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In an unprecedented action, the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations (UNICEF), and an AIDS activist group that promotes drug therapy in South Africa, joined forces in opposing vitamin therapy that exceeds the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA), and in particular vitamin C in doses they describe as being “far beyond safe levels.”  These health agencies suggest nutrients primarily be obtained from the diet and warn that supplemental doses of vitamin C that exceed a 2000 milligram per day upper limit could cause side effects such as diarrhea.  The AIDS activist group also suggests patients receiving doses beyond the RDA should undergo proper counseling and informed consent before being placed on high-dose vitamin C.  

As outrageous as these statements sound, they burst into public view recently with an ongoing battle between Dr. Matthias Rath, a former Linus Pauling researcher, and The Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa.  The public battle ensued after Dr. Rath published a full-page ad in the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune advocating vitamin therapy over anti-AIDS drug therapy. Coinciding with these full-page newspaper ads is a legal battle underway in South Africa where The Treatment Action Campaign seeks to censor statements made by Dr. Rath.

Dr. Rath cites a study by Harvard Medical School researchers that showed dietary supplements slow the progression of AIDS and resulted in a significant decline in viral count.  [New England Journal of Medicine 351: 23-32, 2004]  Harvard researchers responded by saying vitamin therapy is important but may not replace anti-viral drug therapy.

Diet promoted over supplements

UNICEF and WHO advocate a balanced diet rather than supplements despite the fact AIDS patients have nutritional needs that exceed what the best diet can provide.  AIDS patients often exhibit nutrient deficiencies due to malabsorption or diarrhea.  Vitamin E, one of the supplemental nutrients provided in a cocktail developed by Dr. Rath for AIDS patients, is known to reduce the incidence of diarrhea.  [STEP Perspectives 7:2-5, 1995]

RDA for vitamin C is bogus

Furthermore, the RDA for vitamin C established by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), referred to by the Treatment Action Campaign, was established using testing methods that have been proven to be inaccurate.  A study published last year in the Annals of Internal Medicine by NIH scientists clearly shows much higher vitamin C levels can be achieved with oral dosing than previously thought possible. [Annals Internal Medicine 140:533-7, 2004].  Twelve noted antioxidant researchers have petitioned the Food & Nutrition Board to review the RDA for vitamin C now that it is apparent the RDA is based upon flawed research (   Steve Hickey PhD and Hilary Roberts, pharmacology graduates of ManchesterUniversity, have authoritatively outlined the flaws in the current RDA for vitamin C.  []

Furthermore, the RDA was established for healthy people and does not apply to patients with serious infectious disease such as AIDS patients.

Health groups tip their hand

This battle over vitamin supplements may be a foretaste of what will happen later this year when a worldwide body called Codex Alimentarius will meet to establish upper limits on vitamin and mineral supplements.  Codex is governed under the auspices of the United Nations and World Health Organization.   These health organizations are tipping their partiality for drugs over nutritional supplements.   

For example, Codex may establish a 2000 mg upper limit for vitamin C as previously proposed by the National Academy of Sciences, or as low as 225 mg which was recently established by German health authorities.  Controlled studies do not support the use of either number.

Dr. Rath is reported to recommend 4000 milligrams of daily vitamin C for AIDS patients.  The amount of oral vitamin C that a patient can tolerate without diarrhea increases proportionately to the severity of their disease.  [Med Hypotheses 18:61-77, 1985]  AIDS patients often don't exhibit any diarrhea with extremely high-dose vitamin C therapy.  Diarrhea may occur among healthy individuals following high-dose vitamin C therapy depending upon how much vitamin C is consumed at a single point in time.  Divided doses taken throughout the day minimizes this problem.  

Huckster or helper?

Dr. Rath, a renowned vitamin researcher who described a vitamin C cure for heart disease and cancer in 1990 in collaboration with Nobel prize winner Linus Pauling [Proc Natl Academy Sciences 87:9388-90, 1990], is characterized as a “wealthy vitamin salesman” by the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa.  Rath's vitamin company is providing free vitamin therapy for AIDS victims in South Africa.  

Anti-AIDS drug therapy failing

World health organizations appear to be solely backing AIDS drug therapy at a time when a highly drug-resistant strain of HIV that quickly progresses to AIDS has been reported in New York [AIDS Alert 20: 39-40, 2005], and drug resistance is a growing problem [Top HIV Medicine 13: 51-57, 2003].    It's only a matter of time till all current anti-AIDS drugs fail.  

Of particular interest is selenium, a trace mineral included in Dr. Rath's anti-AIDS vitamin regimen, which appears to slow progression of the disease.  Researchers report HIV infection has spread more rapidly in Sub-Saharan Africa than in North America primarily because Africans have low dietary intake of selenium compared to North Americans.  [Medical Hypotheses 60: 611-14, 2003]  Selenium appears to be a key nutrient in counteracting certain viruses and HIV infection progresses more slowly to AIDS among selenium-sufficient individuals [Proceedings Nutrition Society 61: 203-15, 2002].  

The strong reaction by world health organizations against vitamin supplements causes one to wonder if they are afraid vitamin therapy will actually prove to be a viable alternative to AIDS drug therapy.