“I feel a cold coming on, and I’m wondering, should I take vitamin C or should I just leave Seattle?” – Caller, Frasier


He vants to drink your blaaad, but only if enriched with yummy vitamin C!

There was the time I almost killed myself through a simple experiment.

I had heard that having a high pH body (basic) was better than having a low pH body (acidic).  I decided to test this to see how it would work out.  Rather than do (as a normal person would) research, I decided to jump right in and purchased some antacid.

I took the antacid.

Going back to basic high school chemistry, what do you get when you mix an acid and a base?  Water and a salt.

I know that they say salt is fine for you.  It certainly is, when you haven’t just ingested something like three cups of it.  My body swelled up, and I’m fairly certain my blood pressure was sufficient to keep blood flowing from the tip of my toes to the top of my head if I were standing on a neutron star.

Wilder Fact:  Neutron Stars are very, very dense.  Not stupid dense as in “she’s so dense,” but heavy-dense.  A neutron star has a density of 7×1014 g/cm3.  Water has a density of 1 g/cm3, which shows you just how stupid the metric system is, since all I know is only that a neutron star is really, really heavy.  If I stood on one, I would be a tiny, thin, puddle of Wilder.  But if I took enough antacid, I could keep my blood flowing!

The Mrs. shook her head.  Life with me is like that, one large experiment.  She notes, correctly, that the difference between science and messing around is writing stuff down.  What do you think I’m doing now?  Yes, I’m writing it down.  Hence, science!

Anyway, I resolved to do many fewer potentially stroke-causing experiments with my life.

One thing that has recently caught my attention is vitamin C.  Vitamin C is, of course, the reason that the British are called Limeys.  The British Navy, enduring long sea voyages, would come down with scurvy based upon their diets consisting solely of rats and rum (I may be making some of this up).  Scurvy is not fun.  Gums bleed.  People die.  In fact, over 300,000 sailors (I am not making that up) died of scurvy in the 1700s.  1,500 sailros died in combat.  Maybe that’s why they drank the rum?

Some enterprising Scottish British Navy Surgeon decided that the cure would be switching from rum to Scotch.  He was fired, but James Lind, another (and real this time) Scottish British Navy Surgeon got 12 men to come down with scurvy on purpose, and gave two of them citrus fruits.  They got better, and also proved that the British diet will kill you more often than a Frenchman will.

After this, the British Navy supplied its sailors with citrus fruit (seeing as this was a much better alternative to them being all dead), and therefore kept their navy at float for years at a time, and allowed Admiral Nelson (more posts on him in the future) to keep the French navy in port.  So, yes, science works.

But Lind was dead for decades before they put his cure into motion.

What’s the deal with vitamin C?

Every animal produces it, except for gorillas, fruit bats, guinea pigs, and . . . (drumroll) humans.  And most animals make more vitamin C per pound than the recommended daily allowance, by far.

Linus Pauling, somewhere around winning his second unshared Nobel Prize©, came to the conclusion that vitamin C was the solution to most of our health problems.  Whereas the FDA thinks you need a tiny wisp of vitamin C, Linus felt that you could treat vitamin C like a sorority girl treats Diet Coke©.  Eat it all the time.  Inject it in your nose.  Have a bath in it.  Put it in your gas tank.  Wait . . . DON’T put it in your gas tank.  Think of the fuel injectors, man!

But, in Pauling’s thought, we people certainly weren’t getting enough.

Pauling’s first thesis is that vitamin C is used in the creation of the stuff that keeps your blood vessels together – collagen.  He thought that cholesterol deposits were the body’s way of putting duct tape on the inside of you so you didn’t bleed internally.  A better solution would be to make the stuff that actually fixes your circulatory system available to actually fix it.

It also appears that you can take a truly amazing amount of vitamin C and not die.

“The mechanism of death from such doses (1.2% of body weight, or 0.84 kg for a 70 kg human) is unknown, but may be more mechanical than chemical.”  – Wikipedia

Another way to think of that would be to have Wile E. Coyote drop an anvil made of vitamin C on the Roadrunner.  But, in this case, it’s radioactive vitamin C, so the Roadrunner turns into SpiderHulkRoadrunner.  Big, and green, and all spider-like, it’s probably more dangerous than a 300 mile tall Bill Gates!

Okay, that’s probably not true, I’m still more afraid of the giant Bill Gates.  But it does show that it takes eating nearly two pounds of vitamin C at a single sitting to kill you.  But no one knows why, but they think it might occur based on damage done to you while forcing it down your throat.  Strangely, sometimes science begins to look like a Quentin Tarantino picture.

The Mrs. and I came to our current experiments with vitamin C through different channels.  She was listening to quacks on the radio, I was listening to quacks on the Internet (specifically a trial that show that vitamin C in conjunction with chemotherapy was very effective against cancer).

Her radio quacks said to take one gram for every 25 pounds of body weight.  My Internet quacks said take vitamin C somewhere between 6 grams a day and 18 grams a day.  18 grams a day is a LOT of vitamin C, but, unless someone is tamping it down my throat with a broom handle, Science says it probably won’t hurt me.

I have seen, again and again, the scientific establishment change cues and opinions on fundamental ideas in my lifetime.  Carbs?  Great!  Carbs?  Tool of Satan.  Carbs?  Great!  Carbs?  Probably not good for you.

John Belushi knew.  Cigarettes and Carbs in the year 2132 will be all the rage.

And it continues.  Eggs?  Great!  Eggs?  YOU WILL DIE IF YOU LOOK AT THEM.  Eggs?  Have a dozen.

It’s enough to make you crazy.

And that’s why I began to focus on vitamin C.  At least from everything I’ve read, it can’t hurt you.  And it might help you.  After dealing with a doctor, Pauling added lysine to his recommendations.  Oh, and the doctor was dying.  Here’s a link that discusses it.  Blah blah blah heart, blah blah blah not dying.


But Pauling died of cancer.  So doesn’t that make him a stupid poopy-head with two Nobel™ prizes?  (And he nearly beat Watson and Crick to the double helix shape of DNA, which would have bagged him a third.)

Pauling died of prostate cancer, which, statistically, every man who lives past 70 will get.  And he was in his 90’s.  He’s smarter than me with my single Nobel© prize for blogging.   What can listening to him hurt?

So, now, I’m taking vitamin C.  In much more than the recommended daily alliance.  And, since The Mrs. isn’t tamping it down my throat with a broom handle, it probably won’t kill me.

And, vitamin C is cheap.  And I’m cheap, so that works.

I’ll let you know how it works out after I get my next Nobel® prize.  In the mean time?  I’m avoiding antacid.

As can be shown in the story above, I am a horrible choice to emulate for health advice.  Talk to a real doctor.   

Author: John

Nobel-Prize Winning, MacArthur Genius Grant Near Recipient writing to you regularly about Fitness, Wealth, and Wisdom - How to be happy and how to be healthy. Oh, and rich.

2 thoughts on ““I feel a cold coming on, and I’m wondering, should I take vitamin C or should I just leave Seattle?” – Caller, Frasier”

  1. John

    I had a scare with excessive vitamin C as a kid. Wasn’t a diet or anything, I just decided that all I liked eating was citrus fruit. You know how it is, some kids only like chicken or french fries or gummy bears; I wanted oranges. I combined this with not using the bathrooms at school. Imagine, an hour bus ride to school, 8 hours or school and another hour home. Something in my urine crystallized in my bladder then these sharp crystals came out when I peed. It was the exact same experience as kidney stones but at 10 years old.

    I think a high vitamin c diet needs to be combined with adequate hydration and frequent urination


Comments are closed.