Surprise! Just when we thought we knew everything about vitamin C

One of the great things about following longevity research is that surprises are around every corner.  But I have not imagined a surprise of major importance about vitamin C supplementation.  Yesterday I would have said such a surprise is very unlikely because the stuff has been studied for more than 50 years including the Linus Pauling C-advocacy era.  There is a long history of controversy regarding therapeutic use of vitamin C, especially in megadose amounts(see the citations in ref).  Having been an aficionado of C megadosing back in the 70s, I have long since given up on the substance being other than an important antioxidant supplement.   Well, wrong again!  A 2010 research study just published in the FASEB Journal indicates that vitamin supplementation C cures mice with Werner’s Syndrome and could possibly be very important for the longevity of people with related genetic defects(ref)(ref).  What did we miss and what new is to be learned about vitamin C?

Werner’s Syndrome is a form of adult progeria (premature aging) due to a mutation in the WRN gene, a helicase deficiency.  For background on the disease and its genetic causes see the blog post Werner Syndrome – another model for aging 

The new study is entitled Vitamin C restores healthy aging in a mouse model for Werner syndrome.  Werner syndrome (WS) is a premature aging disorder caused by mutations in a RecQ-like DNA helicase. Mice lacking the helicase domain of the WRN homologue exhibit many phenotypic features of WS, including a prooxidant status and a shorter mean life span compared to wild-type animals. Here, we show that Wrn mutant mice also develop premature liver sinusoidal endothelial defenestration along with inflammation and metabolic syndrome. Vitamin C supplementation rescued the shorter mean life span of Wrn mutant mice and reversed several age-related abnormalities in adipose tissues and liver endothelial defenestration, genomic integrity, and inflammatory status. At the molecular level, phosphorylation of age-related stress markers like Akt kinase-specific substrates and the transcription factor NF-kappaB, as well as protein kinase C and Hif-1 transcription factor levels, which are increased in the liver of Wrn mutants, were normalized by vitamin C. Vitamin C also increased the transcriptional regulator of lipid metabolism PPAR . Finally, microarray and gene set enrichment analyses on liver tissues revealed that vitamin C decreased genes normally up-regulated in human WS fibroblasts and cancers, and it increased genes involved in tissue injury response and adipocyte dedifferentiation in obese mice. Vitamin C did not have such effect on wild-type mice. These results indicate that vitamin C supplementation could be beneficial for patients with WS.”  In other words, vitamin C supplementation delivers on restoring a Wrn mutant mice to normal healthy mouse status and the researchers think it might do the same for human patients with WS.

The important implication of the study is that vitamin C could be extremely important for prolonging the lives of people with WS or related genetic defects who normally show accelerated aging around 20 and die by 50.  A discussion of the new result in EurekAlert quotes an author of the study:”Our study clearly indicates that a healthy organism or individuals with no health problems do not require a large amount of vitamin C in order to increase their lifespan, especially if they have a balanced diet and they exercise,” said Michel Lebel, Ph.D., co-author of the study from the Centre de Recherche en Cancerologie in Quebec, Canada. “An organism or individual with a mutation in the WRN gene or any gene affected by the WRN protein, and thus predisposes them to several age-related diseases, may benefit from a diet with the appropriate amount of vitamin C.”

The reports I have read of this study do not make it clear how exactly vitamin C works to overcome the multiple effects of accelerated aging  due to mutation in the WRN gene, and I suspect this is unknown.  I would like to learn more about that  since I doubt only a simple antioxidant effect is involved.  And, if we knew how vitamin C can halt extraordinary aging due to WS, that just possibly might give us a clue as to how something else could halt normal aging.

There is apparently a lot more to learn about the workings of that wonderful, familiar and cheap ascorbic acid stuff.   “Vitamin C has become one of the most misunderstood substances in our medicine cabinets and food,” said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of the FASEB Journal. “This study and others like it help explain how and why this chemical can help to defend some, but certainly not all, people from premature senescence(ref).”  

