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Linus Pauling might be responsible for your death

So many of us take supplements, pills, potions, elixirs, lotions, bromides, miracle secrets from the ancients, super foods, substances of all kinds, as well as what our doctors prescribe, and with all of them we are told they are good for us.  We are mostly immune to the cautions about side affects and don't even consider how much we don't know as we swallow that bit of magic that will help us be well.

I'm an engineer, not a doctor so I can ask you a what if question, which you, as a smart person can consider.  What if one of the pills that everyone thinks is good for you can kill you by destroying your liver slowly?  Would that be something you would think about?  If you will stay with me here for just a bit I'll tell you a story about how some well intentioned advice may kill you.

In my last note I talked about how collagen forms to become a deadly enemy for your liver.  To be clear collagen is a very good thing.  Much of your body is made of it.  You couldn't exist without a robust collagen process. But like so many things, too much in the wrong place or time and the engine of life starts to fail.

collagen formation

Remember this process where the initial fibers of a blood clot wind themselves into a very tough triple helix which eventually destroys your liver as tough scar tissue?

One might ask how that happens?  It is very interesting that the key to winding up the helix is our old friend Vitamin C.  Imagine that.  We learned in the age of sail that sailors got sick on long voyages and it was because they didn't get vitamin C.  That was when we figured out that vitamin C is critical to life.  It turns out that vitamin C causes the collagen helix to assemble itself.  Fascinating biochemistry but what does that mean today you might ask?

Clearly we have some minimum threshold where too little vitamin C causes our bodies to fail.  Well more is better, right?  Most of you probably take vitamin C routinely and there is a movement to take mega doses based on the argument that it is an antioxidant and we can't live without it.  Lots of claims for benefits.

Suppose, however, that you have inflammation and liver fibrosis and you know that your liver has tools to clear collagen out that doesn't really belong but it can't do much about that triple helix.  Might a super abundance of vitamin C, that super molecule we require to live, speed up the formation of the deadly triple helix?  Might excess vitamin C speed you along to end stage liver failure?  This is a thought experiment as I have not found a study which addresses the question of how much C might accelerate liver disease.  No one can make money telling you not to take a necessary vitamin. When you consider supplementation with exotic sounding things just keep in mind that we don't really know everything about how even the most common molecules may affect us long term.  Someone whose job it is to convince you to buy that bottle of magic may even be well intentioned, (not always true), but they can't know what will actually happen to you when you take the stuff. For many things it just lightens your wallet but you don't know which ones those are.

The point here is that many processes in the body are dose related and the list of things we don't know about the best dose for a vast array of molecules would give you pause if you ever studied it.  When an argument can be made that even our old friend Vitamin C should but used cautiously how should you, as an advocate for not dying soon or badly, manage what you consume?

Just a little food for thought in your journey. When tempted to do mega doses, take unusual molecules, or listen to the siren song of easy fixes, reflect on your old pal Vitamin C before you decide what you want to do.

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