(Natural News) Researchers found a way to help people get out of the hospital as soon as possible. A new meta-analysis published in the journal Nutrients suggests that the administration of vitamin C can shorten the length of stay of a patient in the intensive care unit (ICU) on average by about eight percent.
For the meta-analysis, researchers from the University of Helsinki in Finland and the University of Sydney in Australia evaluated whether vitamin C influences the length of stay in the ICU and duration of mechanical ventilation. The researchers drew data from earlier clinical trials that showed vitamin C supplements improved the overall health of patients, as well as improvements in metabolism. Overall, they gathered 18 trials, and 12 of which were included in the meta-analysis on the length of stay that involved 1,766 patients.
After analyzing the pooled data, the researchers found that on average, vitamin C administration shortened ICU stay by 7.8 percent. In six trials, oral administration of vitamin C with an average dose of 2 g per day reduced the length of ICU stays on average by 8.6 percent. In three trials in which patients needed mechanical ventilation for more than 24 hours, vitamin C reduced the duration of mechanical ventilation by 18.2 percent.
“Vitamin C is a safe, low-cost essential nutrient. Given the consistent evidence from the trials published so far, vitamin C might be administered to ICU patients, although further studies are needed to find out optimal protocols for its administration,” the Australian and Finnish researchers said.
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The researchers concluded that because of the diverse positive effects of vitamin C on medical conditions, as well as the accumulated evidence for low vitamin C levels and increased vitamin C metabolism in critically ill patients, vitamin C might shorten ICU stay and other practical outcomes without any restrictions on the specific medical conditions that caused the stay in the ICU.
Low blood vitamin C levels common among hospital patients
Patients in hospitals often have very low vitamin C levels. Vitamin C metabolism is changed in many conditions that involve physiological stress, including burns, infections, surgery, and traumas, and because of this, vitamin C levels can drop significantly.
In healthy people, 0.1 g per day of vitamin C can maintain a normal plasma level. However, for critically ill patients, they need up to 4 g per day to increase their plasma vitamin C levels to the range of normal healthy people. For this reason, high vitamin C doses may be needed to make up for the increased metabolism in critically ill patients.
A study published in BMC found that the recommended amounts of vitamin C for critically ill patients are not enough. In the study, researchers from New Zealand looked at the plasma vitamin C levels of patients in the ICU who were all critically ill, suffering from either sepsis or severe heart problems. They assessed how vitamin C levels varied depending on infection status and determined if normal ICU nutritional support was enough to meet the vitamin C needs of critically ill patients.
The researchers found that despite an average daily intake of 125 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C per day, and 200 mg in patients receiving nourishment through IV, the patients still had low blood vitamin C levels. The actual blood vitamin C levels of the patients were only a third of what one would expect, given the amount of supplementation.
Moreover, vitamin C levels were significantly lower in septic shock patients than non-septic patients. They also had higher levels of inflammation than non-septic patients.
The team concluded that critically ill patients may need over 2,000 mg of vitamin C a day to normalize plasma levels. This can be increased to 3,000 mg per day to raise the nutrient to saturating levels. (Related: Scientific research finds higher doses of vitamin C result in greater beneficial health effects.)