Volume 5, Issue 48 | November 29, 2012  
Why some studies say nutrients don't work - when they really do
When are they going to learn? Researchers just don’t understand that nutrients work in a dramatically different way than drugs. Yet they continue to study them in the same way they study drugs. They just don’t get it. Natural substances such as hormones, vitamins, minerals, proteins, etc. don’t work in the body all by themselves. Drugs do, but natural substances don’t.

Natural substances are completely dependent on a total nutritional and hormonal balance in the body. There are countless examples of this. One of the best is the relationship between vitamin C and lipoic acid.

As many of you already know, humans and guinea pigs share one very unusual trait. Neither one can synthesize vitamin C. Every other mammal can, but we and our smaller, furry friends can’t. Some people have proposed that this is due to some kind of genetic flaw that occurred in the distant past. While this may be true, it simply does not make any evolutionary sense.

Evolution is based upon survival. According to the principles of evolution, any genetic alteration that occurs must occur because it enhances survival of the species. But having an optimal level of vitamin C is critical to survival. So for our species to lose the ability to synthesize a substance as important as vitamin C defies the concept of evolution.

There must be another answer to the question of why we don’t make our own vitamin C. And the answer is that unlike the rest of the animal kingdom, we don’t need to. The reason that we don’t need to is lipoic acid.

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Lipoic acid is a sulphur-containing compound that we do have the ability to synthesize. In fact, every cell in our body makes it. And one of the most important functions of lipoic acid involves vitamin C.

As you know, vitamin C acts as an antioxidant. That means that it neutralizes the damaging effects of free radicals before they can destroy cells and organs. But in this process, your body uses up its store of vitamin C. For example, when we have an infection, such as a flu, our immune system produces large amounts of free radicals to fight the infection. And, as a result, our vitamin C levels very quickly go to zero. This is why it is so helpful to take vitamin C supplements when you have a virus.

But another way to keep your vitamin C levels healthy is with lipoic acid. This is because lipoic acid recycles vitamin C. It is extremely effective at this. So effective, in fact, that because we can synthesize lipoic acid, there is no need for our bodies to synthesize vitamin C. As long as we have enough lipoic acid on board, we can just keep on re-using the vitamin C we get in our diets.

The only potential problem with this system is that as our diets become deficient, as we get more toxic, and as we get older, our ability to keep making enough lipoic acid diminishes. The result is that it may be easy for us to run out of vitamin C when we need it. An important study illustrates this very well.

In the study, researchers exposed both old and young rats to a chemical that causes excessive free radical formation. As a result, and as expected, their vitamin C levels decreased. Their vitamin C levels in the old animals decreased 54% more than those in the young ones.

Then the researchers repeated the study. But this time they supplemented the old rats with lipoic acid for two weeks before the chemical challenge. The result? The new and improved levels of lipoic acid were able to effectively prevent the loss of vitamin C to the extent that the older animals had the same levels as the younger ones. This wonderful study clearly shows the incredible importance of lipoic acid for maintaining adequate levels of vitamin C in the body. It also shows why humans don’t need to synthesize vitamin C since we can synthesize lipoic acid. And finally it shows how vital the presence of one nutrient can be to the functioning of another nutrient.

But there are countless other examples of the interdependent relationship between nutrients and hormones. Calcium can’t work without magnesium and zinc. Adrenal hormones can’t work without thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones can’t work without DHEA. Vitamin B12 can’t work without folic acid. And on and on. You just can’t give one natural substance and expect to have a positive result unless all of your other nutrient ducks are in a row.

Keep this in mind the next time you hear about some study that “proves” that such and such a nutrient doesn’t work. Researchers just don’t have a clue when it comes to the complex interaction of nutrients and hormones.

Finding your Real Cures,

Frank Shallenberger, MD

REF: Lykkesfeldt, J., et al. Age-associated decline in ascorbic acid concentration, recycling, and biosynthesis in rat hepatocytes-reversal with (R)-alpha-lipoic acid supplementation. FASEB J. 12:1183-1189, 1998.

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