Ask the Doctor – Vitamin C Myths and more

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Dear Dr. Rona:

I recently had a check up at my family doctor and asked him how much vitamin C I should take to prevent bladder infections.  He said that vitamin C was not necessary to take and that high doses of vitamin C causes kidney stones.  He told me that I should just forget about taking vitamin supplements and follow the Canada Food Guide. What is your opinion?


Dear B:

I see that conventional doctors can still be counted on to spread various myths about natural remedies.  I hear one or more nutritional medicine myths every day in my private office practice.  Most have endured for decades and will likely persist for many more.  Here are my favourite top ten that originate from various medical “experts”:

Myth #1: Vitamin C Causes Kidney Stones

Vitamin C is generally well tolerated by most healthy individuals but there is a wide range of tolerance when megadoses are supplemented.  Large doses (500 mg. or more) can cause diarrhea but this appears to be the only significant side effect.

It has often been falsely reported that vitamin C supplementation causes kidney stones in dosages above 6000 mg. daily.  There is no clear proof of this claim since numerous studies conclude the exact opposite – that vitamin C supplementation prevents kidney stones.

Myth #2 Stopping Vitamin C Suddenly Leads to Scurvy

It has long been gospel that women who take high doses of vitamin C during their pregnancy risk rebound scurvy in their infants if they suddenly discontinue vitamin C.  Although this is theoretically possible, no one has ever been able to prove this as a fact.

Myth #3 Herbs are Dangerous and Require Doctor Supervision

Adverse drug reactions are the fourth leading cause of death in North America.  None of these fatal adverse reactions involve commonly used herbs or other nutritional supplements.  As reported several times in this and other newsletters, conventional medical doctors and their prescription drugs kill more patients in one day than any natural therapy does for an entire year.  This is not to say that herbs are free of side effects, just that there is no evidence that they come anywhere close to the danger posed by prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

Myth #4 Daily Drinking of Distilled Water is Beneficial to Health

For short-term detoxification purposes, the use of distilled water can be beneficial.  Beyond this, any benefits of drinking distilled water are due to the placebo effect.  For long term, regular drinking purposes, the scientific literature as well as my own clinical observations do not support its consumption.

Distilled water contains no minerals and actually drains your body of minerals. Without exception, those who drink distilled water exclusively, typically become deficient in calcium, magnesium, manganese, copper, zinc, iron and many other trace minerals within a year.  This fact is evidenced by yearly testing done through blood, urine and hair mineral analyses.

Myth #5 Only Dairy Products Can Provide an Adequate Calcium Intake

It is true that cow’s milk has the highest calcium content but many studies demonstrate that absorption is inferior to that seen with calcium from plant sources. Dark green leafy vegetables have relatively high calcium concentrations. With the exception of spinach, due to the high oxalate content, the calcium from greens is very well absorbed.  Kale and other members of the same food family such as broccoli, turnip greens, Brussels sprouts, collard greens and mustard greens are also excellent sources of magnesium, a trace mineral that is important for calcium utilization and which is found in only small amounts in cow’s milk.

In the past few years, a large number of excellent whole food supplements high in both calcium and magnesium have come out on the market.  These include spirulina, chlorella, barley green, green kamut, blue green algae and several others.  These all make ideal supplements for children because they are easy to mix with juices, are highly bioavailable, easily absorbed and have a very healthy balance of dozens of trace minerals, antioxidants, vitamins, amino acids and essential fatty acids.

Other natural sources of calcium include cooked beans and peas, seaweeds, soy products like tofu and soy milk, most of which are now fortified with calcium and other minerals, sprouts (e.g. alfalfa), seeds and nuts like sesame, pumpkin and hazelnuts as well as whole grains (e.g. corn tortillas, quinoa).

Myth #6 Sugar, in Moderation, is Safe and Does Not Cause Any Disease

The only people saying that sugar is harmless are those involved in or somehow affiliated with the sugar industry. Study after study demonstrates that sugar consumption is directly or indirectly associated with poor health. Simple sugars feed harmful intestinal yeasts, fungi, toxic organisms, and all forms of cancer. The volume of supporting literature for this is staggering.  A partial list of health conditions associated with high sugar consumption follows.