Rapidly curing a roaring case of hepatitis back in 1970 using megadoses of vitamin C is what started my interest in anti-aging science.  I will continue popping at least 3 grams a day of C as I have been doing for decades now.

About Vince Giuliano

Being a follower, connoisseur, and interpreter of longevity research is my latest career. I have been at this part-time for well over a decade, and in 2007 this became my mainline activity. In earlier reincarnations of my career. I was founding dean of a graduate school and a university professor at the State University of New York, a senior consultant working in a variety of fields at Arthur D. Little, Inc., Chief Scientist and C00 of Mirror Systems, a software company, and an international Internet consultant. I got off the ground with one of the earliest PhD's from Harvard in a field later to become known as computer science. Because there was no academic field of computer science at the time, to get through I had to qualify myself in hard sciences, so my studies focused heavily on quantum physics. In various ways I contributed to the Computer Revolution starting in the 1950s and the Internet Revolution starting in the late 1980s. I am now engaged in doing the same for The Longevity Revolution. I have published something like 200 books and papers as well as over 430 substantive.entries in this blog, and have enjoyed various periods of notoriety. If you do a Google search on Vincent E. Giuliano, most if not all of the entries on the first few pages that come up will be ones relating to me. I have a general writings site at and an extensive site of my art at Please note that I have recently changed my mailbox to
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5 Responses to Surprise! Just when we thought we knew everything about vitamin C

  1. jeg3 says:

    Have you seen this, also interesting but no studies showing extension of maximum life span, so maybe good for specific diseases and healthy aging:
    Citrus surprise: Vitamin C boosts the reprogramming of adult cells into stem cells

    There is also Packer’s work:
    The Antioxidant Miracle: Your Complete Plan for Total Health and Healing, by Lester Packer and Carol Colman, 1999
    “Micronutrients and Brain Health” By Lester Packer, Helmut Sies, Manfred Eggersdorfer, Enrique Cadenas (2009)


  2. admin says:

    Hi jeg3

    Wow! Thanks for the links. I will look at them, see what other relevant stuff there is and get back with a substantive related comment before long.


  3. admin says:

    Jeg3 again:

    I have checked out all the citations you provided.

    With respect to Vitamin C facilitating the reprogramming of cells to iPSC status, very interesting. Another thing to add to the already-long list of credentials of Vitamin C. There has been a lot of work during the last year on improving methods for reprogramming to get iPSCs with additional interesting results. I may generate a blog post on the topic.

    As to Packer’s work and the work on micronutrients, also very good and classical stuff related to several of the theories of aging including Oxidative Damage and Mitochondrial Damage. I have covered much of this material including that related to Acetyl-l-carnitine and Alpha-lipoic acid in my treatise and, of course, in my suggested anti-aging supplement regimen and other blog posts.
    Did you see my blog post on The micronutrient triage theory of aging? It is at


  4. jeg3 says:

    Hi Vince,

    I read your new Micronutrient Triage Theory based on Ames work, nice write-up. I was also thinking about how networks are important – Packer’s work and also Bill Lands

    And also getting all the micronutrients within a family- e.g. toctrienols- appears to be important:
    Chapter 12 on “Toctrienol Neuroprotection”

    And now also the research of:
    Part 2: Evolutionary Biologist Michael R. Rose, Ph.D. –

    See slides beginning @7:10 where he points out that Cell biology/biochemistry has progressed from the view of Pathways (way outdated view) to Complex Networks (outdated view) to Vastly Complex Networks (current view) – which can probably include the Micronutrient Triage Theory. All 3 video parts are excellent, and he predicts that human healthspan can be doubled using nutriceuticals & pharmaceuticals based on genetics research.

    The Micronutrient Triage Theory (Minimize DNA damage) may in the future be expanded/merged to include Maximizing the effect of longevity genes using nutriceuticals & pharmaceuticals based on Dr. Rose’s & others work (telomere lengthening). Need the research to determine which nutriceuticals & pharmaceuticals work on longevity genes, which seems to be coming.

    Your aging theories are vastly complex interconnected networks.

    Thanks for your blog, it will take a long time to catch up to you at your pace, keeps the mind working.

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