Oranges. Lemons. Peppers. Broccoli. What do all these foods have in common? Other than being tasty to eat, these foods are also exceptionally high in vitamin C, a key mineral that plays an important role in helping people maintain a healthy body.
Found in both foods and supplements, vitamin C has many health benefits. Among those benefits, according to some research, vitamin C could be helpful as a treatment for cancer. But how? Keep reading to learn more about the research behind vitamin C as a cancer therapy.
What is vitamin C?
Vitamin C (also called ascorbic acid) is a necessary nutrient that plays a lot of vital roles in the body, including the formation of various tissues and blood vessels. It occurs naturally in a range of foods, thought primarily fruits and vegetables. That’s why consuming foods with vitamin C is generally recommended as part of a healthy diet.
More importantly, vitamin C has been shown to have antioxidative qualities. Antioxidants play a crucial role in helping the body manage free radicals in the body. Free radicals are compounds that are an important part of the body’s normal functioning—for example, the immune system produces free radicals to help fight infections.
However, certain activities can cause free radical levels to rise, such as smoking or excessive exposure to the sun. If free radicals levels are too high for long periods of time, they can cause chronic inflammation (or the immune system operating in overdrive) and damage healthy tissue. This is called oxidative stress.
Over time, free radicals can cause damage to cell DNA, which can affect the body’s ability to control cell growth and allow for cancerous cells to grow unchecked.
What is IV vitamin C therapy?
IV vitamin C therapy is essentially the administration of high concentrations of vitamin C supplements either intravenously (IV) or by mouth. However, vitamin C delivered through an IV can make for higher concentrations of vitamin C in your blood compared to taking the vitamin by mouth. The higher concentration that’s available, the more vitamin C there is for your body to use.
IV vitamin C therapy may be administered alone as a treatment, or in combination with other treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation.
How does vitamin C therapy work on cancer?
An unfortunate number of cancers are shown to cause genetic mutations that make it easier for cancer cells to replicate and grow, potentially as a result of things like free radicals in the body.
That may be where vitamin C comes in. The idea behind vitamin C therapy is that high doses of vitamin C could help interfere with the process by which cancer growth occurs. However, there is currently not enough research to conclusively say this approach is effective. Research efforts are ongoing.
Does vitamin C therapy help with cancer?
The truth is, the results of various studies are mixed on the effectiveness of vitamin C therapy, which is why much more research is needed. But, studies that have been conducted do show some potentially favorable results. Below are a few key findings from existing research about vitamin C therapy:
- According to early clinical trials, vitamin C may improve the quality of life of cancer patients and offer fewer side effects as a cancer treatment. For example, a study of patients with ovarian cancer who received both IV vitamin C and chemotherapy had fewer side effects while receiving treatment.
- Some research suggests that IV vitamin C therapy could also help improve the effectiveness of other cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy. For example, patients with non-small cell lung cancer were given both standard cancer therapy and IV vitamin C therapy. The study suggested that these patients had slightly better overall survival status compared to groups that did not receive vitamin C.
Is IV vitamin C therapy safe?
Generally speaking, vitamin C therapy is safe. A review of existing research suggests that vitamin C therapy causes no more harm compared to a placebo as shown in double-blind trials. However, some people may be at higher risk of complications or side effects from vitamin C therapy. For example, kidney failure can occur in people with a history of kidney disease. That’s why it’s important to talk with your doctor to determine if IV therapy is right for you.
In the end, even if you decide formal vitamin C IV therapy isn’t for you, maintaining a diet rich in vitamin C could help keep free radicals in check and keep your risk of cancer low.