The Vitamin C Hangover



Linus Pauling, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, is ranked in a list of the 20 greatest scientists of all time by the British magazine New Scientist, along with Albert Einstein and Newton. His previous insights about the structure of DNA led to its discovery by Watson and Crick. He is considered a founding father of quantum chemistry and molecular biology. Anticipating over 50 years ago the dangers of air pollution from automobile exhaust, he even built an early electric car!


In his late 60’s, Pauling, influenced by the biochemist, Irwin Stone, began taking vitamin C in huge doses, 1000mg.-3000mg every day to prevent and abort colds. Excited by the results, he published “Vitamin C and the Common Cold” in 1970. He then began a long collaboration with the British cancer surgeon, Ewan Cameron in 1971 on the use of vitamin C as cancer therapy for terminal patients. Cameron and Pauling wrote a popular book, “Cancer and Vitamin C.” Pauling’s work on vitamin C generated controversy and was quickly regarded by some adversaries in the field of medicine as outright quackery. Three prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled trials were conducted at the Mayo Clinic; all three failed to prove a benefit for megadoses of vitamin C in cancer patients. Further studies during the following decades convincingly showed that megadoses of vitamin C did not prevent or abort colds, and did nothing for cancer.

With overwhelming medical evidence to the contrary, millions of people still believe in vitamin C, to the tune of hundreds of million dollars in yearly sales. Despite the recommended daily allowance by the Government of 75mg-90 mg./day for adults, (it used to be 30mg./day) enormous numbers of Americans think nothing of dosing themselves with 1,000mg-5,000mg. a day for the treatment of colds. Some cancer patients still believe in the vitamin. Googling vitamin C gets you 40.6 million hits. For starters there’s a Vitamin C Foundation, a pop singer Vitamin C, and in 2000 Mattel released a Vitamin C Doll.

Vitamin C is plentiful in a wide variety of foods, not only fruits and vegetables, but in meats, and many cereal products. It is largely destroyed by cooking; on the other hand it is not stored by the body. Most people tolerate large doses of vitamin C without difficulty, However, overdosing with over 1,000 mg. of Vitamin C can cause nausea, cramps, and diarrhea, and reduce absorption of vitamin B-12, and even cause iron overload. A recent report blames a worsening of osteoarthritis on large doses of vitamin C. Chronic megadoses of vitamin C in some patients may enhance the development of (oxalate) kidney stones.

Spend your health dollar as you will, but if you’re taking excessive doses note that over 95% or more of ingested vitamin C is excreted in the urine in 24 hours. This is literally a way to flush away your money.




9 Responses to “The Vitamin C Hangover”

  1. Joel M. Kauffman says:

    Linus Pauling’s greatest contribution to science was more likely to have been his findings on chemical bonding based on bond lengths from spectral data. His book “The Nature of the Chemical Bond” (1948) is still well worth reading.

    The bowel tolerance of vitamin C in most people is not 1g, but 5-15 g/day. Now there are slow-release tablets (8 hour) that allow more steady levels of C taken orally with no danger of peaks.

    The Mayo Clinic did NOT disprove the utility of vitamin C for cancer. Dr. Sturman’s failure to note that the C had to be intravenous repeats the ignorance of a great many physicians on the topic, including those at the Mayo Climic. For a complete story of the battles on this issue in treating cancers, see my book “Malignant Medical Myths” 2006, pp244-246.

  2. admin says:

    Thanks for your comments, Dr. Kauffman. I politely disagree with some of your points, in particular regarding the Mayo studies, and the suggested safety of doses of vitamin C in the 5-15g/day, but promise to re-read your remarks in your interesting book, “Malignant Medical Myths.”

  3. Vicki T says:

    “Here is a Nobel prize winning biochemist (Pauling) and here are fifteen doctors from the world’s leading something, or other and one tells me yes and the other tells me no, and how the hell am I going to decide?” I’ll tell you how, I’m taking my Vit C.

