the cellular damages theory of aging (CDTA),
many of the symptoms of
aging are due to the long term cellular damage caused by free radicals.
The theory suggests that using antioxidants such as vitamins C, E, and
Beta Carotene may lessen the amount of free radical damage inflicted on
DNA and other cellular structures. Many believe that, over time,
cumulative free radical damage promotes diseases such as cancer, heart
disease,arthritis and accelerates the aging process.
Many vitamins and other supplements are antioxidants that can
potentially lessen the effects of free radical damage. What follows is
mostly about vitamin C but it is typical of what you will find
when researching any anti-ageing vitamin or supplement. All
anti-ageing supplements have pros and cons and have vocal
supporters and detractors. Opinions vary greatly and there is
scientific disagreement on many issues. You really need to evaluate all
sources of information before you can form your own "reasonable"
opinion. To get the
most from the material below visit and read
the supporting links as you go along. I state my non expert educated
(opinions) at the end of the discussion.
C (L-ascorbic acid) is an important anti-oxidant we
can only obtain through our diet and/or supplements. This essential
nutrient is needed for the growth and repair (including wound healing)
of all tissues. It promotes the body's production of collagen, a key
protein is found in skin, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, and blood
vessels. Vitamin C is used to directly treat
scurvy and may help with the infant disease Tyrosinemia.
Aside from scurvy, mild Vitamin C deficiency can have other serious negative effects.
A few (there are many more) of the documented positive health effects of Vitamin C include:
- reduces risk of cardiovascular disease (coronary heart disease, stroke etc.)
- reduces blood levels of the "bad" LDL Cholesterol
- lowers the risk of death from all causes (Ref 0)
- shortens the recovery time needed to get over the common cold
- lowers blood levels of C-reactive (CPR) protein (a marker for inflammation)
- reduces response to environmental triggers of Asthma
- has anti-viral activity against mononucleosis and other viruses
- may lower incidence of breast and stomach cancer
- lowers blood lead levels caused by cigarette smoke
- protects the eyes against macular degeneration
- decreases the toxic effects of chemo theraphy for cancer
- has a strong positive synergistic effect with many antibiotics
we eat can have potentially positive and/or
negative effects. Vitamin C is officially acknowledged to be a very safe nutrient when taken in
moderate amounts (less than 1 gram) and is totally non toxic even in
large (10 grams+) amounts.
Most people can adjust to increased Vitamin C intake without any
problems but in a few individuals
this can have negative effects (Ref 1) (Ref 2) (Ref 3).
Note that the first two "authoritative" sources
disagree about the effects of Vitamin C on high blood pressure,
stroke, cataracts, gout etc.
Negative effects of too much Vitamin C, such as abdominal cramps and diarrhea
can be minimized by taking a slow release form of Vitamin C or by
taking it in smaller doses several times a days with plenty of water
(Vitamin C is a strong diuretic). The sodium ascorbate and calcium
of Vitamin C are less irritating to the stomach. Do not take Iron
supplements and Vitamin C at the same time. Other
negative effects such as being allergic to Vitamin C (tip:
use a non corn based Vitamin C formulation), increased risk of
developing kidney stones (taking 100mg of vitamin B6 and a magnesium
supplement helps prevent this) and/or other kidney problems,
blood thinning medicines, interfering with various other
medications, and other possible effects are harder to overcome. Always check for possible Vitamin
C interactions when taking any medication (Ref 4).
Many specific medications and conditions (Thalassemia,
Hemochromatosis, sickle cell anemia, G6PD metabolic disorder) can be
adversely affected by too much Vitamin C. On the other hand only large
doses of Vitamin C are effective against viral infections and other conditions (Ref 5). Vitamin C is a fairly inexpensive product whose
possible negative effects can, for the most part, be easily
avoided or are managable. This implies that, when used with
care, Vitamin C's positive effects should be available to everyone.
