More Dangerous than Bullets

Pregnancy, parturition, and lactation are periods of intense biochemical stress for mammals.  Pregnant mammals, such as rats, which have the ability to produce their own ascorbic acid, significantly increase production of this metabolite to combat these stresses.  The recommended daily dietary allowance of ascorbic acid for pregnant and lactating women as set forth by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences, is 60 milligrams a day (1).  Their corresponding recommendations for nonpregnant females, aged eighteen to over seventy-five, is 55 milligrams a day.  This provides a meager 5 milligrams a day to maintain homeostasis under the biochemical stresses of a developing baby, the labor of childbirth, the production of milk, and the physiological recovery from the rigors of motherhood itself.

Let us make a simple calculation, assuming that a lactating mother produces 500 to 1,000 milliliters of breast milk daily (about a pint to a quart).  This is the amount a normal infant should consume in the first three months of life according to Ingalls (1).  The milk should contain more than 4 milligrams of ascorbic acid per 100 milliliters, according to Snelling (1).  This adds up to an additional burden on the mother of 20 to 40 milligrams of ascorbic acid a day which is secreted for the nourishment of the baby.  If the lactating mother is only getting a total of 60 milligrams of ascorbic acid a day, this extra load leaves her only 20 to 40 milligrams of ascorbic acid daily for her own hard-working physiology — 15 to 35 milligrams a day less than is recommended for a nonlactating female.  Draw your own conclusions.
That ascorbic acid is of vital importance in the biochemistry of pregnancy and fetal development can be seen from the profound effects on animals deprived of ascorbic acid.  As far back as 1915, before the discovery of ascorbic acid, it was known that the stresses of pregnancy made guinea pigs more susceptible to scurvy.  When pregnant guinea pigs were placed on a scorbutic diet early in pregnancy, it led to abortion or absorption of the fetuses, while ascorbic acid deprivation in the latter half of pregnancy resulted in stillbirths or delivery of premature or weak, scorbutic young. Female guinea pigs on a scorbutic diet did not become pregnant and there were profound changes in their ovaries, as described by Kramer and coworkers in 1933.  If fed inadequate levels of orange juice, pregnant guinea pigs either aborted or resorbed the fetuses or failed to give birth to living young, depending upon when the experimental animals were deprived of ascorbic acid and the extent of deprivation. Previously, in 930, it had been shown by Goettsch that depriving guinea pigs of vitamin C not only interfered with the estrus cycle of the females, but the males lost their ability to sire litters. In her paper, Goettsch quoted earlier work, going back to 1919, which showed the deleterious effect of scurvy on the sexual activity of guinea pigs (2).
It is interesting to note in this connection that a simple test, proposed in 1968 by Paeschke and Vasterling (3) to determine the time of ovulation is based on variations of ascorbic acid in the urine.  A marked decrease in urinary ascorbic acid signals the time of ovulation.  A similar test was proposed as far back as 1940 by Pillary.  Ascorbic acid is also important in the ripening of the human egg, as shown by the 1963 studies of Bertetti and Nonnis-Marzano.  This paper contains a bibliography with eighty-five references (3).
As cited in the 1958 paper of R ih , in a study of over 2,000 women, Martin found an increased frequency of premature births in mothers with the lowest intake levels and lowest serum concentrations of ascorbic acid. In over 200,000 deliveries in Finland, the frequency of stillbirths was highest in December and January and lowest in September, Dietary intakes of ascorbic acid are generally higher in the summer and early fall when fresh fruits and vegetables are available, and they are lowest in the winter months.  Pankamaa and R ih also cited the 1955 paper by Sauvage Nolting, who reported on defective brain development in human subjects caused by ascorbic acid deficiency (4).
In general, it appears that the mother herself suffers more from a diet low in ascorbic acid than the fetus.  There seems to be a selective transfer of ascorbic acid by the placenta from the mother’s blood to the fetus, as observed by McDevitt in 1942 (5).  The ascorbic acid content of the blood of the fetus at birth is higher than the mother’s (Manahan and Eastman, 1938; Mindlin, 1949; and Slobody et al. 1945) and the fetus seems to act parasitically (Teel 1938) tending to deplete the mother’s supply when her intakes are low.  In spite of this, the fetus still may not obtain enough ascorbic acid and congenital scurvy can occur, as shown by Jackson and Park in 1035 (5) and Ingier (2) in 1915.
