Pauling vs the US government

In the great debate over vitamin C, Pauling held the trump card: as a rule, what the human body is trying to absorb is approximately what it needs, which is approximately what we should aim for. In a well-nourished and healthy body, the rule is even stronger.

Holding the trump card, Pauling should have won.

He lost because of one small error: he assumed that the function that required grams of vitamin C, the amount the body tries to absorb every day (and many more grams when it is sick), is the greatest and grandest function.

Evolutionary demands have made it just the opposite, although the benefits of grams of C are not trivial because the body is investing resources to absorb grams, the benefits from grams are much less than the benefits of 10 mg vs 0, and less than 100 mg vs 10 mg.

Ironically, the benefits of grams relate to potentially fewer colds and flus, fewer UTIs, and fewer problems with kidney stones, but grams do not in fact prevent any of these:

  1. Grams per day of vitamin C does make for a more soluble urine stream
  2. With grams per day of vitamin C, mucus is thinned and flows out of the body more readily, carrying germs and pollutants with it.


  1. Both of these things are good, but there is no prevention of colds, flus, atherosclerosis, or cancer from grams of vitamin C.
  2. There are other good things, but alas they are also not monumentally important.
  3. Re: prevention. Example: there are so many things promoting UTI that high dose vitamin C by itself cannot prevent it. Same for kidney stones, colds, flus, atherosclerosis, and you-name-it.

Ironically, the higher levels of nutrients are needed for the least important functions

and that is why they get little attention.

It has to be that way – evolutionary pressures made it so.

Unfortunately, Linus Pauling seemed to conceive of this backwards. Evolution tells us that he had it backwards:

Pauling wrongly thought that the antioxidant function was more important than connective tissue maintenance, and by analogy, he assumed that the function that required grams of vitamin C, the amount that animals (like goats) our size make, was more important still, and he looked to prevention of atherosclerosis and cancer. Not so. Vitamin C at any level will not prevent either of those two, although, at concentrations achievable only at injectable levels of sodium ascorbate, vitamin C “overdoses” may be a useful adjunctive therapy for certain cancers.

Pauling had the wrong emphasis. The reality is just the opposite – the most important function of a vitamin or a mineral requires the least amount of the nutrient. The least important function of a vitamin or mineral is the one that requires the most of the nutrient. Nevertheless, the healthy and well-nourished body tries to absorb enough of the nutrient to satisfy the least important function, and that is the amount we should ingest. The least important is not the same as trivial, the mistake of the government scientists.

Consider the facts about vitamin C:

  1. We need no more than 10 mg for the most important function – maintaining connective tissues. Less than 10 mg per day – danger of teeth falling out of gums. Premature death.
  2. We need 100 mg to maintain body pools of vitamin C and to reasonably meet the needs of the antioxidant relay systems and the immune system.
  3. We need grams a day for the least important functions like keeping mucus flowing freely. More effective elimination of germs and pollutants from every bodily cavity.
  4. There is no concentration that will cure or prevent cancer, or even prevent colds or flus. Sorry, but them’s the facts.

How much vitamin C do our bodies need? What healthy, well-nourished bodies are trying to absorb – grams.

How little can we survive on? About 10 mgs a day, less than one quarter of one medium sized orange.

Same story for vitamin K, but the amounts are in the microgram range.

  1. Most important function of vitamin K is blood clotting, and precious little vitamin K is needed to support blood clotting.
  2. Next most important function of vitamin K: Quite a bit more to help keep bones hard and arteries soft, and to support the resolution of clots.
  3. All other functions of vitamin K will require quite a bit more.

What do we need? What the healthy, well-nourished body is trying to absorb.

Same for cholesterol, which is a dietary nutrient. Same for all other nutrients. If your body is healthy and well-nourished, give it what it is trying to absorb. Don’t listen to the government or to doctors. They have yet to get a clue.