Vitamin C – The Sex Vitamin?
QUOTE: Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) “stimulate endothelial nitric oxide (NO) synthesis in a time- and concentration-dependent fashion.”  This basically means the more the Vitamin C, the more the nitric oxide. Woo hoo!
Could this all really be true? Could such an inexpensive molecule as Vitamin C actually be a significant partner in helping men with their erectile dysfunction by boosting nitric oxide output, lowering blood pressure and increasing blood flow? The answer is a definitive ‘yes’.
You can call me boorish and offensive if you like, but I am a scientist working in healthcare.
Physiology and biochemistry are not my area, but an important part of my job is to critically read and appraise the scientific literature in order to enable clinical practice to be evidence based.
I haven’t read every paper you’ve linked to, but some of those I have read have weaknesses which make me think that the evidence for supplementation isn’t as strong as you seem to think. Some of these weaknesses (on this and other topics related to supplements) are:
- use of observational studies – these may show an association, but that’s not the same as showing cause and effect. In particular, it’s unclear whether confounding variables have been identified and controlled for. It’s also possible that one variable may be a proxy for something else which is what’s really causing the effect.
- short duration studies – these may show a short-term effect, but give no information on whether that effect is maintained over a longer period.
- Lack of control groups – if you don’t have a control group, then you can’t be sure whether the effect would have been observed anyway
- small sample sizes – some of the samples were simply too small to reach robust
- specific patient groups – researchers generally look at a very well-defined group of people. It’s not always possible to extrapolate findings from that group to the general population. In particular, if you give men with erectile dysfunction an intervention that improves their erectile performance, it’s not clear that the same intervention will give an effect in men without erectile dysfunction.
- lack of data on dose response. Is there a safe upper limit above which supplements do harm, and if so what is it? Is there an upper limit above which additional supplementation gives no further effect? Is there a lower limit below which supplements have no effect? How do supplements interact with each other, or with prescription medications, and are there particular forms that give greater effectiveness? These questions are all unanswered.
None of this is to say that supplements don’t work. However, I think further research needs to be done before I disagree with the official advice that supplementation has little or no proven benefits in people with a balanced diet.
@hoosier52, I think I owe you an apology. I looked at the two questions you posted today and when I followed the link and saw the site was a “news” site sponsored by a product for sale, I wondered if you were somehow connected to the product and promoting it under the guise of a supposedly impartial consumer. I looked back at your older answers and questions (as many as I could before getting the 4?4 Ops page) and now believe that is less likely than I first thought. I see that you have done a lot of research (from well-respected sources) in this area. I know I didn’t really “do” anything against you with my suspicious attitude, but I was a little dismissive of your post purely because you were sharing non-standard (not the same-old familiar facts) medical information and a lot of internet research. Then I realized I was kind of a hypocrite because just today, I myself introduced our family doctor to a disorder I suspect our DD suffers from. I learned about it from internet research, and I found it because I am motivated to keep looking past the “easy” “common” answers because I care about my daughter and “easy” and “common” answers just aren’t helping her.
We dig for knowledge about what is most important to us.
My DH hasn’t had any issues with ED so far, but I just might suggest he take some Vitamin D and make sure he eats plenty of citrus as a preventative measure. Thanks for sharing.
See the official UK guidance on this from the NHS
Most people get enough vitamin C from their diet, and excessive vitamin C consumption can actually cause problems.
Incidentally, I’m not saying that vitamin C doesn’t have a beneficial effect. What I am saying is that if you get enough vitamin C from your diet (which most of us do), then taking additional vitamin C is unlikely to have much of an effect because your kidneys will filter the excess and you’ll pass it in your urine because the body doesn’t store vitamin C.