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Changing the Way We Think: Researchers Discover an Unexpected Effect of Vitamin C

Humans are one of the few mammalian species – along with a couple of primates and the guinea pig – who do not produce vitamin C, but require it from their diet.

“It’s just us who need vitamin C,” explains Horst Fischer, PhD, a principal investigator at CHORI. “Your dog and cat are just fine, but during evolution we humans lost the ability to make vitamin C ourselves.”

Although vitamin C, one of the first known vitamins, is an important factor for staying healthy, recent data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) indicate that approximately 25 percent of the United States population does not meet the recommended dietary intake levels for vitamin C. Ten percent of the population presented with such low intake that they were scurvic.

Taking vitamin C is not only important from a global health perspective, however. Dr. Fischer and lead scientist at CHORI, Beate Illek, PhD, have recently shaken up the scientific world by demonstrating that vitamin C might also be useful for the complementary treatment of asthma, some forms of cystic fibrosis and other inflammatory diseases of the bronchial pathways.

Dr. Illek and Fischer's study, published in the first March 2004 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, focused on the effects of vitamin C on the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductor regulator, or CFTR.

“CFTR,” says Dr. Illek, “is a protein in the cell membrane that works as a channel conducting chloride out of cells and water follows. This regulates the fluidity of airway secretions by regulating the salt and water content of the thin fluid film that lines the upper airways and bronchi.”

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Monday, May 16, 2011 11:33 PM

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