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June 06, 2003

Vitamin C could be effective against SARS

The Toronto Star reported on 30 May 2003 that Vitamin C administered intravenously in large doses could hold the key to saving the lives of people who are hospitalized for SARS infection.

Toronto physician Fred Hui believes that administering vitamin C intravenously is a treatment worth trying.

The advantages: It's cheap, available and relatively free of side effects.

The disadvantages: Nobody knows if it works.

Nevertheless, Hui would like to see people who are quarantined taking vitamin C in high doses.

Read the article in the Toronto Star, but also check out an earlier post by Chris Gupta

May. 30, 2003. 01:00 AM
Vitamin C touted to fight virus
Proponents say huge doses could counter SARS

Recommended levels too low, says Toronto doctor


Could high doses of vitamin C be an effective treatment for SARS?

Toronto physician Fred Hui believes that administering vitamin C intravenously is a treatment worth trying.

The advantages: It's cheap, available and relatively free of side effects.

The disadvantages: Nobody knows if it works.

Nevertheless, Hui would like to see people who are quarantined taking vitamin C in high doses.

And he'd like to see people admitted to hospital for the pneumonia-like virus treated with the vitamin intravenously while also receiving the usual drugs for SARS.

Hui earned his M.D. at the University of Toronto in 1979, and has since studied traditional Chinese medicine in Beijing.

"I appeal to hospitals to try this for people who already have SARS," says Hui. "I urge people who have come into contact with someone who has SARS to try it."

Members of the public would also do well to build up their levels of vitamin C, he says.

Vitamin C is underused in orthodox medicine, Hui believes. He says it hasn't been supported by research and promotion because it can't be patented.

Hungarian biochemist Albert Szent-Gyorgyi first isolated vitamin C in 1928, and later won a Nobel prize for his discoveries.

American physician Linus Pauling, two-time Nobel prize winner, studied the vitamin's importance to the immune system and suggested in 1970 that people taking higher doses than those officially recommended could prevent the common cold, or shorten its duration. The medical establishment reacted with strong opposition to his ideas, but the public was more receptive.

Vitamin C is a powerful natural antioxidant, an important ingredient for the synthesis of collagen, and essential for the production of white blood cells, antibodies and other disease-fighting elements. During illness, the body's vitamin C levels are depleted.

Because SARS is a virus, Hui says, the effects of vitamin C should improve the body's defences against it. And since it has a low cost, is universally accessible, and is easily tolerated by the body, there is nothing to lose in trying it as a treatment for SARS.

Vitamin C is water soluble, he notes, so the body excretes any excess and no toxicity accumulates. No dose of vitamin C high enough to be toxic has yet been discovered.

"This is one of the most harmless substances there is," Hui states. "There used to be concern about kidney stones, but that was theoretical. It was never borne out in an actual case."

The doses needed to be effective vary from individual to individual, he says, noting that smokers, elderly people, diabetics, chronic drinkers and people who are ill or are in high stress situations need higher doses. Pollution also increases the amount of vitamin C needed.

Hui says he believes everyone could benefit from at least one gram a day of vitamin C, and more for most people. The recommended daily allowance ˜ the level needed to keep from getting scurvy ˜ is 75 mg for adult men and 90 mg for women.

Hui says he routinely takes six grams of vitamin C a day, spread throughout the day. He also recommends high doses to relatives, friends and patients.

When someone takes a dose higher than the individual's body needs, Hui says, the digestive system reacts by producing loose stools or diarrhoea. He recommends that people increase the dose until they experience loose stools, and then cut their vitamin C intake back by one measure to find the exact dose most useful to them at that time.

One possible nuisance side effect, particularly for those with sensitive stomachs, Hui warns, is an acidic stomach. To avoid this, he recommends taking the vitamin C with food, or taking it in a form buffered with minerals. Buffered vitamin C is available in tablets, capsules, or granules that can be mixed in a glass of water of juice.

The amounts of vitamin C Hui recommends are too high to be taken in food.

