Letter from Dr. Janson
What is the Truth about Vitamin C?
More Support for Prostate Cancer
In the Health News
Recipe of the Month: Vegetarian Bean Paté
I see a persistent pattern of negative reports about dietary
supplements in the media, usually based on incomplete or defective
studies, or reports that are irrelevant to the way supplements
are used and the mechanisms by which they have their effects.
The recent study on vitamin C perhaps causing DNA abnormalities
is another example. Every media report I have seen suggested
that vitamin C is a two-edged sword when it comes
While vitamin C is an antioxidant, in certain conditions
(when it is oxidized) it can become an oxidant. This was shown
in an in vitro (test tube) study that was heavily reported
in the media. Sensational headlines read: Vitamin C
Can Damage DNA, Lab Study Finds Vitamin C Dangers,
and Vitamin C Found to Promote Cancer-Causing Agents.
Such reports might make you think twice about taking vitamin
Concluding from this study that vitamin C is dangerous
is unwarranted. In almost every clinical study (real people,
real conditions, as opposed to test tubes), higher vitamin
C intake is associated with better health and lower mortality
from all causes. Specific benefits of vitamin C, from food
and supplements, range from protection from cataracts and
macular degeneration, reduction of arterial disease, whether
in the legs, the heart, or the brain, less inflammation, and
decreased angina (heart pain due to arterial constriction),
to a decreased risk of gastric (and other) cancer.
In addition, a study in volunteers showed that vitamin C
could protect the stomach lining from the damaging effects
of aspirin. Typically, aspirin and the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory
drugs can cause stomach ulcers and bleeding, and these are
among leading serious side effects of such drugs, causing
many deaths per year. Researchers gave almost 1000 mg daily
of vitamin C, and found that the erosions they could see with
a gastroscope were markedly decreased, suggesting that the
side effect is due to free-radical damage, and that vitamin
C is therapeutic. Other studies have shown that vitamin C
(and vitamin E) supplements are protective against brain degeneration.
It preserves cognitive function in those subjects without
dementia, and reduces vascular dementia by 88 percent. The
longer the men used the supplements, the greater the effect,
so dont wait for conservative scientists and the media
to give you permissionto supplement.
Even in other in vitro studies, vitamin C shows real benefits.
For example, vitamin C and B12 can decrease cancer cell growth
in tissue culture. High levels of vitamin C alone or with
other antioxidants are toxic to cancer cells, and it protects
heart muscle cells against oxidation. Do not make health decisions
on sensational media reports that belittle the benefits of
Studies abound on the benefits of a high intake of
vitamin C, whether from fruits and vegetables or from supplements.
Researchers in California studied 994 women, of whom 277 took
regular vitamin supplements including vitamin C ranging from
100 to 5000 mg daily. The average intake among these women
was 745 mg.
In this study the average duration of taking vitamin C was
over 12 years, and over 85 percent of the women took the vitamin
C for at least three years. What they found was better bone
density with higher vitamin C intake.
The women taking vitamin C with estrogen had even better
bone density, and those taking additional calcium had an even
better result. In fact, they found a three percent higher
bone density when vitamin C was considered independently of
the other variables.
Vitamin C is known to be necessary for collagen formation,
and collagen is the connective tissue at the foundation of
bone formation. It also appears to stimulate bone forming
cells called osteoblasts.
In supplementing for bone preservation and increasing bone
density, I recommend other supplements in addition to vitamin
C and calcium. Ipriflavone, an isoflavone similar to those
found in soybeans, helps to build bone density, and natural
progesterone helps even more than estrogen.
Other minerals that play a role in bone formation include
magnesium, manganese, and boron, so I usually recommend a
multiple vitamin-mineral complex with good amounts of each
Another study showed that higher vitamin C intake could
reduce gall bladder disease by 35 to 40 percent. Vitamin C
affects bile acid production, which may be its mechanism of
reducing gall bladder symptoms and stones.
In addition to vitamin C, a low-fat, mostly vegetarian diet
can also help, as can adding supplements of the amino acid
taurine. I often recommend adding 1000 mg of taurine twice
Higher vitamin C levels are also associated with lower blood
lead levels. Recent information shows that lead, even in low
levels, is not safe, especially for children. Maintaining
high levels of vitamin C is important for detoxification among
its many other benefits. Other nutrition that helps to lower
lead levels comes from a high fiber diet, and dietary and
supplemental sources of zinc, vitamin D, and calcium. A high
tofu intake lowers lead levels, possibly because it is rich
High vitamin C is also associated with better lipid profiles.
It increases the level of the good HDL-cholesterol, while
lowering the total. In reviews such as these, the blood levels
are composed of vitamin C from food and supplements. Because
so many Americans take supplements of vitamin C, it has to
be presumed that the higher blood levels are to some extent
related to those supplements.
The fact is, so much research suggests the value of keeping
your vitamin C level high, that it is irresponsible for news
media and scientists to caution against supplements based
on flawed studies. These warnings will lead to poorer nutritional
status and increases in serious diseases.
The quality of herbal products available from different sources
can vary quite a bit. Researchers took 25 different ginseng
products from health food stores, and analyzed them for active
compounds. (It is only recently that western medicine accepted
that herbs even contain active components.) In some brands,
the known active principles were quite different from what
was listed on the label, and ranged in these tests from 15
to 200-fold (more than minor natural variation).
