Thursday, August 18, 2011

Vitamin C Plays Important Role in Brain Function

This discovery is exciting and important to the DS community for several reasons — one, it reinforces how important common vitamins are, which supports the use of TNI (Targeted Nutrition Intervention) — two, it reminds us of the connection between eye dysfunction and brain dysfunction so we will recognize and treat it as a symptom of a brain disorder in the central nervous system and not just as a sensory issue — three, it reminds us that brain receptors and cells can be protected from premature breakdown by antioxidants such as vitamin C and — four it offers us an additional way to treat GABA overexpression, which is a major problem in individuals with T21 (presently addressed with Ginkgo Biloba). My notes are in italics. I also bolded parts I felt are significant.

Additionally, Vitamin C is great for increasing the level of glutathione in the body, which is much needed in individuals with DS. See studies below.

Also this linked study shows that treatment with vitamin C can dissolve the toxic protein aggregates that build up in the brain in Alzheimer’s disease.

OHSU scientists discover new role for vitamin C in the eye — and the brain

07/14/11 Portland, OR

In a surprising finding, vitamin C is found to prolong proper function of retinal cells.

Nerve cells in the eye require vitamin C in order to function properly — a surprising discovery that may mean vitamin C is required elsewhere in the brain for its proper functioning, according to a study by scientists at Oregon Health & Science University recently published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

“We found that cells in the retina need to be 'bathed' in relatively high doses of vitamin C, inside and out, to function properly,” said Henrique von Gersdorff, Ph.D., a senior scientist at OHSU's Vollum Institute and a co-author of the study. “Because the retina is part of the central nervous system, this suggests there's likely an important role for vitamin C throughout our brains, to a degree we had not realized before.”

The brain has special receptors, called GABA-type receptors, that help modulate the rapid communication between cells in the brain. GABA receptors in the brain act as an inhibitory “brake” on excitatory neurons in the brain. (These receptors do not work properly in people with Down syndrome.) The OHSU researchers found that these GABA-type receptors in the retinal cells stopped functioning properly when vitamin C was removed.

Because retinal cells are a kind of very accessible brain cell, it’s likely that GABA receptors elsewhere in the brain also require vitamin C to function properly, von Gersdorff said. And because vitamin C is a major natural antioxidant, it may be that it essentially ‘preserves’ the receptors and cells from premature breakdown, von Gersdorff said. (Premature breakdown of brain cells and receptors is also a concern for individuals with DS.)

The function of vitamin C in the brain is not well understood. In fact, when the human body is deprived of vitamin C, the vitamin stays in the brain longer than anyplace else in the body. “Perhaps the brain is the last place you want to lose vitamin C,” von Gersdorff said. The findings also may offer a clue as to why scurvy — which results from a severe lack of vitamin C — acts the way it does, von Gersdorff said. One of the common symptoms of scurvy is depression, and that may come from the lack of vitamin C in the brain. (Also interesting because Prozac, used to treat cognitive problems in DS, heals depression while regenerating neurons. If vitamin C relieves depression then it makes you wonder if it may effect neurogenesis as well.)

The findings could have implications for other diseases, like glaucoma and epilepsy. (In DS, the prevalence of patients with glaucoma was 11.5%, significantly higher [P = 0.014] than that in the Non-DS control group, 1.1%.) Both conditions are caused by the dysfunction of nerve cells in the retina and brain that become over excited in part because GABA receptors may not be functioning properly. (Jett had nystagmus which is an eye flutter. His TCM said that she was concerned about the possibility of seizures because of the presence of the nystagmus. Her concerns make much more sense to me now.)

“For example, maybe a vitamin C-rich diet could be neuroprotective for the retina — for people who are especially prone to glaucoma,” von Gersdorff said. “This is speculative and there is much to learn. But this research provides some important insights and will lead to the generation of new hypotheses and potential treatment strategies.”

Scientists and students in von Gerdorff's lab in OHSU's Vollum Institute are dedicated to basic neuroscience research. The vitamin C research work was done using goldfish retinas, which have the same overall biological structure as human retinas.

