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Tapping the C-ynergies

Sushmi Dey

While everyone is aware of the fact that Vitamin C deficiency leads to scurvy and other degenerative diseases, many are not very sure of the exact role of the vitamin in the body. Research is still on and the scientific community is yet to reach a consensus on the utility and benefits of the vitamin. However, it is fizzy story when it comes to the therapeutic benefits and utility of ascorbic acid.

Therapeutic benefits

Being an antioxidant, Vitamin C is able to inactivate toxic oxygen free radicals, which are responsible for cardiac problems and cancer. These free radicals damage lipid membranes and proteins present in human body. “Our body produces oxidants or free radicals which cause damage to organs like body tissue and connective tissue. It also damages the heart and results in cardiac problems,” explains Dr S Chatterjee, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicines, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals. In the form of food supplement, Vitamin C also helps in the production of other antioxidants and vitamins.

Doctors say that Vitamin C could possibly have a protective effect against cancers of stomach, other stomach disorders, oesophagus (food pipe), oral cavity and pharynx. But again, the intake of the vitamin is recommended from dietary sources. Doctors say that fruits and vegetables contain Vitamin C, which might contribute to cancer prevention. Vitamin C reportedly boosts the immune system function when fighting infection and illness. It is also believed by some researchers that due to its importance to the development of the immune system cells, Vitamin C is crucial as a first line of defence against mutated cells from ever multiplying into overt cancer.

Vitamin C in cancer

Though there are many preliminary researches going on, which suggest that Vitamin C may improve the survival of cancer patients, there is lack of hardcore research to support the use of Vitamin C in cancer treatments. According to Dr Chatterjee, most of these reports are either anecdotal reports or uncontrolled case series and therefore, the results are suggestive but not conclusive. “Vitamin C ‘might’ have protected a few patients from cancer but then it has not been proven completely,” he asserts. He further states that there has been anecdotal reports, where higher doses, even more than two grams of Vitamin C, have been used but yet, it cannot be said that it has a positive effect on cancer.

There is another line of thought, which says that high concentrations of Vitamin C have undesirable effects. The role of Vitamin C is that of an antioxidant, but it may also interfere with chemotherapy and radiation, leaving cancerous cells alive. As far as the dosage is concerned, doctors suggest that more than two grams is considered toxic. Intoxication can in turn result in diseases like diarrhea. High doses of Vitamin C are also suspected to form kidney stones.