Vitamin C Part 3: Linus Pauling and the Kidney Stone

Vitamin C Part 3: Linus Pauling and the Kidney Stone

We have come to our conclusion for Vitamin C!

So exciting! Weeeeee

If you haven’t checked out the other parts, check them out here and here.

Let’s begin with another fun fact on Vitamin C!  #funfactswithfettuccine

Not you, Vitamin C.


So, something interesting is that the quite a few animals synthesize enough Vitamin C within themselves.  Humans and a select few other animals are the only ones unable to produce Vitamin C within their bodies. This is because we lack a specific enzyme within our bodies that converts glucose–the body’s main fuel source–into Vitamin C. This enzyme, called L-gulonolactone oxidase, was lost to us about 63 million years ago.


Do you have that one friend who loves to tell you how “drowning yourself in vitamin C can help prevent the cold! MORE IS BETTER!”

Do they then begin smashing fruit into your face while cackling maniacally and belting “Singing in the rain?”  No? Well god, I hope not, because I’m pretty sure you would be living in a horror movie.

Unfortunately, there is little evidence that inhaling mass quantities of Vitamin C  prevents people from getting the common cold.  However, it does appear to decrease the severity of colds as well as the duration.

I think that’s pretty neat.

The misconception that Vitamin C can prevent the common cold was made popular by Linus Pauling, a famous Nobel prize winning scientist who was kind of a big deal.  In his later years, he was a proponent of Megavitamin therapy, which is basically megadosing on vitamins well past what you would receive normally in your diet.  He believed so strongly in Vitamin C being able to prevent the common cold, that he published a book titled “Vitamin C and The Common Cold.” 

His book was incredibly popular, and Linus Pauling was credited with drastically increasing the popularity of Vitamin C and greatly increasing the number of sales for this particular Vitamin.

Many advocate the usage of large amounts of vitamin C.  Superloading of Vitamin C is touted to help with a variety of ailments, to curing cancer to increasing your lifespan.  Even claims that it has curative effects on AIDS.  The evidence that Vitamin C can provide such amazing curative powers appears to be pretty negligible, unfortunately.

Well, pumping yourself full of vitamin c doesn’t seem like a terrible option, right?  I mean, taking large doses of doesn’t appear to cause any sort of extreme side effects?  So why not?  It can’t hurt!

Eh, well, It appears there are some not so fun things that could happen with a consistent super loading of vitamin c.

One thing in particular, Although it’s extremely rare,  is the potential of what is called Oxalate Nephrotoxicity (aka bad crap happening in your kidneys).  Like I said previously, this is extremely rare, but super loading could potentially cause a dangerous build-up of oxalate within the kidneys. Vitamin C is actually a precursor–which is a substance from which another is formed– to oxalate.  Oxalate Nephrotoxicity causes a dangerous accumulation of this, which could potentially be fatal if it is not treated in a timely manner.  There seem to be multiple case reports of this occurring, you can view some here, here and here.

Oh, by the way, Calcium oxalate is what those fun kidney destroying kidney stones are made up of.  The below is what it looks like under a microscope.


A super close up of a kidney stone. Vitamin C can actually increase the amount of oxalic acid in our bodies.
Pissing out pain.                                 Image source


Looks like some kind of obscure hell-scape.  This is what is tearing through your urethra when you are having kidney stones! haha.

Fun fact: the role of a certain bacteria within our guts, called oxalobacter formigenes, actually utilizes oxalate as its energy source!  This bacteria is necessary for preventing oxalate from absorbing in the intestines.  The loss of this bacteria, through the usage of antibiotics, could cause an increase in oxalate within our bodies leading to fun things like kidney stones!

Is it worth supplementing with, though?  I’ll briefly touch on some of the benefits.  Vitamin C has some nice antioxidant benefits, it can potentially decrease the severity of colds as well as the duration.  It’s also pretty inexpensive with potential side effects–when taken orally– being incredibly mild and the chances of developing some of the more severe side effects when consumed in moderation are pretty much non-existent.  Also, no Scurvy, so there’s that.

Some cons:  It doesn’t appear to prevent colds as others have claimed and there is the fun potential chance of developing some pretty devastating side effects.  Diarrhea and other gastrointestinal fun when taken in large quantities.

In conclusion: The worst things that can occur with Vitamin C supplementation are due to exorbitant amounts being supplemented with.  In moderation, it is harmless and appears to have some decent benefit.

I would say this is a suppledo!

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