David Jenkins, professor of medicine and nutritional science at the University of Toronto and a physician at St. Michael's Hospital, says he hadn't heard of using high-dose vitamin C to fight SARS, but he finds the idea intriguing since some studies have found the vitamin effective with the common cold.

"The common cold is a coronavirus, and SARS is a coronavirus so they are the same viral type," he observes. "In the absence of a vaccine, this sounds like an interesting approach."

Jenkins doubts that the whole medical establishment will greet the idea with enthusiasm. "Many of my colleagues grumble even about following Linus Pauling up to 10 grams a day," he says. "They're worried about the acid load. And anyone who takes high doses of vitamin C and stops cold turkey can become deficient, even with normal intake. A gradual cutback is okay."

He says he's never heard of anyone taking doses as high as 100 or more grams a day as recommended by some proponents of the use of vitamin C for people with active SARS.

"That could lead to torrential diarrhoea," he warns. "Anyone who tries this should only do it under medical supervision, and should use caution.'

Jenkins says he wouldn't automatically throw cold water on the idea and his own position is one of cautious interest. "This is new stuff for many of us," he adds. "That's an awful lot of C."

Humans are one of the few animal species, like other primates and guinea pigs, whose bodies can't produce their own vitamin C, so need to get it through diet.

Hui says he has found intravenous vitamin C effective in his medical practice with patients who have viral illnesses.

"For people with infectious mononucleosis, instead of letting them take six months to recover, I give them a vitamin C drip and they recover within days," he says.

"When a patient comes in with a bacterial infection, that calls for antibiotics. When the signs point to a virus, I recommend pumping up the oral vitamin C. A low dose just doesn't have the right mechanisms to be effective. A high dose of vitamin C produces hydrogen peroxide, which kills germs."

When Hui started speaking out about the benefits of high doses of vitamin C, he soon heard from the outspoken California physician Robert Cathcart, one of the leading authorities on the clinical use of this vitamin. Cathcart maintains that when vitamin C isn't widely effective in cases of viral infections like SARS, it is because doses are not high enough.

"I can tell you that SARS will be cured by massive doses of intravenous sodium ascorbate (vitamin C)," he declares on his Web site. "What is not getting across, for whatever reason, is that the amount of intravenous sodium ascorbate necessary to take out SARS is truly massive, like perhaps 120 to 180 grams a day or more .... Let us not fool around with phony low doses that will not work."

He complains that some people refer to doses such as four grams as megadoses. "For these purposes, four grams is ridiculously inadequate."

Hui says it's the right time for hospitals, quarantined people, and anyone concerned by the present public health situation, to try high dose vitamin C.

"This may be the key to winning the fight against SARS," he says.

See also:

Drug could block Sars infection

Vitamin C, Infectious Diseases, and Toxins: Curing the Incurable, by Thomas E. Levy, M.D., J.D.


posted by Sepp Hasslberger on Friday June 6 2003
updated on Saturday December 4 2010

URL of this article:


Related Articles

An Open Challenge To The Ridiculous Dietary Allowance (RDA)
Drs Steve Hickey and Hilary Roberts have for a limited time made the their new book: "Ridiculous Dietary Allowance" free (until Jan. 15th 2005) so more people can read it and understand, what travesty the RDA limits are. In the pretense of improving our health these guidelines actually damage it. This book will help educate us all so we can put pressure on the establishment and their Codex deliberations. Which... [read more]
December 15, 2004 - Chris Gupta

