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Vitamin C and Helicobacter pylori

TOKYO, JAPAN. The bacterium Helicobacter pylori causes chronic infection of the stomach which may lead to ulcers and stomach cancer. Stomach cancer is now the leading cancer in Japan and it is estimated that 70-80 per cent of all Japanese are infected with H. pylori. Research has shown that a high intake of vitamin C protects against stomach cancer. Now scientists at the Research Institute of the International Medical Center of Japan report evidence that vitamin C is highly effective in inhibiting the growth of H. pylori. The scientists checked the inhibitory effects of vitamin-C both in vitro and in vivo. Strains of H. pylori isolated from biopsy specimens taken from patients with stomach ulcers were grown in a culture medium (blood agar plates) and then exposed to dilute solutions of sodium ascorbate. At a pH of 5.5 (the pH of the gastric juice close to the stomach lining) a vitamin C concentration of only 128 micrograms/mL inhibited the growth of H. pylori by 90 per cent. In vivo experiments using Mongolian gerbils innoculated with H. pylori confirmed vitamin C's inhibiting effects. The scientists point out that the concentration of ascorbic acid in stomach acid from patients with an H. pylori infection is much lower (2.8 micrograms/mL average) than in uninfected people (17.8 micrograms/mL) and conclude that H. pylori can destroy vitamin C. They speculate, however, that if vitamin C concentrations are high enough to overwhelm the capacity of H. pylori to destroy it then the inhibitory effects of vitamin C may well stop the overgrowth of the bacterium. The scientists believe that it is quite possible to obtain a vitamin C concentration in the stomach of 128 micrograms/mL by supplementing with vitamin C and point out that vitamin C-fortified orange juice can contain over 7000 micrograms/mL of vitamin C. They conclude that further studies on the efficacy of vitamin C in treating H. pylori infections should be done.
Zhang, Hui-Min, et al. Vitamin C inhibits the growth of a bacterial risk factor for gastric carcinoma: Helicobacter pylori. Cancer, Vol. 80, November 15, 1997, pp. 1897-1903

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