There is a considerable body of medical literature from 1937 to 1964 indicating that ascorbic acid deficiencies and deprivation are intimately involved with spontaneous abortion, habitual abortion, and premature rupture of the fetal membranes. Therapy which included the use of ascorbic acid proved effective in correcting these conditions (6).
Mammals that produce their own ascorbic acid may not always produce enough to completely overcome the stresses of reproduction and can benefit from additional amounts.  It has been reported by Phillips et al. (7), in 1941, that injections of ascorbic acid in "hard to settle" cows resulted in 60 percent of them becoming pregnant on breeding.  Similarly, ascorbic acid injections improved the condition of a large percentage of sterile and partially sterile bulls.
Thus, there seems to be general agreement that ascorbic acid deficiency, due to low intakes by the mother during pregnancy, can have serious consequences in the reproductive process.  It was only when laboratory animal tests were conducted to determine the effect of added ascorbic acid that contradictory results were obtained which will require further clarification.  A program of long-term definitive research work is needed to determine the optimal level of intake for pregnancy, for easing the stresses of parturition and labor, and for the postnatal care of the mother and child.
The following is a brief review of the contradictory data from tests on guinea pigs.  In the 1962 publication of the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, "Nutrient Requirements of Laboratory Animals," two diets are given as satisfactory for raising guinea pigs, and hundreds of generations of guinea pigs have probably been raised using them  One diet supplies 12.5 milligrams of ascorbic acid per day, while the other supplies 50 milligrams of ascorbic acid daily.  Assuming the guinea pig weighs about 300 grams, these amounts are equivalent to 2.9 grams and 11.7 grams of ascorbic acid respectively for a 70-kilogram body weight (154 pounds).
In 1951, a paper by Dr. W. Neuweiler (8) appeared that reported on tests with pregnant guinea pigs which were given 25 milligrams of ascorbic acid daily in addition to  their vegetable diet.  He stated that, in spite of the fact that there were no general toxic manifestations, there were disturbances to the reproductive process, with fertility changes and increased fetal mortality.  He did not mention the number of guinea pigs used in his tests.  In 1953, Mouriquand and Edel (8) reported using 250 milligrams of ascorbic acid daily by injection or ingestion (ten times more than Neuweiler used and equivalent to 117 grams of ascorbic acid on a 70-kilogram body weight basis).  Males an nonpregnant female guinea pigs were unaffected, but for 3 pregnant females there were shortened gestation periods with increased stillbirths.  On the other hand, Lamden and Schweiker (9), in 1955, gave daily intraperitoneal injections of 100 to 200 milligrams of ascorbic acid for six weeks (about 23 grams to 47 grams of ascorbic acid daily for a 70-kilogram body weight) and reported, "there was no interference in the gestation and bearing of healthy litters by two guinea pigs injected with the above amounts of ascorbic acid for a major part of the gestation period."
M.L. Steel 99), in 1968, in a Ph.D. thesis entitled "Growth and Reproduction of Guinea Pigs Fed Three Levels of Ascorbic Acid," used in her work 4, 10, and 100 milligrams per kilogram of body weight (equivalent respectively to 280 milligrams, 700 milligrams, and 7.0 grams per 70-kilogram adult body weight).  She showed that animals on the lowest level of ascorbic acid intake had more difficulty in starting a pregnancy, the pregnancy was more likely to end unsuccessfully, the abortion rate was higher, and the death rate was higher.  The highest level of ascorbic acid appeared to protect the parent animal from obvious malfunction of the reproductive faculty.  However, the survival rate of the offspring was highest when the parent animal was fed the lowest level.
This latter result requires further investigation because it contradicts the results reported in 1967 by C.G. King (9), who supplemented the diet of female guinea pigs each day with 1.5, 3, 6, and 20 milligrams of ascorbic acid.  Growth rates were comparable in all groups, but the number of viable offspring increased with each increase in dosage.  Survival records were the lowest and stillbirths and resorptions were the highest for the group receiving the least ascorbic acid.
