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From the Townsend Letter
October 2007


The Vitamin Wars
by Owen R Fonorow and Damir Zucic

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"So whenever some naive journalist may get the idea to write something on an important anniversary related to Linus Pauling, a bomb is detonated in some reputable medical journal to distract attention from his work and life!" – Damir Zucic, PhD (

Does anyone still doubt that the news media is being used as a propaganda weapon aimed at alternative medicine? One member of the Vitamin C Foundation forum, Dr. Damir Zucic, ( not working 9/19/07. Try, currently teaches physics at a European medical school. Dr. Zucic noticed something quite strange about a recent shot across the antioxidant bow. Checking related stories, Dr. Zucic discovered that the widespread anti-vitamin stories in the major worldwide media appeared just before significant dates related to the life of two-time Nobel laureate Linus Pauling.

Even "fair and balanced" Fox News posted an article on March 1, 2007 entitled the "Mega-Vitamin Mega-Myth" by Steven Milloy. This article not only denigrated Linus Pauling, but quoted from less-than-objective websites known to be hostile to alternative medicine. Milloy apparently is not aware that John Hopkins University recently published findings that showed that combining vitamin E and vitamin C supplements dramatically reduces the risk of Alzheimer's. The researchers found that vitamin C supplements, in conjunction with vitamin E, significantly reduces the risk of Alzheimer's by 78% and provided an 88% reduction in cognitive dementia (Zandi et al. 2004; Available at:

Another recent study measured blood levels of the vitamins in the elderly. The researchers from the United Kingdom found that low blood vitamin C concentrations (ascorbic acid) in the older British population strongly predict mortality; other vitamins had no effect on mortality. In fully adjusted models, there was no evidence for an influence of alpha-tocopherol (vitamin-E), beta-carotene, or retinol (vitamin-A) on total mortality one way or the other (Fletcher 2003; 14594788&dopt=Abstract).

Mr. Milloy and Fox News appear willing to bet their reader's lives that antioxidants are not valuable, based on a so-called "meta-analysis." However, such meta-analyses are notorious for being easily manipulated to fit a given agenda, an example of which will be cited below. We contacted Mr. Milloy asking for his explanation as to why the aforementioned British study doesn't invalidate his entire thesis? So far, he has failed to respond to our query.

  • Other recent findings, among the more than 80,000 reports on vitamin C available to the Vitamin C Foundation, include the ability of vitamin C as ascorbic acid to reduce the risks of stroke and cataracts and to extend life.
  • The risk of stroke was 70% higher among those in the lowest quartile for serum vitamin C than among those in the highest (Yokoyama 2000).
  • Women who took vitamin C supplements for at least ten years proved only 23% as likely to develop cataracts as women who received the vitamin only in their diet (Jacques 1997, Mares-Perlman).
  • Researchers in Japan artificially decreased age-dependent telomere shortening by 52-62% over untreated control with an enrichment of intracellular vitamin C (Furumoto 1998).
  • Vitamin C, as ascorbic acid, and vitamin E cut intensive care unit deaths in
    half in a randomized, placebo-controlled trial (Nathans 2002).

What we'd like to know is how did the researchers, and Fox News, get it so wrong? The nation's – no, the world's – health depends on getting this right.

Appearing in a medical journal is no insurance against error. A recent case in point: Finnish researchers published a finding that beta carotene increases the risk of lung cancer, and this made worldwide news. However, the error was due to isolating beta carotene. Yale and government health researchers reviewed the very same data years later. These researchers drew entirely opposite conclusions. These revised findings went largely unreported in the news media.

Here's more on the Finnish study from, posted on our website:

Antioxidant Combo Decreases Smokers' Cancer Risk

NEW LOOK, OLD FINNISH DATA! contradicts the long held and widely reported belief that beta carotene increases cancer risk in smokers

In the "new" study, researchers from Yale University and other US institutes
together with colleagues from the National Public Health Institute in Helsinki, Finland, analyzed the same data but looked at the total intake of antioxidants, including selenium, vitamin E, vitamin C, as well as carotenoids and flavonoids, rather than one single antioxidant.

