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Dogs Don't Lie: Vitamin C is Man's Best Friend

--by Kevin Kolodziejski

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Confused about supplementing your diet with vitamin C? You should be. The debate has gone back and forth more times than your local gym's Health Rider.

After decades of being told that all necessary vitamins could be obtained through a balanced diet, mainstream America was slow to accept Dr. Linus Carl Pauling's research that megadoses of vitamin C staved off the common cold. Yet by 1978, many had--until Dr. David Reuben wrote Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Vitamins. The bestseller mocked Pauling's claim and all vitamin supplementation.

Reuben alleged the only thing vitamin supplementation produced was expensive urine, and vitamin takers became weirdoes again. In 1982, however, Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw co-authored Life Extension. This bestseller maintained that megadoses of all the antioxidants, including vitamin C, were crucial to a healthy and lengthy life. That quickly, America started popping vitamins again.

But in 1994, the New England Journal of Medicine published a Finnish study that suggested antioxidants "may actually have harmful as well as beneficial effects" and the backlash began again. Subsequently, Newsweek ran a glowing cover story on the newly discovered, cancer-preventing phytochemicals. While the magazine's exaltations were not designed to disparage vitamins, many interpreted the findings that way.

Whom to Believe?

So whom should you believe when it comes to taking, or not taking, vitamin C?

Pauling? Reuben? Pearson? The New England Journal of Medicine?

No. A friend. Man's best friend. The dog. But why trust a dog over doctors and researchers?

Because dogs don't lie. They can't be taught to disguise a limp or understand the concept of the placebo effect. Dogs don't have an agenda. They don't experiment with vitamin C in the hope of proving or disproving its efficacy. And because both recent anecdotal and double-blind research has shown that vitamin C supplementation has allowed lame hunting dogs to run and hunt again.

How Vitamin C Kept Doggies from Death Row

Canine hip dysplasia occurs when a dog's femur no longer rests in the ball-and-socket joint of the hip. This genetic and degenerative disease common to many breeds of hunting dogs was traditionally treated in one of two ways: expensive hip replacement surgery or pet euthanasia. Since the malady was inherited more often than not, breeding a dog with CHD was out of the question. Until Wendell Bellfield, a veterinarian in San Jose, California, experimented with vitamin C supplementation.

According to Larry Mueller, the Hunting Dogs Editor of Outdoor Life, Bellfield gave vitamin C throughout pregnancy and lactation to bitches who had CHD, had mates with CHD, and who had previously whelped pups with the disease. None of the pups in the eight litters developed the disease.

After this experiment, numerous vets and breeders began giving vitamin C to dogs who already had CHD. The success rate - and the ease in which the disease was rendered powerless - astounded them while the precise way in which the vitamin C worked baffled them. Even though the cured dogs ran pain free, X-rays still revealed hip dysplasia and the severe arthritis that it produced.

Despite the evidence, the medical community was not impressed until a double-blind crossover study performed by veterinarian L. Phillips Brown proved what many dog lovers already knew: crush a 1000 mg tablet of vitamin C in with Lucky's lunch and he loses his limp. Brown's research also revealed an additional fact: a specific type of vitamin C, Ester-C, was more effective than traditional ascorbic acid.

What the Canine Cure Means to You

The implications of vitamin C supplementation curing CHD are staggering. Dogs -- along with every other animal besides apes, bats, guinea pigs, and humans -- produce vitamin C naturally at a far greater rate than we can ingest it. In fact, a 154-pound human needs 10 grams of vitamin C per day to keep pace with the natural production of larger animals. Furthermore, animals produce additional amounts of C in times of stress.

Yet dogs benefited from an additional vitamin C supplement. Could you benefit from the same? The answer becomes apparent when you consider that the FDA's Recommended Daily Allowance is six hundredths of a gram, 167 times less than what a large animal naturally produces on an uneventful day!

Besides an occasional upset stomach or diarrhea if you take a megadose of ascorbic acid on an empty stomach, little else can go wrong if you increase your vitamin C supplementation. For those who want vitamin C's benefits, but don't want to take a single milligram extra, do what the dog breeders do with their dogs. Increase your dosage of C until your stool loosens. From that point, cut back the amount of C by a half-gram until the stool firms again. Breeders believe that this is the vitamin C saturation point.

What Increased Amounts of Vitamin C Can Do for You

Besides Pauling's claim that megadoses of C can shorten and sometimes prevent colds, Pearson has suggested that extra C helps in the following ways:
  • Reduces serum cholesterol and deposits of lipids in the arteries
  • Fights viral infections
  • Prohibits the formation of some carcinogens and stimulates your system to aid in the battle against cancer
  • Aids in the recovery from heart attacks
  • Reduces the incidence of blood clots
So follow your dog's example and take your Vitamin C!

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