In a review article in the April issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, UC Berkeley's Bruce N. Ames lists more than 50 genetic diseases successfully treated with high doses of vitamins, most of them rare inborn metabolic diseases due to defective enzymes.
Ames found a common thread in the effectiveness of these megavitamin therapies that suggests there may be many more diseases treatable with high-dose vitamins, in particular the eight B vitamins like niacin, thiamine and pyridoxine. And because aging involves similar biochemical deficiencies, megavitamins may help perk up an increasingly older population.
"I suspect that the big impact is going to be in aging," Ames said, though younger people, too, might benefit from supplementary B vitamins to "tune up" their metabolism. Ames is a professor of molecular and cell biology at UC Berkeley and a researcher at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI).
Megadose vitamin therapy is the use of vitamins in amounts at least 10 times greater than the recommended daily allowance, or RDA. Ames noted that B vitamins are sold over the counter in dosages up to 100 times the RDA, and are generally considered safe at such levels.
In his paper, co-authored with recent UC Berkeley graduate Ilan Elson-Schwab and former CHORI technician Eli A. Silver, Ames argues that the key to the effectiveness of high-dose vitamin therapy lies in the role vitamins play in the body. Vitamins are converted to coenzymes, which team up with enzymes to perform some essential metabolic function.
As Elson-Schwab found in a computer sweep of the literature, about 50 diseases result from a genetic mutation t
Contact: Robert Sanders
University of California - Berkeley