Given the above considerations, one's daily Vitamin C dosage should be
determined on an individual basis. If you are healthy
you may be able to gradually increase the daily
amount of Vitamin C you use until you get to a level just a bit
lower than that which causes negative effects. For many
people this can translate to taking 2 or 3 grams of Vitamin C on a
daily basis. If negative effects are experienced simply reduce the
dosage to problem free levels. The official minimum daily requirement of
Vitamin C has been raised several times and is now (2016) at 90
milligrams . Many think this amount is much too low and are not shy in
dissatisfaction (Ref 6). The Vitamin C Foundation says the current recommended
minimum daily Vitamin C dosage
is too low for the promotion and maintenance of optimum health. They
strongly believe the vitamin has many health benefits and
recommend a daily intake of several grams. You need to evaluate the
yourself. History does suggest that the traditional medical community
as a whole can take years to accept new ideas. Does
Vitamin C have any proven anti-ageing
effects? Many Vitamins and minerals,
including Vitamin C, have anti-ageing properties in that they
have been statistically associated with longer than average cellular
telomere length. Renowned scientist, Dr. Linus Pauling, was a strong
advocate of Vitamin C and believed that supplementing with high
doses of Vitamin C and other
antioxidants could extend one's healthy lifespan 20 or more years.
There are studies that support the idea that Vitamin C has
anti-ageing effects and there are other studies that show it can help
with many of the symptoms of aging.
Studies on Vitamin C's positive effects on the symptoms of aging show:
Studies on Vitamin C's direct anti-ageing effect show:
- High concentrations of vitamin C may help slow down the development of
Alzheimer's disease. In mice Vitamin C can dissolve
amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease
- High concentrations of vitamin C and lysine can reverse atherosclerotic lesions in coronary arteries.
- Humans with Werner's syndrome (a genetic disorder) show signs of
accelerated ageing in their 20s. Many develop
age-related diseases and die before the age of 50. Werner's
syndrome in mice was completely reversed by taking Vitamin
C. Treated mice were as healthy as normal mice and lived a normal
lifespan. In this study Vitamin C showed no obvious benefits in
normal healthy mice (Ref 8).
study on moles shows Vitamin C's effects on longevity vary with the
specific species being studied. In some moles longevity was shortened while in some mice longevity was increased. Quoting from the study: "significant variation exists in the effects of antioxidants on oxidative damage and lifespan across species". This simply means it is not possible to extrapolate these results to humans.
Two "reasonable" conclusions I drew from all the above:
- Raising intracellular levels of Vitamin C slows telomere shortening (Ref 9)
- Vitamin C and other vitamins are associated with longer telomere lengths (Ref 10) (Ref 11) (Ref 12)
- Vitamin C increases the production of induced pluripotent stem cells by
inducing telomerase activity. Pluripotent stem cells can potentially change into
any type of cell in the body and help keep up the repair and maintenance of any body organ (Ref 13) (Ref 14) (Ref 15).
antioxidant dosage (for any antioxidant) can be difficult. Too
high a dose of any antioxidant can produce damaging oxidative stress that can negate any protective
effects against free radical damage. This would completely defeat its use
as an anti-ageing supplement. Too small a dose is ineffective while
too large a dose can be more harmful than beneficial. Optimum dosage is
somewhere in between and will vary with age. Young healthy
individuals probably require less supplemental
antioxidants than older individuals. Ideally one's
optimum dosage should be determined on an individual basis
via daily feedback we would get on antioxidant effectiveness from
easy to use biomarkers. Today this type of optimization is not
readily or widely available.
- Vitamin C and other Vitamins are helpful anti-ageing supplements.
- For maximum anti-ageing benefits the daily intake of Vitamin C probably should be increased well beyond the current 90
milligram minimum daily recommendation. A daily dose of 1 to 3
grams of Vitamin C may be high but not unreasonable because the body quickly eliminates excess amounts of Vitamin C.
If you want or need to take multiple antioxidants in an attempt to do
blanket antioxidant coverage, you will probably need to make educated
guesses on what antioxidants and
dosages are best for you. You may also need to work out a schedule for
taking these supplements that minimizes possible harmful interactions
with food, medicines, and other supplements. For most people simply
sticking to the basics should be sufficient.