The Covid And Vitamin C Debate: Steve's Healthier Britain Blog

Over the past year, there has been a huge debate over vitamin C and its link to covid, especially when it comes to treatment. While this week's blog will be a little longer than normal, I feel it's an important topic to discuss while sharing my own personal thoughts on the current debate...

Background: Vitamin C

If you have read any of my health books, or listened to my podcast series, you will be fully aware that I see vitamin C pretty much as a wonder drug. If it was patentable, it would be hailed as the best wonder drug ever invented (well in truth it would be joint first place with dark chocolate and eggs).

Did you know that we are one of only four species on the planet that does not produce its own vitamin C? It's also interesting to know that only a few species get cancer, of which includes all four that do not create their own vitamin C. There are many books written about the benefits of vitamin C for our heart, with Dr Malcolm Kendrick listing it as a vital vitamin to minimise the risk of heart attacks. I really could go on and on singing its praises...

A great book to read is Curing the IncurableVitamin C, infectious diseases and toxins written by Dr Thomas Levy.

Let's take a goat for example. This animal creates 15 grams of vitamin C every single day, but when it is sick, it produces over 100g! Of all the vitamins I take on a daily basis, vitamin C is one where I totally blast the NRV. If I ever get the slightest incline that I am heading for a cold, I become goat-like and take one full gram every hour until all symptoms go away. Does it work? Absolutely.

Covid & Vitamin C

Firstly, I would like to congratulate pharmaceutical companies and government agencies around the world for breaking all records in how quickly they created a COVID vaccine. Awesome work by all and as a double vaccinated 55 year old, with a large family, I am eternally grateful for your efforts.

That said however, last week we saw a march in London by a group of well intentioned individuals, who are getting a little frustrated at the lack of backing for vitamin C as a treatment for those hospitalised with COVID. And I fully understand why...

I first discussed the benefits of taking vitamin C for COVID with leading nutritional expert, Patrick Holford, way back in April 2020 when it all began. It seemed the evidence was pretty concrete back then, especially for those hospitalised. You can watch the full broadcast below (it was initially filmed to raise awareness and money for food banks during the first lockdown).

 

The Background To The Covid & Vitamin C Debate

Over the past eight months myself and a team of experts, including Patrick Holford, a group of nutritional, medical and pharmacology experts, have been asking all the relevant government agencies – Public Health England (PHE) and their Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN); The National Institute of Clinical Evidence (NICE); RAPID C-19, formerly known as NERVTAG, formerly known as SAGE - where they are at with reviewing the evidence for vitamin C and COVID. This request started in earnest after the first randomised controlled trial, published in December, showed vitamin C to be more than twice as effective in saving lives that the steroid drug dexamethasone in critically ill patents.
 
This blog catalogues the ducking and diving, and anti-vitamin institutional caution that amounts to a form of recklessness that has, and is costing, thousands of lives. That is why so many individuals joined the protest on August 28th
 
To get the ball rolling back, in 2020 Patrick Holford and a group of experts, most members of the Scientific Advisory Board of vitaminC4covid.com, a not-for-profit initiative supported by over 1,000 medical and nutrition health practitioners and scientists, wrote a review entitled “Vitamin C – an Adjunctive Therapy for Respiratory Infection, Sepsis and COVID-19”. This was published in the leading journal, Nutrients in December 7th. It cited over 120 studies, established vitamin C’s remarkable safety even at high doses, and has had over 20,000 downloads and not one critique. It makes the case for vitamin C and Covid, both in prevention and treatment, undeniable. This review was/is ‘noted’ by the above organisations but has not been acted on.
 
In their defence, back in December, there had not been actual ‘intervention’ trials, but what you could call circumstantial evidence such as the high incidence of vitamin C deficiency in those dying of covid and that patient’s vitamin C levels predicted their survival. Most of those who died had scurvy levels of vitamin C as a consequence of unresolved viral infection.
 
But then the intervention, prevention and observational trials of covid patients given vitamin C started to be published and, as they did, Patrick and his team circulated them to all these agencies. The first, a randomised-placebo controlled trial in Wuhan ICUs, gave intravenous vitamin C for 7 days and reported a 70% reduced hospital and ICU duration. It also found that there was an 80% reduction in mortality in the most critically ill ventilated patients, plus improved oxygenation and reduced inflammation in all covid patients given vitamin C. These results were statistically significant and much better than the 30% reduction in mortality in ventilation patients seen in the dexamethasone recovery trial.
 
