Linus Pauling and your Heart

(c) 1996 Owen R. Fonorow

At the age of 93, dual Nobel prize winning scientist Linus Pauling, well known for advocating the healthful benefits of vitamin C, anounced that, "we've got to the point where I think we can get almost complete control of cardiovascular disease, heart attacks and strokes." Now, several years later, as evidence mounts, Linus Pauling's belief is being affirmed.

A provocative series of papers was published by Dr. G. C. Willis and coworkers starting in 1953 that showed the importance of ascorbic acid in the maintenance of the arterial walls (the intima). Any factor disturbing vitamin C metabolism results in wall injury with subsequent fatlike deposits. In his 1953 paper, Willis concludes that acute or chronic vitamin C deficiency in guinea pigs produces atheroslcerosis and closely simulates the human form of the disease.

In 1954 the Willis group studied the actual progression of atherosclerotic plaques in living patients by a serial X-ray technique. The study demonstrated a reduction in atherosclerotic plaque lesions in the group of vitamin C patients not observed in the controls. Based on these careful studies, Willis announced that "Massive does of parenteral ascorbic acid (vitamin C) may be of therapeutic value in the treatment of atherosclerosis and the prevention of intimal hemorhage and thrombosis." This announcement was generally ignored by the medical community.

Recently, another study by Joseph Vita, M.D., an associate professor of medicine at Boston University school of Medicine found that vitamin C improved blood-vessel dilation in patients with coronary artery disease. Vita found that 2000 mg of vitamin C, (which is approximately 30 times the U. S. RDA) open arteries by almost 10% - more than some medical treatments.

In another recent study, Thomas Heitzer, M.D., and his colleagues at the University of Freiburg, Germany, compared blood flow in the forearm brachial arteries of 10 healthy male non-smokers and 10 male chronic smokers after infusing two chemicals, followed by injections of vitamin C. The study published in the Journal Circulation of the American Heart Association (AHA), showed that vitamin C injected into the blood stream "almost completely reverses endothelial dysfunction in chronic smokers."

It has been widely recognized for at least a decade that endothelial lesions (damage to the walls of blood vessels) are a necessary precondition for the development of atherosclerotic plaques. Oxidized LDL cholesterol and vitamin deficiencies have been theorized to cause these lesions.

According to the AHA: Injured endothelial cells may initiate an inflammatory response leading to increased deposits of "bad" cholesterol and other substances in the artery wall -- a process known as atherosclerosis, which can lead to coronary heart disease and heart attack. The author believes that because Vitamin C in the blood stream has been reliably shown to correct this precondition, it can be concluded that Linus Pauling analysis was correct: Vitamin C in the blood stream is preventative against cardiovascular disease (CVD).

During the 1970s, Vitamin C consumption in the U.S. rose by 300%. Mortality from heart disease decreased by 30%. The U.S. was the only country during this time frame with a significant drop in heart disease fatalities. In 1992 Dr. Enstrom and colleagues (UCLA) showed (in over 11,000 people) that increased intake of vitamin C reduces the death rate from heart disease by nearly half and prolongs life for more than six years.

The most recent report from the British Medical Journal reported on a study of 1,605 randomly selected men in Finland, aged 42 to 60 years. The study was conducted between 1984 and 1989. None of the men had evidence of pre-existing heart disease. After adjusting for other confounding factors, men who were deficient in vitamin C had 3.5 times more heart attacks then men who were not deficient in vitamin C. The scientists' conclusion was, "Vitamin C deficiency, as assessed by low plasma ascorbate concentration, is a risk factor for coronary heart disease." British Medical Journal (Vol 314, Issue 708, 1997).


There is a strange variant of the well known LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood of human beings. This LDL look-alike is not present in the blood of most animals. Dr. Matthias Rath, M.D. was a member of the German team that discovered this substance, called Lipoprotein(a) (Lp(a)), is the primary constituent of plaque in post-mortem human aortas. A finding recently verified at Baylor University Medical School, according to Dr. Rath.

Dr. Pauling suggests that Lp(a), rather than LDL cholesterol, is the real danger to human health. Levels of Lp(a) in the blood are associated with the level of vitamin C in the body. Recently, a study published in the August 21, 1996 Journal of the American Medical Association again confirmed that Lp(a) is an independent risk factor in cardiovascular disease. Since 1994, some 986 Lp(a) studies have implicated the highly atherogenic Lp(a) as a risk factor.


The Pauling/Rath theory of heart disease claims that Lp(a), with its "sticky" surface that makes it adhere to damaged blood vessels, acts as a surrogate for chronic low levels of vitamin C in human beings. Pauling claims that heart disease begins when there is not sufficient Vitamin C to support collagen synthesis. Both vitamin C and Lp(a) promote the "structural integrity" of blood vessels. When collagen synthesis is inadequate due to lack of vitamin C, Lp(a) "repairs" the areas of deficiency -- somewhat like a "plaster cast." This healing process forms what are known as plaques.

