Saturday, February 10, 2007

Heart Disease, Colds, Burns, and Damaged Skin – Vitamin Supplements Are Safe and Effective

Scientific and clinical evidence has now proven that high doses of vitamins are a safe and effective treatment for the following four conditions:

• heart disease
• colds
• burns
• damaged skin

In each case the prescribed doses of vitamin are high. The prescribed doses can’t be obtained by eating food. Food is not enough.

Niacin is prescribed by cardiologists in order to control blood cholesterol level. 2000 to 3000 mg/day of niacin is the only treatment proven to both raise good cholesterol (HDL) and lower bad cholesterol (LDL). An undefined but significant fraction of heart disease patients achieve the full benefits of niacin treatment without any side effects. A typical diet contains 20 to 40 mg/day of niacin. The levels used to treat high LDL cholesterol are therefore almost 100 times higher than the doses readily obtained from food.

Two to ten g/day of vitamin C is prescribed by physicians for colds. At least 29 controlled clinical trials (many double-blind and placebo-controlled) involving a total of over 11,000 participants have been conducted. These trials were reviewed in the 1990's and again recently. The trials show that vitamin C reduces the duration and severity of colds but not the frequency. The data indicate that there is a normal dose-response relationship. Vitamin C is more effective the higher the dose. The data also indicate that vitamin C is more effective treating children. Reports from physicians have provided ample clinical confirmation. Interviewing 10 Americans with post graduate educations is usually sufficient to find one who takes 5 g per day or more of vitamin C to ward off a cold. A typical diet contains 100 to 300 mg/day of vitamin C. The levels needed to effectively reduce the duration and severity of colds are 10 to 100 times the amounts readily obtained from food.

Extraordinary doses of vitamin C are used to treat burns. The recommended dose is close to 100 g/day injected intravenously supplemented by a topical application of a 3 wt% vitamin C solution. This vitamin treatment has received little attention, and is unfortunately not yet standard practice. The reported work, both scientific studies on animal models and clinical trials with patients, is consistent and conclusive. I expect it receives so little attention because it is unusual to suffer from a serious burn injury.

Vitamin A is prescribed by dermatologists to repair skin damaged by the sun. Wrinkles and pigmentation are examples of damage caused by the sun. Combining vitamin A with vitamins C and E has been shown to improve the effectiveness of vitamin A for this health problem. The skin ordinarily obtains these vitamins from the bloodstream. The levels of vitamins in the blood are not high enough to achieve the desired skin repair. Dermatologists achieve the high levels of vitamin A needed in skin tissue by providing patients with skin cream containing a high concentration of vitamin A. The prescribed doses of vitamin A in skin tissue can’t be achieved by eating an ordinary diet, and probably can’t be achieved by eating any kind of diet, no matter how enriched in vitamin A.

The debate about usefulness of vitamin supplements is over. Vitamin supplements are useful.

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