Do Vitamins Work?

A.Marchant marchaa at
Fri Feb 17 00:44:16 EST 1995

A few random things relating to this:

"I'm curious about something...I just started taking a multi-vitamin
every day.  It is supplemented with Zinc, Calcium, and Magnesium.
My question is, do vitamins really do anything?  I mean would I notice
any difference after taking them for a week? A month? At all?

Thanks in advance for any input!

Linda Engelman lindae at netcom.COM"

I am curious about this also.  I became heavily enamoured with ascorbic
acid after reading "Vitamin C against disease" by Irving Stone, which
championed the stuff, and Linus Pauling's ideas about it.  
One of the most compelling arguments was this:  1) most mammals can make
their own ascorbate, and do so as a response to stress, and in amounts
proportional to the severity of that stress;  2) humans (and other
anthropoid apes, and guinea pigs, and as I later discovered, fruit bats)
have lost their ability to do this, apparently because of a mutation in an
enzyme in the synthetic pathway;  3) natural selection let this mutation
get through at the time, because when we were up the trees, we were
getting quite enough from fruit;  4) now we're down on the ground, eating
Big Macs instead, so we need to supplement our diets with ascorbic acid. 
And not just from an orange a day - calculating from other animals which
make their own, we need in the order of grams, or even tens of grams.

Well, I had my teaspoon a day for several years, and still had the
occasional cold - one of my sceptical colleagues countered my enthusing
about ascorbic acid with the painfully true observation that I wasn't
noticably healthier than other people.  I stopped taking these amounts
several months ago, and I haven't got measurably sicker.  A major cause of
my losing of faith was, of course, the news of the death of Pauling.

So, questions:  what is the current state of research results among
ascorbic acid believers?  Is there anything substantially new regarding
its effects on viral diseases or cancer or anything else?  I have not
heard of research from the last ten years or so.  However, I read a book
(I forget the reference, but can find it if anyone is interested)
published in about 1988, about an AIDS clinic in Melbourne which was
treating patients with massive amounts of ascorbate, via intravenous drip.
It is curious that, appart from this book, I have not heard anything else
about it - if there was even the merest suggestion of a cure for AIDS, it
would be big news (and I don't think that the argument "the big drug
companies couldn't get any profits from it, and so they wouldn't do the
research, or would suppress research" holds up - terminally ill people
will try anything that might fix them, themselves - laterile, dextran
sulphate, etc, which are much harder to get hold of than ascorbate).

Something else - an experimental suggestion:  we now have the technology to do
the genetic manipulations necessary to fix the busted enzyme.  The guinea
pig is just the thing for this - if we made an ascorbate+ gp, what
advantages would it have over the wild type?  I'm sure other people must
have thought of this.

Finally - to those who think that this discussion is in-appropriate for
bionet.molbio.methds-reagnts:  it is a question about biochemicals, and
their experimental use ("how long do I have to wait to see a result?"), in
vivo.  But, to show that I'm broad-minded, here's something for the
test-tube boffins:  does ascorbate have a use as a buffer in any molecular
genetic methods?  I thought its anti-oxidant properties may be useful in
buffering phenol (but its pKs might be too far out - they are 4.17 and 11.57).
Adam Marchant.

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