Of course, the marker compounds that they studied may not
be the only active substances in the herbs, but it does suggest
that you have to be careful to buy products from a reliable
source. The compounds analyzed were ginsenosides and eleutherosides,
thought to be responsible for the ginseng activity of Panax
(American and Asian) species and Eleutherococcus (Siberian
None of the products were adulterated, so they were safe,
but some contained more than the label claim and some less
(whether it was significantly less is not clear). My recommendation
is to always buy standardized herbs when they are available,
whether it is for ginseng or other products. Many standardized
herbs are now being sold. They have all of the components
of regular herbs, plus known levels of active compounds.
Ginseng is known as an adaptogen, able to help
cope with physical and emotional stress. They all appear to
help the adrenal glands. Siberian ginseng helps stamina and
immune function, while American is more relaxing and sedative.
The Asian ginseng (also called Korean) helps energy and has
a mild stimulant effect.
At least one of the components of tofu is valuable
in slowing the growth of prostate cancer. A team of researchers
in California tested genistein in mice with prostate cancer
and found that it slowed the growth of the tumors. They also
tested it in tissue cultures and found that it inhibited the
growth of tumor cells.
Genistein is an isoflavone with antioxidant properties and
phytoestrogen activity to help reduce the risk of breast and
other cancers, control menopausal symptoms, and protect against
osteoporosis. Tofu also decreases the risk of lung cancer.
Adding a variety of soy foods to your diet will contribute
isoflavones (which can also be taken as supplements). Tofu
can be cut into chunks and added to stir-fried vegetables,
or crumbled to use instead of cheese in lasagna with whole
wheat pasta . I also like a marinated baked tofu such as Tofu-Lin,
by SoyBoy, which I dice in salads, or slice for a sandwich
with lettuce and tomato.
Tempeh is an Indonesian soyfood, made from whole soybeans.
It is cultured with a mold much the way cheese is made, and
it has a distinctive taste. It can be sautéed or marinated,
and many ready-made patties are available grilled with lemon-pepper
or barbecue flavors to be used in sandwiches as a veggie-burger.
I make a dessert with equal amounts of frozen bananas and
silken tofu in a food processor, adding a little
vanilla and maple syrup or honey, and garnished with crushed
almonds. You can use soymilk in cerealsjust be careful
to choose the ones with the least sugar such as the plain
varieties in the milk-carton shaped containers.
It is interesting that when the author of the study on prostate
cancer presented his findings, he was quoted as saying, it
might be used in an adjuvant fashion to make radiation therapy
more effective and ultimately as a chemopreventive agent.
But that is a long way off.
ell, I have news for himit is already being used as
part of effective alternative treatments, combined with saw
palmetto and other herbs and supplements.
The effects of genistein are enhanced by an extract
of shiitake, a mushroom long used for its health benefits.
A derivative of shiitake, beta-1,3 glucan or lentinan,
is an immune enhancing substance that can support the treatment
of immune deficiency and cancer. Beta-1,3 glucan prolongs
the life of cancer patients. One report showed that patients
with advanced, metastatic prostate cancer given lentinan in
addition to their other therapy had a 35 to 50 percent improvement
in longevity compared to the control group. The five year
survival was 43 versus 29 percent.
In The Lancet, a British medical publication, the Editor
accused the FDA of having too close ties with the drug industry,
and not doing an adequate job of regulating drugs. He said
This story reveals... the extent to which the FDA, its
Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) in particular,
has become the servant of industry. The editorial related
to approval of Lotronex, a drug for irritable bowel syndrome,
that caused some deaths from ischemic colitis. Irritable bowel
syndrome may be debilitating in some cases, but it is not
fatal. The FDA scientists who had expressed concerns about
safety were ignored. Other natural treatments are often effective,
using dietary change, L-glutamine supplements, and essential
fatty acids, along with acidophilus and other intestinal support.
Horton R, Lotronex and FDA, Lancet 2001 May 19;357(9268);
A group of researchers has discovered
that if you eat like early manthe diet from evolutionary
timesyou can reduce your risk of disease. Jenkins DJ,
et al., Effect of a very-high-fiber vegetable, fruit, and
nut diet on serum lipids and colonic function. Metabolism
The diet they studied was very high in fruits, vegetables,
and nuts, as well as fiber. In fact, it had about four times
as much fiber as even the current USDA recommended increase.
The diet also had no meat, cheese, or butter. This diet lowered
cholesterol within one week, and the LDL cholesterol went
down by 33 percent. The researchers said that gathering greens
and fruits played a much larger role than hunting small animals,
and this diet reduces the risk of heart disease and colon
cancer. These benefits were far greater than from the Heart
Association diet and even better than the Mediterranean diet.
This is a quick snack (once it is cooked) that I make as
a spread for whole grain bread or chips. Sauté some
minced onions, garlic, mushrooms, carrots, parsley, and herbs,
especially thyme, basil, cumin, fresh coriander, soy sauce,
and pepper, until well done. Add some toasted whole grain
bread crumbs (about equal to half the onions), and put the
mixture in a food processor with an equal amount of cooked
navy beans. When the mix is a smooth, pasty texture, turn
it into a baking loaf dish coated with a thin layer of olive
oil. Bake it at 400 degrees covered with foil for 20 minutes,
and then uncover and bake until the top is brown, about another
10 to 20 minutes and let it cool. I freeze the extra and take
it with me on trips or for quick lunches with some lettuce
and tomato or a salad.
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