KEY POINTS

  • A new study found how high doses of vitamin C and fasting-mimicking diet can help cancer patients
  • This method shrinks the sizes of the tumors
  • Clinical trials are still ongoing as the initial study was conducted on mice 

A combination of a diet that mimics fasting and ultra-high intravenous doses of vitamin C may be used in treating some forms of cancer. Unlike most cancer treatments, this method is not toxic to healthy tissues.

Not Quackery After All

During the 70s, Dr. Linus Pauling, a Nobel prizewinning chemist, put forward a suggestion that very high doses of intravenous vitamin C may be used to treat cancer. At the time, people dismissed the idea as quackery.

Recent studies suggest, however, that Dr. Pauling may be onto something after all. For instance, in a small clinical trial in 2017, it was found that vitamin C, in high doses and in combination with chemotherapy and radiotherapy, are tolerated better and may prolong the life of people with brain cancer. Bigger clinical trials examining the combination of high doses of vitamin C with conventional cancer treatments are currently being conducted. Vitamin C and fasting-mimicking diet can shrink tumors Vitamin C and fasting-mimicking diet can shrink tumors Photo: Pixel2013 - Pixabay

A study in mice now shows that a diet that mimics fasting effects can improve the ability of vitamin C in treating colorectal cancer. It also helps avoid the need for radiation therapy or chemotherapy. The study, which was published in Nature Communications, also provides clues as to how high vitamin C doses might work and under what situations.

The Two Aspects Of Vitamin C

In a healthful diet, vitamin C functions as an antioxidant, hunting highly reactive free radicals in the body’s tissues. Injecting the vitamin into the bloodstream, however, may cause high tissue concentrations. When this happens, vitamin C becomes a “pro-oxidant” and can trigger the development of free radicals like hydrogen peroxide.

These free radicals can eliminate large molecules in a cancer cell, including lipids, DNA, and proteins, causing death to the cell. Some studies suggest an aggressive type of cancer with mutations in a gene called KRAS is susceptible to free radical damage caused by high doses of vitamin C, although the results of the research have been mixed.

Resistant To Other Therapies

KRAS-mutant cancers are resilient to many other cancer treatments. People with these types of cancers often have lower survival rates. Scientists surmise that such mutations happen in around a quarter of all known cancers affecting humans and approximately 40% of all colorectal cancers.

Combining high doses of intravenous vitamin C with chemotherapy appears to provide the best results in KRAS-mutant cancers. This treatment, however, may also cause damage to healthy tissues and lead to severe adverse effects.