Then, a trial giving less critically ill covid outpatients 8 grams of oral vitamin C versus placebo showed an improved recovery rate of 70% - better than any anti-viral drug tested to date. There are now seven other trials and all bar one has shown vitamin C to be effective with, broadly speaking, the higher the dose and the longer the treatment the greater effect. 

You Can’t Patent A Vitamin

I have discussed this many times on all types media. From podcasts to blogs, from books to conferences. My message is simple. Because you can’t patent something from nature, it is impossible for big pharmaceutical companies to make gigantic profit from selling them. So instead they constantly develop and patent chemical cocktails and drugs to the delight of their shareholders. Then with those profits, they spend huge sums to discredit the benefits of vitamins and minerals. Literally billions of pounds are spent each year on lobbying and influencing those in power. But I will stop right now, because there are so many books you can read on the subject. 

But back to to Vitamin C and COVID. Let me now hand you over to Patrick Holford for the rest of my blog and lets ask him the following question, "Why is Public Health England reluctant to disclose any vitamin C review?"... 

“SACN had told us they’d review the evidence in their June meeting. It now appears, in their March meeting minutes obtained through a Freedom of Information request (FOI) they were instructed not to. As Jo Churchill says “SACN will not be duplicating work of other organisations and will therefore exclude studies focusing specifically on vitamins C and D, as these are being undertaken as part of the RAPID-C19 initiative.”
 
This is bizarre since, as she says “SACN is monitoring emerging evidence of nutrition and immune function specifically in relation to COVID-19. SACN’s remit is to assess risks and benefits of nutrients/foods to health by evaluating published scientific evidence and, based on its assessment, make dietary recommendations for the UK’s general healthy population.” Is there anything more important in the field of nutrition right now than to assess the role of vitamin C and D status in reducing incidence, duration and severity of covid? Why have our neighbours, Ireland, told its public to supplement 1,000ius of vitamin D daily all year round for this very reason?
 
The point is, as she says, “SACN has a public health focus and the treatment of disease is therefore outside its remit” but when does a vitamin deficiency that increases likelihood and severity of a disease stop being a public health issue and start being a ‘treatment’ issue? The whole point of separating NHS England, treating disease, and creating Public Health England (PHE), was to prevent disease. Does vitamin C not do exactly this this? By stopping covid positive people developing severe symptoms that need hospitalisation and treatment is vitamin C not potentially doing exactly what PHE was set up to do – take the burden off the NHS?
 
So, we issued an FOI on PHE/SACN to disclose their June meeting minutes, which they had been promising was the time vitamin C would be discussed. PHE’s reply states: “It is in the public interest to withhold the information in line with the publication schedule, so the information is accessible to the wider general public at the same time”.  We’ve now issued an FOI to get this ‘publication schedule’. A year and a half has passed since covid struck in the UK and still no statement on vitamin C. Jo Churchill says “Based on the data currently available, we do not believe that there is sufficient evidence at this stage to conclude that vitamin C is a safe and effective treatment for COVID-19.” It implies that PHE, advised by SACN, has reviewed the evidence, but have they? Can we see it? Apparently not. Vitamin C is actually safer than water and all studies confirm this including a study of 9,328 patients given an average intravenous dose of 24 g of vitamin C every 4 days, primarily for cancer, infection or fatigue, reported that 101 (1%) had side effects, mostly minor, including lethargy/fatigue, a change in mental status and vein irritation/phlebitis.[i] Remember, these are sick patients, most with advanced cancer.
 
"How slow is RAPID C19?"
 
You may recall calls for more transparency of who was actually in SAGE (the Scientific Group for Emergencies) advising on covid strategy. This then morphed into NERVTAG (New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group). We could, at least, find a list of their members and supplied them with all the evidence for vitamin C - with zero response. Well, it’s morphed again into RAPID C19 (Research to Access Pathway for Investigational Drugs for Covid-19) under the auspices of NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence). It’s described by NICE as ‘a multi-agency initiative to ensure safe and timely patient access to treatments that show evidence of benefit in preventing and treating COVID-19’. Sounds like vitamin C would fit right in. We had, by the way, already supplied NICE with all the studies showing just how effective vitamin C was and asked them if they had or would review the evidence. They said that RAPID C19 was doing it.
 
