood. Chelation therapy is considered by many medical professionals to be of dubious value.

During the programme the suggestion was made by the proponents of vitamin C therapies that such therapies should be tested by medical professionals. However, given the fact that at least one of the experts seems to be regularly treating patients with high dosage vitamin C perhaps they should look at doing some research themselves, perhaps in collaboration with mainstream medical professionals? Normally in science if you want to demonstrate the efficacy of a medical treatment you do your own research, not challenge others to do the research for you.

While some scientists and medical professionals may suggest that it would be a waste of time to carry out studies on vitamin C, perhaps instead it could be looked upon as an opportunity to engage the public in medical science and teach them about research?

Michael Edmonds is an educator, researcher and manager at Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology. He has strong interests in the communication and promotion of science.



11 Responses to “Vitamin C on TV”

  • Hmmm, intravenous chelation therapy – one would want to know just what the chelating agent is. This is a potentially risky procedure & it can kill (http://oracknows.blogspot.com/2005/08/sadly-it-was-only-matter-of-time.html), If the chelator is EDTA, it can pull calcium ions out of the patient’s plasma & cytoplasm, & this if not properly managed can among other things cause heart arrhythmia.

    And yes, I agree – those using these therapies should surely be doing the research on their efficacy. If the treatments are as good as they say then they should be able to present data to support this (data =/= anecdote or testimonial).

  • Thanks for alerting us to this.

    This would explain the small run on my previous Vitamin C article last night. I wondered why it was suddenly getting attention several weeks on!

    The show is available on-line (NZ viewers only). You’ll want to start at 15:20 into the presentation to skip the previous segment: http://bit.ly/dz1R3H

    When I find time I’ll view this and add my thoughts. (I don’t want to critique something I haven’t seen. I might present this as a separate blog post if I have more than a few words to say.)

    I agree with Alison’s remarks re EDTA.

  • Is there a legal prerequisite you have to meet before you can call yourself a professor in New Zealand? Or is it just a job title — if you can find someone willing to employ you as a “professor”, then you are one?

    [Incidentally, I can’t suppress the thought that “chelation therapy” should involve turtles somehow..]

  • Grant – I don’t like the way that piece you linked to associates the swine flu + possible leukemia diagnosis + Vit.C. Someone reading it could gain the impression that the high-dose VitC cleared up the leukemia as well. In the apparent absence of a firm initial diagnosis of leukemia, that’s a bit shaky (to say the least).

  • Leave your comment here…
    One of those ‘experts’ also stated that flu deaths were caused by Vitamin C deficiency. This struck me as pretty unlikely (and also very easy to test). One of the symptoms of Vitamin C deficiency is the infamous disease known as scurvy. So people with acute flu should also have scurvy. (Unless, of course, flu somehow suppresses the expression of the symptoms, but that seems unlikely).
    The notion that great numbers of people have been dying of influenza without doctors and medical researchers apparently noticing scurvy symptoms is, to say the least, hard to believe.

  • There appears to be some published research that shows that vitamin C levels drop in the blood when is suffering from the flu. The assumption is that vitamin C must be involved in fighting off the virus, so therefore needs to be replaced. The question is, do you need high dosages to do this? And is this a correlation or a causation relationship?

    From a previous post by Harri Hemila

    “The level of vitamin C in plasma decreases during various viral and bacterial infections, which gives a rationale for testing the therapeutic effects of vitamin C for patients with infections [6]. Controlled trials have found benefit of vitamin C against pneumonia [1] and the common cold [7]. It is clear that the effects of vitamin C are not restricted to preventing scurvy, although the significance of the non-scurvy effects is unsettled.

    1] Vitamin C for preventing and treating pneumonia (Cochrane Review) http://www2.cochrane.org/reviews/en/ab005532.html
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7814237
    [[6] Vitamin C metabolism during infections http://www.ltdk.helsinki.fi/users/hemila/metabolism/
    [7] Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold (Cochrane Review)”

    It looks like the Sunday programme this weekend will have yet another story on high dosage vitamin C, in this case I think it involves cancer treatments.

  • Leave your comment here…
    I’m have no difficulty accepting that VitC levels drop during many kinds of illnesses. But that doctor (I forget his name) was making the extraordinary claim that flu deaths were CAUSED by VitC DEFICIENCY.
    If that was so you’d expect not only to find these people showing symptoms of scurvy, but also that tests on the dead would show zero or extremely low levels of VitC. Not just reduced levels.
    It’s the old story: if flu was so easily cured by megadoses of VitC we wouldn’t first be hearing it from a fringe source. It would have been discovered by medical researchers years ago.
    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof – more than bland assertion.
    Incidentally, I recently learned that humans are among the very few mammals that can’t synthesise VitC. This sounds like another good argument against intelligent design!

  • today I began intravenous vitamin c treatment, what really jerks my chain is the New Zealand medical profession’s apparent blindness to alternate therapies. I go to a doctor for a check up and he simply says take an aspirin a day for the rest of your life, gee, all that training. I guess the old adage that doctors simply practice medicine is true. I have a doctor who practices all therapies and is open to all ideas and especially to MY input. A patient knows their own body better than any doctor. my treatment is to eliminate high levels of lead, mercury and arsenic but no old lace 🙂 it is going to be interesting to see the progress. i am open to all aspects of life, the medical and scientific professions, in my not so humble opinion, tend to be somewhat closed and it is a brave practitioner who challenges the status quo. I will report back on my progress.