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Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, October 13, 2020

Vitamin C Cuts COVID Deaths by Two-Thirds

Commentary by Patrick Holford

(OMNS Oct 13, 2020) The world’s first randomized placebo controlled trial designed to test high dose intravenous vitamin C for treatment of COVID-19 has reduced mortality in the most critically ill patients by two thirds. [1] The study, headed by Professor Zhiyong Peng at Wuhan’s Zhongnan University Hospital, started in February and gave every other critically ill COVID-19 patient on ventilators either 12,000 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C twice daily or sterile water in their drip. Neither the patient nor the doctors knew who was getting vitamin C or placebo so the trial was “double blind.” This is the ‘gold standard’ of research design.

Overall, 5 out 26 people (19%) died in the vitamin C group while 10 out of 28 (36%) receiving the placebo died. That means that vitamin C almost halved the number of deaths. Those on vitamin C were 60% more likely to survive.

The key measure of the severity of symptoms is called the SOFA oxygenation index. Those with a SOFA score greater than 3 are most critically ill. Of those most critically ill, 4 people (18%) in the vitamin C group died, compared to 10 (50%) in the placebo group. That’s two-thirds less deaths. Statistically this meant that of those most critically ill who were given vitamin C, they were 80% less likely to die. This result, backed up with a clear reduction in inflammatory markers in the blood, was statistically significant – beyond doubt. This level of benefit is much greater than the benefit seen in the randomised controlled trial on dexamethasone, the anti-inflammatory steroid drug that hit the headlines as the ”only proven treatment” for COVID-19. [2] In this drug trial 23% of patients on the steroid drug died compared to 26% on placebo. However, there were over 6,000 people in the trial so the results were statistically significant.

But now there is another proven treatment – vitamin C. The Wuhan trial needed 140 patients to be sufficiently ”powered” for the statistics but they ran out of COVID cases during March, a month after 50 tons of vitamin C, which is 50 million one gram doses, was shipped into Wuhan and given to hospitalised patients and also hospital workers. New admissions into Intensive Care Units (ICUs) plummeted. Professor Peng ended up with a third as many as the trial was designed to include. But, even though the resulting overall statistic showing almost half as many deaths was not significant, the results from the SOFA oxygenation score and other markers were significant.

These results are especially important when case reports in American ICUs using 12,000 mg of vitamin C show almost no deaths in anyone without a pre-existing end stage disease already and also over 85, [3] and a British ICU using 2,000 mg of vitamin C have reported the lowest mortality of all ICUs in the UK, cutting deaths by a quarter. [4]

The best results are being reported in ICUs using vitamin C, steroids and anti-coagulant drugs combined, which has been standard treatment protocol in China since April. China’s mortality rate from COVID is 3 persons per million compared to the UK’s 624 per million, according to Worldometer data. [5]

On top of this, reports are coming in from ICUs that are testing the blood vitamin C levels, that the majority of their critically ill patients are vitamin C deficient, many with undetectable levels of vitamin C that would diagnose scurvy. One ICU in Barcelona found 17 out of 18 patients had ‘undetectable’ vitamin C levels, akin to scurvy. [6] Another, in the US, found almost all their patients were vitamin C deficient but those who didn’t survive had much lower levels than those who did. [3]

Scurvy killed two million sailors around the world between 1500 and 1800. In 1747 James Lind worked out the cure - vitamin C in limes, but it took fifty years before the Navy took it seriously. So dramatic was the life-saving effect that sailors became known as ”limeys.”

Will the same thing happen with COVID-19? With over a million deaths worldwide and the potential of vitamin C to more than halve the death toll, every day our governments, digital ringmasters and doctors fail to take vitamin C seriously in another day of unnecessary deaths due to ignoring the evidence. This is not fake news.

It’s not the coronavirus that kills people with COVID; it is usually the immune system over-reacting against dead virus particles, once the viral infection is over, which triggers a “cytokine storm, ” something like an inflammatory fire out of control. That’s when very high doses of both steroids and vitamin C are needed. Normally, the adrenal glands, which contain a hundred times more vitamin C than other organs, release both the body’s most powerful steroid hormone cortisol as well as vitamin C, when in a state of emergency. The steroid helps the vitamin C get inside cells and calm down the fire. Vitamin C is both an anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant, mopping up the “oxidant” fumes of the cytokine storm. Without vitamin C the steroid hormone cortisol can’t work so well. That’s why ICU doctors administer both extra vitamin C and steroids to get a patient out of the danger zone.