So I contacted James Palmer, RAPID C-19’s National Medical Director employed by NHS England and NHS Improvement asking if they had reviewed the evidence for vitamin C. He replied saying “To date, RapidC19 considers that there is insufficient evidence to recommend Vitamin C for roll out as a potential routine therapy for patients infected with COVID-19, but will continue to keep this under review.’ I replied asking to see their assessment to support this statement. He replied saying “These assessments are held by NICE.”
 
I responded saying ‘NICE have never replied, never done a review, or at least shown one, and someone in their contact team passed us on to RapidC19, hence yourself. When you say 'To date, RapidC19 considers that there is insufficient evidence to recommend Vitamin C for roll out as a potential routine therapy but will continue to keep this under review.’ it suggests that RapidC19 has actually reviewed the evidence. Are you telling me that RapidC19 haven’t and rely on NICE, who also haven’t? 
 
Our request is very simple - if either RapidC19 or NICE have actually done of review of the evidence for vitamin C for COVID-19 can we, as members of the scientific and medical community, see it?’
 
I am reminded of one of those football games where the ball keeps being passed from player to player, backwards and forwards, but no-one scores a goal. PHE say SACN advises them. SACN say they been told to drop the vitamin C ball and pass to RAPIDC19. RAPIDC19 kicks it over to NICE. NICE passes it back to RAPIDC19. There’s certainly a whole lot of duck and diving going on. 
 
So, we issued a FOI request on NICE and RAPIDC19. They responded, after considerable delay explained by numerous holidays, with a ‘briefing on vitamin C’ document dated 9th September, 2020 – almost one year ago. It states that “Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) has potential benefit in patients with severe and critical COVID-19 because these patients are likely to experience oxidative stress or severe inflammation.”… “There is only 1 published randomised controlled trial investigating ascorbic acid injection reporting preliminary results. This shows no significant difference in 28-day mortality or ventilation outcomes, however this trial is still recruiting.” This was referring to the Wuhan trial. There’s then a link to an appendix which says “the vitamin C group showed a significant reduction in 28-day mortality (p=0.05) in more severe patients. The significance was lost after adjustment (p=0.06,)” it also says that the vitamin C patients had a steady rise in oxygenation (p=0.01) and reduction in inflammation (p = 0.04).
 
 
Those in medical science will know that ‘p’ is the probability that the result is real and not random. Anything equal to or less than P=0.05, which means in layman’s terms that if you ran the same experiment 100 times you’d expect this result 95 times, is usually considered statistically significant. When the Wuhan trial was published, in December, the 80% reduction in mortality in the most critically ill ventilated patients had p=0.04. Of course, RAPIDC19 know this because we sent them and NICE the paper with the relevant sections highlighted. Less death, less inflammation, improved oxygenation – all statistically significant. This compares to the dexamathasone trial where the ventilated patients were 30% less likely to die.
 The RAPIDC19  September briefing also states ‘There is currently no evidence indicating any signal of harm.’ So where is Jo Churchill getting her information from to state that there is insufficient evidence that vitamin C is safe?
 
In this briefing RAPIDC19 also state that ‘there are 14 ongoing randomised trials; 13 for treatment of COVID-19 and 1 in the prevention of COVID-19. 1 randomised trial with a target enrolment of 140 patients has reported early results (the Wuhan study). The ongoing prevention study is a randomised double-blind study of healthcare workers with a target enrolment of 600 patients (the JAMA 8g vitamin C for outpatients study); and 8 ongoing trials investigate vitamin C injection, 1 trial investigates oral vitamin C and 8 trials do not state the vitamin C formulation.’
 
So, back in September, they list the studies underway to watch out for, eight of which have been published, seven of which show clear benefit. Have they really not reviewed them? We have, after all, supplied the papers. So, we issued a further FOI request for any such review or statement since September last year. So far, no response.
 
Double Standards for Drugs and Vitamins
 
Never mind anti-vax are we seeing evidence of anti-vits? Given that vitamin C no safety issues and is also part of the body’s natural biochemistry with multiple beneficial immune, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects surely the bar to its use should be set lower not higher? The reverse seems to be the case.
 