The Soviet worker E.P. Samborskaia (10), in 1962, tested the effect of ascorbic acid on the reproduction system of guinea pigs and mice and reported changes in the organs and sexual cycles of the animals.  According to Steel (9), Samborskaia introduced the ascorbic acid intravaginally into the animals by means of cotton-wool tampons soaked in an ascorbic acid solution, a highly unusual means of application.
In 1964, Samborskaia reported on tests on pregnant guinea pigs given 50 to 500 milligrams of ascorbic acid each day (about 12 to 120 grams per 70 kilograms of body weight), stating that there were increases in abortions, stillbirths, and births of nonviable young.  In her 1966 paper, she reported the administration of 150 milligrams of ascorbic acid daily (about 35 grams per 70 kilograms of body weight) to 14 pregnant rats.  Three of these rats aborted on the thirteenth to fifteenth day of pregnancy.  She also reports tests on women which translate as follows:
There were twenty women, ages twenty to forty, who had come to the gynecologist with the request for an abortion.  Sixteen of the twenty women under observation began to menstruate one to three days after receiving the prescribed course of ascorbic acid.  There was no effect on four of the women.
The "prescribed course" appears to have been 6 grams of ascorbic every twenty-four hours for a three-day period.  She concluded that this increases the levels of estrogens, which in turn serves to provoke abortion. Besides language difficulties, many Soviet medical papers have a frustrating lack of essential details, but if her results are reliable, then there are wide implications for the use of ascorbic acid in this field, especially since the legalization of abortions.  However, many other workers have used ascorbic acid for just the opposite purpose in the treatment of threatened abortion and habitual abortion:  Pearse and Trisler (10), in 1957; Ainslee (10), in 1959; and also the numerous workers reporting in the papers cited under reference (6).  It is difficult to reconcile the views of this one Soviet worker with the results reported by others.
Samborskaia’s work on abortion seems particularly suspicious when viewed in the light of Klenner’s results (11), reported in 1971, on megascorbic prophylaxis in over 300 human pregnancies. His patients were given orally, throughout their pregnancies, from 4 grams to 15 grams of ascorbic acid a day on approximately the following schedule;  4 grams daily in the first trimester, 6 grams daily in the second trimester, and 10 grams daily during the last trimester.  Approximately 20 percent in this series required 15 grams ascorbic acid a day in the lst trimester.  There were no miscarriages in the entire series, and one woman in the series had ten consecutive normal pregnancies and ten healthy babies.  On admission to the hospital for childbirth, 80 percent of the patients were given a booster injection of 10 grams of ascorbic acid intravenously.  Labor was shorter, less painful, and uncomplicated.  Striae gravidarum (abdominal wrinkles after childbirth) was seldom seen and there were no postpartum hemorrhages. During childbirth, the perineum was remarkably elastic and episiotomy was performed electively.  Healing was always by first intention.  Fifteen to twenty years after the last childbirth, the firmness of the perineum is found to be like that during the first childbirth, provided the patient continued on large daily intakes of ascorbic acid.  No toxic manifestations were demonstrated in this series and there was no cardiac stress even though twenty-two patients in the series had "rheumatic hearts."
The most remarkable effects of the megascorbic dosages were the health and vigor of the babies.  They were all robust and not one required resuscitative measures.  All the babies from the series were so strong, good looking, vigorous, and trouble-free that the nurses in the hospital referred to them as the "Vitamin C Babies." The Fultz quadruplets were in this series and they are the only quadruplets that have survived in southeastern United States. The babies were given 50 milligrams of ascorbic acid on the first day and dose was gradually increased thereafter until they were taking 1 gram a day at one year of age.  This recommended routine daily dose is increased 1 gram for each year until ten years and then 10 grams regularly thereafter. This megascorbic regimen in pregnancy and childbirth certainly deserves wider recognition and use.
For the induction of labor in childbirth, the administration of ascorbic acid was proposed by Spitzer (12), in 1947; and Tasch (12), in 1951, used it to shorten the period of labor and to favorably influence the postlabor period.  McCormick (12), in 1948, suggested ascorbic acid as a means of avoiding the striae of pregnancy (striae gravidarum or striae atrophicae). Further research would also be profitable in these areas and also in the treatment of painful menstruation (13), excessive menstrual bleeding (14), and in relief of menopausal disorders (15).

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