Coronary arteries are squeezed by the heartbeat. Rath likens the stress to that of stepping on a garden hose thousands of times every day, day in and day out. Coronary arteries lacking collagen and elastin due to chronic vitamin C deficiency are more susceptible to damage from this kind of stress. If blood vessels that are kept strong by an optimum intake of vitamin C,(and other antioxidants), lesions will not develop. If lesions do not develop, according to theory, heart disease does not develop.

According to Nobel prize winning physicist Richard Feynman:

"The principle of science, the definition, almost, is the following: The test of all knowledge is experiment. Experiment is the sole judge of scientific "truth."

Most animals produce their own vitamin C, and according to Pauling, do not have Lp(a) in their blood. However, guinea pigs, like humans, do not produce their own vitamin C. If these animals a deprived of all vitamin C they die a horrible death in two weeks. Pauling and Rath wondered whether they also produce Lp(a) like we humans. An experiment to test theory was conducted at the Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine.

Laboratory guinea pigs were divided into two groups. One group, all who were given small amounts of vitamin C (roughly equivalent to the U. S. RDA) Lp(a) was detected and as levels rose over the course of their lifetimes the animals developed atherosclerosis. The pathology of the disease is equivalent with human atherosclerosis.

Animals in the other group (on the same diet) were given the human equivalent of 3000-5000 mgs/day of vitamin C. These animals did not develop the disease and Lp(a) levels remained low. The only difference between the two groups was the vitamin C. Too little vitamin C made all the difference. This experimental work (confirming the earlier findings by Willis) lead to the first U.S. patent for reversing heart disease without surgery in 1994.

Competing theories must be able to explain why heart disease does not occur in animals, and why atherosclerotic plaques form mostly in areas of high mechanical stress, rather than randomly throughout the body.


The key to a possible "non surgical" cure for heart disease came when highly regarded biochemists and chemists discovered that the amino acid, lysine, is contained in a protein in artery walls. Lysine residues are exposed when the arterial wall is damaged. L-lysine is one of the twenty essential amino acids, and lipoprotein-(a) binds to it.

Said Pauling, "knowing that lysyl residues are what causes lipoprotein-(a) to get stuck to the wall of the artery and form atherosclerotic plaques, any physical chemist would say at once that the thing to do is prevent that by putting the amino acid lysine in the blood to a greater extent than it is normally."

"You need lysine to be alive, is is essential, you have to get about 1 gram a day to keep in protein balance, but you can take lysine, pure lysine, a perfectly non toxic substance in food [as supplements], and that puts extra lysine molecules in the blood. They enter into competition with the lysyl residues on the wall of arteries and accordingly count to prevent Lp(a) from being deposited or even will work to pull it loose and destroy atherosclerotic plaques."

Pauling filmed a video tape of his lecture on Heart Disease at the age of 92 shortly before his death. On this video Pauling cites three cases were a vitamin C and l-lysine treatment worked miraculously. I know the patient in the following case. Before and after surgery verified the efficacy of the vitamin C and l-lysine treatment.

Rich B. of Shorewood Illinois had a routine physical exam recently. His doctor discovered blockage in both of his Carotid arteries. Ultrasound showed 90% on one side; 50-60% on the other. Two operations were scheduled. In May 1996 the expected 90% blockage was found and the white plaque removed and the doctor showed it to Rich and his wife. The second operation was scheduled for a month later in June. Rich's wife Betty, was able to convince Rich after the first operation to follow Pauling's recommendations, i.e., to take both vitamin C and the essential amino acid L-lysine. He consumed approximately 1/2 of Linus Pauling's recommended dosage of both vitamin C and L-lysine (or 2500 mg of each) every day for that month. Rich's second operation was performed in June. His doctors were astounded. While the first operation showed no bruises, Rich is bruised from the second up and down his neck; they couldn't find a blockage they knew "had to be there." His carotid arteries had apparently cleared! (Betty and Rich never mentioned the vitamin C/Lysine therapy to their doctor, but we have since written to him asking for copies of the relevant medical records, and permission to use them on the internet.)

Rich's case of a few weeks ago is telling. Linus Pauling himself reported similar experience in periods as short as 2-4 weeks. More and more reports attest to the pronounced effect of this treatment, especially on patients with severe disease.

When Pauling was asked if he really thought this development represented the cure for heart disease, he responded:

"I think so. Yes. Now Ive got to the point where I think we can get almost complete control of cardiovascular disease, heart attacks and strokes by the proper use of vitamin C and Lysine. It can prevent cardiovascular disease and even cure it. If you are at risk of heart disease, or if there is a history of heart disease in your family, if your father or other members of the family died of a heart attack or stroke or whatever, or if you have a mild heart attack yourself then you had better be taking vitamin C and Lysine."

Linus Pauling's one hour lecture is now available on VHS video from the Life Extension Foundation. 1-800-544-4440.

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Lisle, IL  60532