The researchers report that smokers in the top quintile of dietary antioxidant
intake had a 16% lower risk of lung cancer compared to those with the lowest intake.

Smokers who ate large amounts of meat had a 25% decrease, despite red meat having a high oxidative effect.

The results counter the earlier findings of the Finnish ATBC study, carried out in the 1990s, which found an increased risk of the disease for smokers with high beta-carotene intake (

What makes the Vitamin C Foundation so sure that the latest mega-antioxidant scare story is erroneous? The answer is the underlying research on which the meta-analysis is based. Medicine has consistently refused to run studies with adequate amounts of antioxidants and other nutrients recommended by Pauling and others. This is well-described in the Hickey/Roberts book Ascorbate: The Science of Vitamin C. The so-called meta-analysis is merely a summary of many flawed research studies.

The following "coincidence," as noted by Zucic, a member of the Vitamin C Foundation forum, may be more evidence. When he first posted, we thought he was kidding!

Well, let's look at the exact date of the publication:
The article: Bjelakovic G, Nikolova D, Gluud LL, Simonetti RG, Gluud C
Mortality in Randomized Trials of Antioxidant Supplements for Primary and Secondary Prevention: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA. 2007 Feb 28;297(:842-857. ... was published in JAMA on February 28, 2007. What is so special with this date? Who was born on February 28? Quite a few people, including Linus Carl Pauling. What a bloody coincidence! - zucic

I have found another coincidence! This one was difficult to recognize!
The article: Bjelakovic G, Nikolova D, Simonetti RG, Gluud C.
Antioxidant supplements for prevention of gastrointestinal cancers: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet. 2004 Oct 2-8;364(9441):1219-1228. ... was published in October 2004, a few days before Sunday, October 10, 2004. What is special with October 10? On this date, in 1963, the "Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests In The Atmosphere, In Outer Space And Under Water" went into force. On the same day, the Nobel committee announced that Linus Pauling was awarded his second Nobel Prize, this time for peace (awarded for the year 1962, not 1963)!

It follows that whenever some naive journalist may get the idea to write something on an important anniversary related to Linus Pauling, a bomb is detonated in some reputable medical journal, to distract attention from his work and life! - zucic (

Goran Bjelakovic was an anonymous scientist before becoming the vitamin basher. In fact, strictly speaking he was not a scientist – he had a number of publications, but no one cited them on the Web of Science server. Christian Gluud was cited slightly more often. Suddenly, their results have become so important that the media catches their results even before the PubMed server! A standard trick is to send a press release from some center of power, just in case the journalist might miss the latest results of Bjelakovic, Gluud, and others.

Dr. Zucic has exchanged couple of emails with Bjelakovic and Nikolova; they interrupted communication after a couple of messages. Therefore, we confidently predict that the current meta-study/analysis will shown to be invalid, or otherwise retracted, as all the previous reports have been. The Foundation will watch to see whether Fox News does what other news organizations don't: print the news of the retraction. When viewing future vitamin bashing stories, you should keep in mind these important dates vis a vis Linus Pauling:
February 28, 1901 - born;
November 3, 1954 - Nobel Prize for chemistry announced (largely forgotten date!);
October 10, 1963 - Nobel Peace Prize announced (reserved for year 1962);
August 19, 1994 – died.
Journalists and real quacks tend to forget November 3.

Owen Fonorow
Founder, Vitamin C Foundation
Lisle, IL

Damir Zucic
Medicinski fakultet
Josipa Huttlera 4
31000 Osijek, Croatia
Website: not working 9/19/07.
University of Osijek
Osijek - Croatia - Europe

Copyright 2007 Owen R Fonorow and Damir Zucic

Suggested Reading

Cathcart R. Vitamin C, titrating to tolerance. Medical Hypotheses. 1981;7:1359-1376.
[online]. Available at: . Accessed June 29, 2006.

