• Failed Vitamin C Study. When Will They Print The Retractions?

    Posted May 31, 2021: by Bill Sardi

    Bias Revealed In Negative Vitamin C/ COVID-19 Study

    Prior Negative COVID-19 Vitamin C Study, Halted Prematurely Because of Alleged Ineffectiveness, Found to Increase Rate of Recovery by 70% Upon Reanalysis

    • Ascorbic acid fails to significantly decrease duration of COVID-19 symptoms. – Healio
    • Supplements fail for COVID-19.  – Medpage Today.
    • We applaud the COVID-19 study for adding rigorous science and challenging popular beliefs.  Vitamin C failed to live up to its hype.  – JAMA Network Open

    Where was the peer review?  Where were the trained medical journalists to take researchers to task over prematurely halting a vitamin C/COVID-19 symptom study when both statistical and meaningfully clinical benefits were readily apparent, when so many American lives were reported to be at stake?

    On February 12, 2021 MedPageToday.com slammed vitamin C for “not living up to its hype,” resulting in researchers halting the study prematurely after only 214 COVID-19 diagnosed patients were enrolled in a 520-patient study (JAMA Open Network 2021).  Investigators inexplicably discontinued enrollment errantly believing it would have been a futile effort to continue.  News media carried this as a headline story throughout the world – vitamin C had failed once again!

    But three months later scientific reviewers report in the journal Frontiers in Immunology what that vitamin C study actually reported before its censors and interpreters maligned it :

    1. Vitamin C increased the rate of recovery by 70% (6.8% to 170%).
    2. Vitamin C reduced symptoms of infection by 30% among patients with the longest symptoms — 6.2 days to 4.6 days (26%) in one group and 11.6 days to 7.6 days in another group (34%).
    3. Reduced duration of symptoms from 6.7 days to 5.5 days, a 1.2-day reduction, which was beyond the 1.0 day target improvement deemed to be significant if achieved prior to the launch of the study.

    The reviewers write: “It was illogical to have stopped the trial early because of futility.”  The study investigators were taken to task for considering a 1.0-day reduction in symptoms duration is clinically important, “yet on the other hand deemed a 1.2-day reduction was futile and justified early termination of the study.”

    Chart: Comparison of Vitamin C and Usual Care

    The team of reviewers also found:

    1. The study failed to indicate when vitamin C treatment began in each case.  Prior studies have shown vitamin C therapy should be initiated immediately upon the appearance of the first symptoms to achieve optimal benefits.
    2. The regimen of 8000 milligrams of vitamin C taken 2-3 times a day achieves saturation levels and less vitamin C is absorbed. For comparison, taking 500 milligrams every hour to achieve 8000 milligram-intake over 16 hours would achieve higher blood levels.  Vitamin C is known to be rapidly excreted, within 30 minutes of intake.
    3. A baseline vitamin C blood level was not obtained.  Vitamin C would have been more likely to exhibit beneficial effects and reduction in duration of symptoms among those study participants with the lowest vitamin C levels at the beginning of the study.  By restricting the size of the study population to 214 instead of 520, they were not able to identify sub-groups in the study who might benefit from vitamin C therapy.
    4. Researchers failed to obtain baseline vitamin D blood levels which are associated with respiratory diseases and would likely affect the outcome of the vitamin C study in question.
    5. The study in question also included zinc supplementation which was also deemed to be ineffective at reducing symptoms.  In a supplemental report, the reviewers noted that study investigators chose to employ a zinc tablet rather than a zinc lozenge which was reported to be efficacious for the common cold in prior studies.

    Can We Expect A Retraction?

    Vitamin C researchers Steve Hickey and Hilary Roberts of Manchester, England, claim there is a huge difference between the use of vitamin C to prevent a common cold (~10,000 milligrams/day in divided doses) vs. treating a cold (could require 50-100 grams (50,000 to 100,000 milligrams).  Other researchers have found that white blood cells have blood concentrations that are at least 14-fold higher than blood plasma, which is the standard way to measure blood vitamin C levels.

    Historically, an early error was that researchers mistakenly believed no vitamin C is absorbed beyond 200 milligrams/dose.   During illness vitamin C is rapidly depleted and doses up to 200 grams (200,000 milligrams) may be needed.  Hickey and Roberts write that the dose of vitamin C needed to treat a cold is “perhaps a minimum of 10 grams (10,000 milligrams) of oral vitamin, followed by a least 2 grams each hour.”

    The preemptive cancellation of the vitamin C/COVID-19 symptom study was not just an error, it was an example of blatant scientific bias with complicity by peer reviewers and failure to critique obvious research errors by the news media.  The research report published in JAMA Network Open should be retracted

    The truth will eventually prevail, but unfortunately, not enough people are likely to hear about it.

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