But even better is to prevent a person ever getting into this critical phase of COVID-19. That’s why early intervention, taking 1,000 mg of vitamin C an hour upon first signs of infection, is likely to save even more lives. This reduces duration and severity of symptoms, with most people becoming symptom-free within 24 hours. It takes on average, two weeks of being sick with COVID-19 to trigger the ‘cytokine storm’ phase. During that time, the patient is at risk of becoming vitamin C deficient and then developing acute "induced scurvy." If you can beat the infection within 48 hours you’ll be out of the woods. You can lower your risk even further by taking vitamin D (5000 IU/d, or more: 20,000 IU/d for several days if you already have symptoms), magnesium (400 mg/d in malate, citrate, or chloride form), and zinc (20 mg/d) [7-11] Prevention is better than cure.

Pauling put the C in Colds and COVID

Much like Lind’s limes, twice Nobel Prize winner Dr Linus Pauling proved the power of high dose vitamin C in the 1970’s. [12-18] It is thanks to him we know about the benefits of high dose vitamin C. The cover of his landmark book “Vitamin C and the Common Cold” has a statement that reads, in relation to a predicted swine flu epidemic at that time “it is especially important that everyone know that he can protect himself to a considerable extent against the disease, and its consequences, with this important nutrient, vitamin C.” [19] It’s been 50 years since Pauling proved the anti-viral power of vitamin C. Isn’t it time we took this seriously?

(Patrick Holford is author of over 30 books including Flu Fighters ( and The Optimum Nutrition Bible. He is a member of the Orthomolecular Medicine Hall of Fame.)


1. Zhang J, Rao X, Li Y, Zhu Y, Liu F, Guo F, Luo G, Meng Z, De Backer D, Xiang H, Peng Z-Y. (2020) High-dose vitamin C infusion for the treatment of critically ill COVID-19. Pulmonology, preprint.

2. RECOVERY Collaborative Group, Horby P, Lim WS, Emberson JR, et al. (2020) Dexamethasone in Hospitalized Patients with Covid-19 - Preliminary Report. N Engl J Med., NEJMoa2021436.

3. Arvinte C, Singh M, Marik PE. (2020) Serum Levels of Vitamin C and Vitamin D in a Cohort of Critically Ill COVID-19 Patients of a North American Community Hospital Intensive Care Unit in May 2020: A Pilot Study. Medicine in Drug Discovery, 100064. In press, available online 18 September 2020,

4. Vizcaychipi MP, Shovlin CL, McCarthy A, et al., (2020) Development and implementation of a COVID-19 near real-time traffic light system in an acute hospital setting. Emerg Med J. 37:630-636.

5. Worldometer (2020)

6. Chiscano-Camón L, Ruiz-Rodriguez JC, Ruiz-Sanmartin A, Roca O, Ferrer R. (2020) Vitamin C levels in patients with SARS-CoV-2-associated acute respiratory distress syndrome. Critical Care, 24:522.

7. Rasmussen MPF (2020) Vitamin C Evidence for Treating Complications of COVID-19 and other Viral Infections. Orthomolecular Medicine News Service,

8. Downing D (2020) How we can fix this pandemic in a month (Revised edition). Orthomolecular Medicine News Service,

9. Castillo ME, Costa LME, Barriosa JMV et al., (2020) Effect of calcifediol treatment and best available therapy versus best available therapy on intensive care unit admission and mortality among patients hospitalized for COVID-19: A pilot randomized clinical study. J Steroid Biochem and Molec Biol. 203, 105751.

10. Holford P. (2020) Vitamin C for the Prevention and Treatment of Coronavirus. Orthomolecular Medicine News Service,

11. Gonzalez MJ (2020) Personalize Your COVID-19 Prevention: An Orthomolecular Protocol. Orthomolecular Medicine News Service,

12. Pauling L. (1974) Are recommended daily allowances for vitamin C adequate? Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 71:4442-4446.

13. Pauling L. (1973) Ascorbic acid and the common cold. Scott Med J. 18:1-2.

14. Pauling L. (1972) Vitamin C. Science. 177:1152.

15. Pauling L. (1971) The significance of the evidence about ascorbic acid and the common cold. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 68:2678-2681.

16. Pauling L. (1971) Ascorbic acid and the common cold. Am J Clin Nutr. 24:1294-1299.

17. Pauling L. (1971) Vitamin C and common cold. JAMA. 216:332.

18. Pauling L. (1970) Evolution and the need for ascorbic acid. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 67:1643-1648.

19. Pauling L. (1970) Vitamin C and the Common Cold. W.H.Freeman & Co. ISBN-13:978-0425048535

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