Yet less effective anti-viral drugs such as Ronapreve (Regen-Cov in the US), which reduced the risk of death by 20 per cent in a subset of hospitalised patients, are being licensed for covid with much less evidence of benefit, more adverse effects and considerably more cost, with each dose costing £1,500.[ii] Bear in mind that the usual process in medical science is someone other than the company who makes the drug runs a trial. That has not yet happened with the vaccines, and safety trials are far from complete which is why vaccines remain unlicensed.
 
One argument given by Government is to wait for the results of the UK’s only participation in a vitamin C trial, namely REMAP-CAP. This is a trial that several ICUs are signed up for, giving critical covid patients either vitamin C or placebo added to standard treatment. Personally, I think at this stage of evidence it is unethical to deprive any critical covid patients of vitamin C. For this very reason leading ICUs such as the Chelsea and Westminster Foundation who already give vitamin C have refused to participate. But there is the very real possibility that REMAP-CAP is designed to fail by giving vitamin C for only 4 days. The reason this is too short, as it would be for steroids or antibiotics, is that you don‘t stop a life-saving treatment in a patient hovering on the edge of death until they are out of the woods. Withdrawing vitamin C, steroids or antibiotics too soon can trigger a worsening on symptoms. Now, if you measure results on day 10 that would obscure a positive effect, but if you measure results on day 4 that should still count. 
 
But the biggest issue with REMAP-CAP is that it hasn’t started. According to the RAPIDC19 briefing in September ‘the RAPIDC19 vitamin C arm is closed’ due to lack of vitamin C supplies! The suppliers, however, never ran out. It meant that non-one got the vitamin C treatment in the second wave. Now, they say, vitamin  C supplies are available so, hopefully, some will get treated in the third wave if there is one. In her most recent letter to MPs Jo Churchill says ‘The REMAP-CAP trial into vitamin C started recruiting in November and we expect recruitment to increase. This is dependent on the number of patients in intensive care.’ This is a considerable stretch of the truth because ICUs we followed up in June hadn’t treated a single person – and you can’t recruit a critical patient without having vitamin C. Is this a delay tactic?
 
My view is that all this anti-vitamin institutional caution and trial delays is a form of irresponsible recklessness that has, and is costing, thousands of lives. Never mind a third wave, we need a third way based on supporting natural immunity, not just the current two pronged strategy of avoiding transmission with lockdowns, masks and tracking and vaccinations.”

Recipe Of The Week - Lamb Stuffed Peppers

Did you know that a yellow bell pepper has 5 times the amount of vitamin C as the punitive NRV? That’s like 6 or 7 times more than a sugar loaded orange! So, I though I would share with you one of my favourite stuffed bell pepper recipes.

Not only does this dish taste delicious, but it also looks awesome too. Like you should have at least two Michelin stars! What’s best, it is both super simple to prep and cook. Plus, there are endless combinations of different fillings you can add, so it is a dish you will never get bored of creating. 

You'll need:

  • 4 Bell Peppers
  • Minced lamb 250g
  • Cheese 200g
  • Spinach cup
  • Eggs 6
  • Herbs and Spices

Cut the tops of the peppers and deseed. Then put them in a tight oven friendly bowl. You will need to make sure they stand upright and don’t fall over.

Fry up your lamb in olive oil and add your favourite herbs and spices. While its cooking, whisk up your eggs and pour half of it into the bottom of each bell pepper. Then add a little grated cheese and a layer of spinach, then place in your cooked meat, add a little more cheese and spinach. Finally add the remainder of the egg and put in the oven at 200°C and cook for approximately 20 minutes.

What Made Me Happiest This Week

Being at the wedding of my good friend James Cracknell. James has been through a really tough period over the past 10 years. He sustained a terrible brain injury while cycling across America and it so wonderful to see how he has persevered and stayed positive, he is a true inspiration to all that know him. His dogged determination has lead to such a point he now is back to running sub 3 hours marathons and has met a wonderful partner in Jordan. 

What Upset Me Most This Week

Jumping on the scales for the first time in two months and seeing the effect my summer holidays with the family has had… 

Trustpilot Comment Of The Week

"The Primal Living SlimShotz product is an excellent source of natural fibre and is extremely effective in controlling my dietary needs. Highly recommended." - Mr Kelly

Primal Living's Latest Performance

We are passionate to create the very best health products on the planet. Many thanks to everyone who kindly took time to submit a review this week; here is your latest statistics.

And finally, Primal Living's powerful vitamin C supplements can be found here.

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