Vitamin C and SARS
Dear Dr. Hui, It was refreshing to learn about your support for a much safer treatment for SARS at your web site: You might be interested in some correspondence that was generated on several non drug treatments (once used successfully) that I originally sent to the Toronto, and other, medical communities. Unbelievably, this initiative was greeted with complete silence. Suspect nothing will happen until we hold these pretentious medical... [read more]
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The Negative Impact of Sugar on Vitamin C
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..."Millions of people could have delayed or avoided health problems such as cataracts, cancer, blood vessel disease, aneurysms, gall stones and more had NIH researchers properly conducted tests to determine the human need for vitamin C.... ....Despite recently published data that stands in stark contrast to the RDA and the claim that mega-dose vitamin C supplementation is of no benefit, public health authorities are not forthcoming about their past mistakes."...... [read more]
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As usual the self proclaimed (more like self serving) mainstream authorities are so deathly afraid of vitamin C that they continue to disseminate all sorts of rubbish on it. Not realizing how stupid they look to anyone who even knows a smidgen about this king of vitamins should laugh at their ineptness of the most basic understanding let alone their authority on it. WHAT A JOKE! Sadly this is not... [read more]
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In their book "Ascorbate - The Science of Vitamin C", Steve Hickey PhD and Hilary Roberts PhD point out that deficiency of vitamin C is far more widespread than is generally acknowledged by medical doctors and dieticians today. The two scientists, specialized in medical biophysics and nutrition, have challenged the scientific basis of the recommended daily amounts for this vitamin with medical authorities including the NIH - the National Institutes... [read more]
July 09, 2004 - Sepp Hasslberger




Readers' Comments

For further comments see Vitamin C and SARS:

Posted by: Chris Gupta on June 9, 2003 05:44 PM


Knowledge of Health, Inc.
457 West Allen Avenue #117 San Dimas, Ca. 91773 USA
Phone: 909 596-9507 Fax: 909 596-9189 Email:


With newly published research reports showing that higher concentrations of vitamin C can be achieved in the blood plasma than previously thought possible, antioxidant researchers have penned their names to a plea for a scientific re-evaluation of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin C.

A dozen prominent antioxidant researchers, authors, and clinicians say the prevalent belief that 200 milligrams of oral vitamin C, an amount that can be obtained by eating five servings of selected fresh fruits and vegetables, can saturate the blood plasma and additional amounts are excreted in the urine, has now been disproved. Two recently published papers indicate that blood plasma levels of ascorbic acid can be raised three times greater than a flawed 1996 study indicates. One of the published studies shows that blood plasma concentrations of vitamin C continue to rise with a single 1000 milligrams dose of supplemental vitamin C.  

Drs. Steve Hickey and Hilary Roberts, pharmacology graduates of the University of Manchester in England assert the initial studies used to determine the blood plasma saturation point for vitamin C failed to calculate for the half life of this vitamin. In their newly published book, Drs. Hickey and Roberts show that the original calculations used to establish the RDA were performed 12 hours, or 24 half lives, after oral consumption of vitamin C and are therefore invalid. (Ascorbate: The Science of Vitamin C, 264 pages, referenced, ebook:

In addition to Drs. Hickey and Roberts, the list of researchers calling for a re-evaluation of the RDA for vitamin C includes: Thomas E. Levy MD, JD, author of Vitamin C, Infectious Diseases, and Toxins: Curing the Incurable (Philadelphia, PA: Xlibris Corporation; 2002); Robert F. Cathcart III, MD, a practicing physician and advocate of high oral-dose vitamin C therapy; Richard Passwater PhD, antioxidant researcher and author of Supernutrition; Patrick Holford, London, author of the Optimum Nutrition Bible; Dr Archie Kalokerinos, M.D., Graduate Sydney University, Australia, author of Vitamin C: Nature's Miraculous Healing Missile; Joel M. Kaufman, PhD, Professor of Chemistry Emeritus, University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, special interest in medicinal chemistry; Professor Ian Brighthope, Managing Director, Nutrition Care Pharmaceuticals Pty Ltd, Australia; Hugh D. Riordan, M.D., Director - Bio-Communications Research Institute, Wichita, Kansas; and Abram Hoffer, M.D., PhD., F.R.C.P., a practicing physician, advocate of nutritional medicine and editor of the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine. 