High Sugar Consumption & Health Conditions:

• obesity
• eating disorders
• cardiovascular disease
• atherosclerosis
• high blood pressure
• increased platelet stickiness
• adult onset diabetes mellitus
• gastrointestinal disease – diverticulosis, irritable bowel syndrome, etc.
• gallstones
• dental caries
• immune suppression
• recurrent infections
• reactive hypoglycemia
• candida syndrome
• depression
• anxiety
• chronic pain syndromes
• hyperactivity in children
• learning disabilities

Myth #7 Eating Foods High in Cholesterol is Bad For You

Over 85% of the cholesterol in anyone’s blood does not come from the diet but from manufacture by the body in the liver. If cholesterol is so terrible, why is it found in every normal cell in the body?  Cholesterol is protective and part of all the body’s cell membranes, bile acids and steroid hormones. Deficiency or low cholesterol has been associated with a higher risk of cancer and immune disorders including AIDS.

The real role of cholesterol in the body is to serve as a defense against free radicals like mycotoxins.  The more fungal mycotoxins and other free radicals (peroxides, petrochemicals, tobacco smoke chemicals, etc.) in the body, the more the liver will manufacture cholesterol to help neutralize the toxins.  It is these free radical toxins, not the cholesterol, that produces the arterial damage resulting in hardening of the arteries and heart disease. High blood cholesterol levels should therefore be regarded as a red flag indicating the presence of high levels of free radicals, oxidant damage and infestation of the body with fungi or other pathogenic microorganisms (bacteria, parasites, etc.). High cholesterol blood levels should, at most, be considered a risk factor for heart disease and not the real cause.

Myth #8 Vitamin E Causes High Blood Pressure

This is yet another myth which, when subjected to scientific scrutiny, turns out to be completely false.  In fact, a recent study (Archives of Neurology 2000;57:1503-1509) concluded that the reverse was true: taking vitamin E  if you have high blood pressure reduces the risk of stroke and that, if your blood pressure is normal, vitamin E has no effect on it or your risk of developing a stroke.

Myth #9 Eating Yeast is Bad For You

Although it is true that people truly allergic to yeast should avoid it as much as possible, this is generally not true for the vast majority of health conscious people.  Carlton Fredericks, Adelle Davis and Paavo Airola, health movement gurus of the 1960’s and 70s, all advocated yeast supplements for their rich content of B vitamins, chromium, selenium, other trace minerals, amino acids, enzymes, essential fatty acids, nucleic acids and anti-stress, hormone-like polypeptides.

Brewer’s yeast and other yeast derived products are effective remedies for menopausal hot flashes, weakened immunity, neurasthenia, anxiety and diabetes.  They help replace nutrients destroyed by prescription antibiotics and other drugs.

Harmless yeasts, including candida albicans, are everywhere – in our oral cavity, gastrointestinal tract, skin and hair.  This is a normal fact of life.  They can be found growing on practically all ripened fruits, vegetables, breads, baked goods, seeds, nuts, herbs and anywhere mold grows, including yeast-free bread.  They cannot be eliminated entirely and even those who take prescription antifungals can never claim to completely eradicate all the yeast ubiquitous in our environment as well as our bodies.

Myth #10  Echinacea Should Not be Taken Longer Than Two Weeks

There is no evidence to suggest that echinacea cannot be used longer than 2 weeks. This myth originates from an old German study which was mistranslated, leading one to believe that echinacea’s effects plateaued after five days. Echinacea can be safely and effectively used for years. There is no evidence that echinacea cannot be taken on a continuous basis or that it cannot be used by people suffering from autoimmune diseases like lupus and AIDS.


• Akerblom, H.K., S.M. Virtanen, O. Vaarala, et al. 1999. Emergence of diabetes associated autoantibodies in the nutritional prevention of IDDM (RIGR) project. 59th Annual Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association. June. San Diego.

• Harrison, L.C. 1996. Cow’s milk and IDDM. Lancet 348(Oct. 5):905.

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