Furumoto K, Inoue E, Nagao N, Hiyama E, Miwa N. Age-dependent telomere
shortening is slowed down by enrichment of intracellular vitamin C via suppression of
oxidative stress.
Life Sci. 1998; 63(11):935-48.

Fletcher AE, Breeze E, Shetty PS. Antioxidant vitamins and mortality in older
persons: findings from the nutrition add-on study to the Medical Research Council
Trial of Assessment and Management of Older People in the Community. Am J Clin
Nutr Nov. 2003;78(5):999-1010.

Hickey S, Roberts H. 2004. Ascorbate the science of vitamin C. 246 p. [online].
Available at: Accessed June 29, 2006.

Hickey S, Roberts H. 2004. Ridiculous Dietary Allowance. 151 p. [online]. Available
at: Accessed June 29, 2006.

Holdford P. 1994. Vitamin C: how much is enough. [online]. Available at: Accessed June 29, 2006.

Jacques PF, et al. Long-term vitamin C supplement use and prevalence of early
age-related lens opacities.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1997;

Klenner F. Observations on the dose and administration of ascorbic acid when
employed beyond the range of a vitamin in human pathology.
J of App Nutr. 1971; 23,
(3, 4) Winter [online]. Available at:
Accessed June 29, 2006.

Lewin S.
Vitamin C: Its Molecular Biology and Medical Potential. London:
Academic Press; 1976.

Levy T.
Curing the Incurable: Vitamin C, Infectious Diseases, and Toxins. Las
Vegas: Livon Books; 2002.

Levy T.
Stop America's #1 Killer. Las Vegas: Livon Books; 2006.

Maier RV. Randomized, prospective trial of antioxidant supplementation in
critically ill surgical patients.
Ann Surg. Dec 2002;236(6):814-22.

Nathens AB, Neff MJ, Jurkovich GJ, Klotz P, Farver K, Ruzinski JT, Radella F, Garcia I, Stone I. 1972. The healing factor, vitamin C against disease [online]. Available at: Accessed June 29, 2006.

Mares-Perlman JA. Contribution of epidemiology to understanding relations of diet to
age-related cataract.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 66(October):739.

Osganian SK, Stampfer MJ, Rimm E, Spiegelman D, Hu FB, Manson JE, Willett WC.
Vitamin C and risk of coronary heart disease in women.
J Am Coll Cardiol. Jul 16,

Padayatty SJ, Riordan HD, Hewitt SM, Katz A, Hoffer LJ, Levine M. Intravenously
administered vitamin C as cancer therapy: three cases.
CMAJ. Mar 28 2006;174(7):956-7.

Pauling L.
Vitamin C and the Common Cold. New York: Avon Book Company; 1970.

Pauling L.
How to Live Longer and Feel Better. Eugene: Oregon University Press; 1986, 2006.

Pauling L. A unified theory of cardiovascular disease. ION [video]. 1992; 60 min.

Williams RJ.
Nutrition against disease: environmental protection. London: Pitman Publishing Corp; 1971.

Willis GC. The reversibility of atherosclerosis. Canada.
M. A. J., July 15, 1957; 77:106- 109. [online]. Available at: Accessed June 29,

Yokoyama T, Chigusa D, Kokubo Y, et al. Serum vitamin C concentration was inversely associated with subsequent 20-year incidence of stroke in a Japanese rural community.
Stroke.2000; 31:2287-2294.

Zandi PP, Anthony JC, Khachaturian AS, Stone SV, Gustafson Tschanz JT, Norton MC, Welsh-Bohmer KA, Breitner JCS, for the Cache County Study Group. Reduced risk of Alzheimer disease in users of antioxidant vitamin supplements.
Arch Neurol. 2004; 61:82-88.

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