The retina research work was done by Ph.D. student Evan Vickers, working as part of the von Gersdorff lab. The work was in collaboration with Cecilia Calero in the lab of Dr. Daniel J. Calvo from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Gustavo Cid and Luis Aguayo from the University of Concepcion, Chile.

The work was funded by the Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Tecnicas (Argentina), the Pew Foundation, the International Brain Research Organization and the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

The study was published online in the June 29 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, which is the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience.

About the Vollum Institute

The Vollum Institute is dedicated to basic research focusing on gene regulation, structural biology, cell signaling, molecular neuroscience and synaptic modulation with implications for human diseases ranging from autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders to Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, psychiatric diseases and mechanisms of drug addiction.


How much vitamin C should our loved one get and in what form?

A recommended dose of vitamin C is 250-2000 mg (not the US government's recommendation) for adults. So, just to give you an idea, 150 lbs = 250-2000 mg; 75 lbs = 125-1000 mg; 37 lbs = 62-500 mg; 19 lbs = 31-250 mg; 9 lbs = 15-125 mg, etc.
Vitamin C is safe – too much simply causes diarrhea. Try increasing the amount until it causes loose stools, then reduce the dose slightly so it does not. This is called taking vitamin C to "bowel tolerance". Using muscle testing might be an easy and effective way to find out how much vitamin C your child can tolerate.

Jett weighs 20.6 lbs and he takes 3,750 mg of vitamin C, twice a day. Your child may not need that much, or may need more! I figured out this dose by increasing it "to bowel tolerance." I slowly increased his dose until his stool became loose. Once this happened, I lowered the dose until he was regular and his stool consistency was normal. Bonus: Jett's constipation is gone! 
(See Constipation: Causes and Cures, if needed.)
I started Jett on the Nature's Way Alive Vitamin C which I was happy with but he needed so much that it became too bulky.  

Once he's at least 60 lbs,I may try the liposomal vitamin C, to maximize my dollar. It's very strong stuff, so if you use it, use very little and slowly work your way up to the maximum dose.

Even though Vitamin C is commonly supplemented, you'll still need to introduce it slowly and in small amounts. The initial doses of C may trigger an immune response in your child. (It can "kick-start" a sleeping immune system.) For Jett, he got a runny nose in the night. (I had to wake up and clean out his nose.) He'd never been sick and doesn't have runny noses, so this was significant for him. In other children I know who start on C, they actually got colds. Or at least the symptoms of a cold: runny nose, fever, etc. So, do ease your child into the dose. And pick a time when you don't have an upcoming recital or event where you'll need your child to be 100%. Also give him plenty of fluids throughout the day to help his body get rid of whatever the C has found to fight off. Update: At the same time that I had tried the C, I also was seeing if he could tolerate a little dairy. So when I stopped the dairy, and continued the C, the runny nose stopped. So, in Jett's case, it was the dairy and not the C.

Another possible side effect is gas. The Vitamin C will kill off yeast. This "die off" may cause gas. If your child still eats things that promote yeast like sugar, you may have more gas. Jett's diet is pretty clean and doesn't seem to have a problem with yeast, so he hasn't had this side effect. A teen that I know had terrible gas at first because he has a yeast-supporting diet.


The most powerful and fast acting form of vitamin C is as ascorbic acid. If your child is sensitive to the acidity, you may want to purchase buffered C (Perque Potent C Guard is the only one not derived from corn) or by adding baking soda to your Vitamin C Powder from Vitacost or The Vitamin C Foundation Brand (which is not sourced from China). If it's still a problem, you can try a powdered fruit which is high in Vitamin C like Camu Camu or Amla. Jett uses camu camu because amla didn't muscle test well for Jett.

Be sure to get $10 off your first Vitacost vitamin order.


Nature's Way Alive Vitamin C is easily absorbed, gentle on the stomach, non-GMO and free of common food allergens. It's just pure vitamin C complex from four 100% organic fruit sources: acerola, goji, amla (amalaki) and kiwi. You can get it in vegetarian capsules or in powder form. One capsule is 125 mg, when I started, I gave him a capsule a day and saw how that went for a week.