The written plea was sent to the Institutes of Medicine, Food & Nutrition Board, which establishes the Recommended Dietary Allowances for essential nutrients. ####


August 23, 2004

Linda D. Meyers, PhD
Director, Food & Nutrition Board
Institute of Medicine
500 Fifth Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
Tel: 202.334.3153 Fax: 202.334.1412

Catherine Woteki, PhD
Chair, Food & Nutrtion Board
Dean and Director
Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition
Iowa State Univ., College of Agriculture
138 Curtiss Hall
Ames, Iowa 50011
Phone: 515 294-2518  
Fax: 515 294-6800

Paul M. Coates, PhD
Office of Dietary Supplements
National Institutes of Health
Suite 3B01, MSC 7517
6100 Executive Boulevard
Bethesda, Maryland 20892-7517
Fax: 301 480-1845

Senator Thomas Harkin
Attention to: Peter Reinecke,
Chief of staff
731 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: (202) 224-3254
Fax: (202) 224-9369


As health professionals who have been involved in vitamin C research, it has recently come to our attention that higher blood plasma concentrations of vitamin C can be achieved through oral intake than previously thought possible. This scientific revelation has ramifications upon the current Recommended Dietary Allowance for vitamin C and personal health regimens for consumers. It is apparent the current published advice, that the blood plasma concentration for vitamin C is saturated at 200 milligrams oral consumption, must be revised. Furthermore, it is apparent the RDA for vitamin C needs immediate re-evaluation. We urge the scientific community and other responsible health authorities to take timely action to correct misinformation concerning oral dosing of vitamin C and to join an effort to re-evaluate the RDA for vitamin C.


Steve Hickey Ph.D., Metropolitan University of Manchester, England. Co-author, Ascorbate, The Science of Vitamin C,, 2004. ISBN 1-4116-0724-4 Telephone from USA: 011 44 161 962 5495

Hilary Roberts, Ph.D., graduate University of Manchester, England. Co-author, Ascorbate, The Science of Vitamin C,, 2004. ISBN 1-4116-0724-4

Professor Ian Brighthope, Managing Director, Nutrition Care Pharmaceuticals Pty Ltd, 25 - 27 Keysborough Avenue, Keysborough Victoria 3173 Australia, Phone: +613 9769 0811, Fax: +613 9769 0822

Robert F. Cathcart III, M.D., advocate of high-dose vitamin C therapy; 127 Second Street, Suite 4, Los Altos, California 94022; Telephone: 650-949-2822; FAX: 650-949-5083

Abram Hoffer, M.D., PhD., F.R.C.P. ; Editor-in-chief of the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine; Suite 3 - 2727 Quadra St ; Victoria, British Columbia V8T 4E5 Canada; Telephone: 250-386-8756; Fax 604-386-5828; email:

Patrick Holford, London, founder of the Institute for Optimum Nutrition (ION) and the Brain Bio Centre; author of The Optimum Nutrition Bible, Tel: +44 (0)20 8871 2949 ex 22, Fax: +44 (0)20 8874 5003; Website:

Dr Archie Kalokerinos, M.D., Graduate Sydney University. He is a Life Fellow of the Royal Society for Health, a Fellow of the International Academy of Preventive Medicine, Fellow of the Australasian College of Biomedical Scientists, and a Member of the New York Academy of Sciences. He has authored Vitamin C: Nature's Miraculous Healing Missile (1993). Currently he is semi-retired, living in Tamworth, New South Wales. Address: 20 Kennedy Close, Cooranbong, Australia, NSW 2265; Telephone: 61 2 4977 2957; Email:

Joel M. Kauffman, PhD, Professor of Chemistry Emeritus, University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, Emeritus Professor of organic chemistry, MIT. Special interest in medicinal chemistry. 65 Meadowbrook Rd. Wayne, PA 19087-2510. Telephone: 215- 596-8839. Email:

Thomas Edward Levy, M.D., J.D., Tulane University School of Medicine, 1972-76-M.D.; Fellowship in Cardiology, 1979-81, Tulane Univ. Affiliated Hospitals; author, Vitamin C, Infectious Diseases, and Toxins: Curing the Incurable, Philadelphia, PA: Xlibris Corporation; 2002. Telephone: 800-331-2303, 719-548-1600; Fax 719 572-8081 or email to

Dr. Richard A. Passwater, Ph.D., antioxidant researcher, author "Supernutrition," Berlin, Maryland. Email: Telephone: 410-641-7411.