  4. K.F. Daly says:

    Why not consider heavy doses of vitamin C from the positive side? Instead of warning that megadoses will cause diarrhea, learn that the best way to treat constipation is to dose with non-bufferred C. Also, doses larger than 1000mg. are easy to accustom the body to, if you increase slowly. Bufferred C doesn’t even require slow acceleration. And the idea that because of spilling in the urine vitamin C is ‘wasted” has, according to what I’ve read, long been disproved.

    There are many myths in your website presentation, many half-truths.

  5. admin says:

    You’re entitled to your opinion, K.F., about acclimating the body to heavy doses of Vitamin C, but this has little to do with the supposed value of these megadoses. As to vitamin C coming out in the urine, I have performed biochemical analyses of urinary vitamin C excretion, and can confirm from my lab experiences, that the more C you take in, the more goes down the drain.

  6. Lynn Ehrle says:

    The FDA has approved a clinical trial for intravelous Vit C at 50 grams a day )one g per minute), four days a week for four weeks. Its approval was based on three cases of advanced cancer with total remissions. The trial is being conducted under the auspices of the Cancer Treatment Centers of America.

  7. Frank says:

    Decades lack of mainstream tests in significant quantities of vitamin C for viral and cancer treatments, say 30-100 grams per day intravenous, and / or ingested to bowel tolerance, say 50 – 200 grams per day, divided hourly, taken orally, with some additional vitamins and minerals, suggests several possible deficiencies and biases in our institutions, be they government, NGO, or medicine. Many negative sound bytes badly misstate anything most people, and doctors, think they know about the macrodose vitamin area.

    Even the original intravenous macrodose vitamin C exponent, Dr Fred Klenner, his clinical observations published starting 1948, still allowed that most people would be looking for an additional tumor cidal agent in addition to his high vitamins and C use. Abram Hoffer’s high vitamin and mineral uses are *complementary* therapy, including an inital *start target* of 12,000 mg oral vitamin C per day. Since then much exploratory work has been done to develop better formulations that defy many illiterate preconceptions that one sees continually trotted out in the media and pharmaceutical rags.

    “Mainstream tests” of “huge doses” of vitamin at 1000 – 3000 mg once per day are frankly considered laughable by anyone who has genuinely, and competently, experimented with Robert Cathcart’s protocol. They probably chucked down 5 to 10 *grams* in the first minute, and then followed it by another heavy load 15-30 minutes later, several times, until reaching a “bowel tolerance” maintenance level, perhaps 5 – 12 grams per hour, if they were *severely* ill.

    1-3 grams per day vs 50 – 300 grams vitamin C per day, to “bowel tolerance,” are night and day differences that amaze some for their oversight rather than insight. Pouring 20 – 50 cents down the drain when you fighting for your life is a laugh, especially since many expensive, toxic drugs already pollute our water systems.

    I suspect successful oncologists of the future should learn enough about complementary uses to not “lose” their patients’ *attention* and to keep their customers, alive.

  8. LNC says:

    Would like to see the report that says Vit C worsens osteoarthritis (particularly, who funded it). I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis about 10 years ago. I started taking Vit C about 9 months ago, slowly increased dosage, and have been at 6 grams a day for at least 6 months. I felt the difference after the first few months: I don’t hurt anymore. I can do more and move faster without all the accompanying aches and pains and stiffness to slow me down, and am more limber than I have been in years! Vit C works for me.

  9. admin says:

    Vitamin C has been claimed to be effective, not only in colds, cancer, heart disease, and arthritis, but also in SARS, bird flu, and stroke, among other conditions. The most controversial role of Vit. C in the management of AIDS, “is still unresolved, more than 16 years after the landmark study published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences (USA)…Other studies expanded on those results, but still, no large scale trials have yet been conducted.”

    In fact, the few large scale controlled studies performed on Vit. C in these conditions, particularly cancer and colds, have failed to prove effectiveness. See

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