I then was using Vitacost brand Buffered C Complex because Jett's need for vitamin C was greater than I realized and I had to give too many of the Nature's Way capsules (6) which was becoming too bulky for him to have to eat mixed in his food. Once he can take capsules, I would like to go back to find an organic source. So, now, Jett weighs 20.6 lbs and he takes 3,750 mg of vitamin C. I figured out this dose by increasing it "to bowel tolerance." I slowly increased his dose until his stool became loose. Once this happened, I lowered the dose until he was regular and his stool consistency was normal.

Then I used Vitamin C Powder but it is derived from corn so I discontinued. It also isn't buffered so it can be hard on tooth enamel. This product is the best kind because it's properly buffered and is not derived from corn: Perque Potent C Guard another choice to consider would be the product from 
The Vitamin C Foundation. The Ester C didn't work at all, by the way.

At four years old, I'm just using camu camu powder over ascorbic acid for Jett, at one teaspoon twice a day, more only if there's any constipation. Originally, I was avoiding ascorbic acid because of the sour taste, but I read that, after long term use, it could break down into oxalates in the intestines which may lead to oxalate stones like kidney stones. The findings are debatable, see here for details.

According to the makers of Lypo Spheric Liposomal Vitamin C, it provides maximum assimilation and bio-availability because there are no binders, fillers, gelatins, capsule materials, dyes, sweeteners or flavorings common with tablet and capsule supplements. Plus, if you take more than 2 to 3 grams of traditional Vitamin C, the ascorbic acid in the intestines can cause gastric distress -- gas, cramps, and diarrhea. Often Vitamin C will be eliminated via very loose stool. By using this brand, you can supposedly avoid the degradation and discomfort associated with traditional forms of Vitamin C and protect the lower G.I. Tract - hence, no gastric upset, no diarrheal flushing effect. Lastly, the liposomes quickly journey to the bloodstream and are circulated throughout the body and "grabbed" by the damaged cells that need it.

You will need to observe your child and go very slowly, especially if using the powerful Liposomal Vitamin C.

How I got Jett to take his Vitamin C

I put 1/4 teaspoon in a little honey and a couple of large spoonfuls of applesauce. I give with a little bit of coconut water (for the potassium) and 1/4 teaspoon of chokeberry powder (for the other minerals needed for the C to be best ingested). Jett hates the sour taste, but takes it like this just fine. He'll even feed it to himself. He gets it three times a day.  Later, I added his fermented cod liver oil and choline which he is taking fine. At four years old, I just put camu camu in with his other supplements in his applesauce. (I need to start teaching him how to take capsules!)

Vitamin C Overdose

Since it's a water soluble vitamin, there isn't a high level of risk associated with an overdose. The excess amount that your body does not needs gets excreted out through urine so it does not cause much of a problem. However, that does not mean that you should continue with high C foods or supplements in excess if overdose symptoms appear.

Someone who has taken too much vitamin C may have a strong smell during urination, bloating or gas, nausea and an upset stomach. He might also experience sores on the inside of his mouth. Diarrhea could also occur. It was once believed to cause kidney stones, but experts now say there is no solid evidence of dangerous side effects from vitamin C.

In a more severe case of overdose, you might notice the following symptoms: a greater need for oxygen and deficiencies in B vitamins as well as copper. These symptoms usually only show up in more severe cases in which at least 6,000 mg of vitamin C has been consumed, or when someone takes a large amount of vitamin C and other vitamins or minerals. If you see any of these symptoms and believe that the cause may be a severe overconsumption of vitamin C, simply reduce the intake of vitamin C.


Related Posts

Prozac & Vision Problems in DS

Constipation: Causes and Cures
Gingko: The Hows and Whys for Down Syndrome
Prozac Cures Lazy Eye!
CMF Protocol: Prozac
Alzheimer's Disease & DS: Connection and Treatment
Which Multivitamin?
Coenzyme Q10
High Fructose Corn Syrup Is a Major Cause of Dementia
Hashimoto's Encephalopathy Mimics Alzheimer's Disease

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey great article thanks for posting.

I was doing some research on Linus Pauling and at one point he was taking up to 30 grams of vitamin c per day.