Hugh D. Riordan, M.D., President - The Center for the Improvement of Human Functioning Int'l, Inc., Director - Bio-Communications Research Institute, 3100 North Hillside Avenue, Wichita, KS 67219 U.S.A., Phone: 316-682-3100, Fax: 316-682-5054, e-mail:, website:

Andrew W. Saul, PhD, Contributing Editor, Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine, Number 8 Van Buren Street, Holley, New York 14470 USA. Email:


Padayatty SJ, Sun H, Wang Y, Riordan HD, Hewitt SM, Katz A, Wesley RA, Levine M., Vitamin C pharmacokinetics: implications for oral and intravenous use, Annals Internal Medicine, April 6, 140: 533-37, 2004. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the National Cancer Institut, and the Clinical Center, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland
20892-1372, USA.

BACKGROUND: Vitamin C at high concentrations is toxic to cancer cells in vitro. Early clinical studies of vitamin C in patients with terminal cancer suggested clinical benefit, but 2 double-blind, placebo-controlled trials showed none. However, these studies used different routes of administration.
OBJECTIVE: To determine whether plasma vitamin C concentrations vary substantially with the route of administration.
DESIGN: Dose concentration studies and pharmacokinetic modeling.
SETTING: Academic medical center.
PARTICIPANTS: 17 healthy hospitalized volunteers. MEASUREMENTS: Vitamin C plasma and urine concentrations were measured after administration of oral and intravenous doses at a dose range of 0.015 to 1.25 g, and plasma concentrations were calculated for a dose range of 1 to 100 g.
RESULTS: Peak plasma vitamin C concentrations were higher after administration of intravenous doses than after administration of oral doses (P smaller than 0.001), and the difference increased according to dose. Vitamin C at a dose of 1.25 g administered orally produced mean (+/-sd) peak plasma concentrations of 134.8 +/- 20.6 micromol/L compared with 885 +/- 201.2 micromol/L for intravenous administration. For the maximum tolerated oral dose of 3 g every 4 hours, pharmacokinetic modeling predicted peak plasma vitamin C concentrations of 220 micromol/L and 13 400 micromol/L for a 50-g intravenous dose. Peak predicted urine concentrations of vitamin C from intravenous administration were 140-fold higher than those from maximum oral doses.
LIMITATIONS: Patient data are not available to confirm pharmacokinetic modeling at high doses and in patients with cancer.
CONCLUSIONS: Oral vitamin C produces plasma concentrations that are tightly controlled. Only intravenous administration of vitamin C produces high plasma and urine concentrations that might have antitumor activity. Because efficacy of vitamin C treatment cannot be judged from clinical trials that use only oral dosing, the role of vitamin C in cancer treatment should be reevaluated.

Polidori MC, Mecocci P, Levine M, Frei B., Short-term and long-term vitamin C supplementation in humans dose-dependently increases the resistance of plasma to ex vivo lipid peroxidation, Archives Biochemistry Biophysics, March 423: 109-15, 2004. Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology I, Heinrich-Heine University, Duesseldorf, Germany.

To assess the effects of short-term and long-term vitamin C supplementation in humans on plasma antioxidant status and resistance to oxidative stress, plasma was obtained from 20 individuals before and 2h after oral administration of 2g of vitamin C, or from eight subjects enrolled in a vitamin C depletion-repletion study using increasing daily doses of vitamin C from 30 to 2500 mg. Plasma concentrations of ascorbate, but not other physiological antioxidants, increased significantly after short-term supplementation, and increased progressively in the long-term study with increasing vitamin C doses of up to 1000 mg/day. Upon incubation of plasma with a free radical initiator, ascorbate concentrations were positively correlated with the lag phase preceding detectable lipid peroxidation. We conclude that vitamin C supplementation in humans dose-dependently increases plasma ascorbate concentrations and, thus, the resistance of plasma to lipid peroxidation ex vivo. Plasma and body saturation with vitamin C in humans appears desirable to maximize antioxidant protection and lower risk of oxidative damage.

Posted by: Sepp on August 25, 2004 06:10 PM


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