Atherosclerosis: scurvy in disguise:Heart health naturally

* Take large doses of vitamin C. Linus Pauling believed what he called ‘chronic scurvy’ can be prevented with 3 g/day of vitamin C. Subsequent research has shown that dosage is important. Tests demonstrate that 3 g/day of vitamin C as a one-off dose reaches peak levels in the bloodstream four hours later, then gradually falls to original (baseline) levels over the next 20 hours. So, dividing the dose into three lots taken throughout the day may be valuable, as 1 g peaks only just below the four hours that 3 g do. Tests also demonstrate that 200 mg/day barely raises blood vitamin-C levels at all (Ann Intern Med, 2004; 140: 533-7).

* Take lysine daily. Pauling also recommended 1-2 g/day of this vital amino acid, which helps to prevent cholesterol from sticking to artery walls.

* Add other antioxidants. Ideally, vitamins A (800-200 IU) and E (20,000-40,000 IU) should be added to the daily cocktail. Raise these amounts by 50 per cent if you have a family history of heart attack or stroke (Pauling L. How to Live Longer and Feel Better. New York: W.H. Freeman, 1986).

* Include coenzyme Q10. People with atherosclerosis tend to have low levels of this powerful antioxidant. The suggested dosage is 100-300 mg/day.

* Don’t forget omega-3 fish oils, such as cod liver oil. These have been shown to slow the progression of atherosclerosis (Lipids, 2001; 36 [Suppl]: S99-102). The suggested dosage is 1.5 g/day.

* Avoid processed foods. There is ample evidence that high glycaemic-index foods, which rapidly convert to sugar, contribute to the risk for atherosclerosis and high blood cholesterol (Curr Atheroscler Rep, 2002, 4: 454-61).

* Take between 1.25-18 g/day of vitamin C. The evidence suggests that doses above that will have no effect.

Pauling recommended up to 18 g/day of vitamin C, taken in two doses. Since his death, the optimal dose has been established as 18 g/day divided into six doses. That appears to produce the maximum levels of the vitamin (about 220 mmol/L) that the bloodstream can carry. However, almost the same blood levels can be achieved by taking 10 g/day, divided into four doses (Ann Intern Med, 2004; 140: 533-7).

* Add other vitamins to support arterial walls. In addition to the nutrients recommended for prevention, Pauling’s collaborator, Dr Matthias Rath, also recommends that heart-disease patients take vitamin D and folic acid to reduce homocysteine levels (high levels of which are a risk factor for heart disease), plus copper, chondroitin and Pycnogenol (French maritime pine-tree-bark extract, a powerful antioxidant) as extra nutrients for the artery walls (Rath M. Why Animals Don’t Get Heart Attacks – But People Do. MR Publishing, 1998).

* Consider chelation if nutritional therapy fails. Although usually used to rid the body of toxic metals, chelation is another non-invasive treatment for heart disease that is claimed to clear arteries through the use of intravenous nutrients, including vitamin C. However, the clinical value of the technique is controversial, with some studies showing positive effects in atherosclerosis, but others not (BMC Cardiovasc Disord, 2005; 5: 32).

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