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Originally published September 3 2007

Surgery found to increase vitamin C requirements

by Jack Challem

If you're heading into surgery, you're going to need some extra vitamin C. Andreas Rumelin, MD, of the University of Bonn, Germany, and his colleagues recently investigated how surgery leads to a rapid decrease in vitamin C blood levels and its increased "clearance" from the body.

"A reduction of plasma ascorbic acid [vitamin C] concentrations in the post-operative period has been well documented and is associated with an increase in post-operative complications," Rumelin wrote in the Journal of Surgical Research.

In the study, he gave vitamin C (about 420 mg for a 150-pound person) to 15 middle-age and elderly patients before and after they underwent neck surgery. Rumelin and his colleagues then measured the patients' vitamin C levels before surgery and on the first day after surgery.

They found that the patients had an average drop of 40 percent in their blood vitamin C levels on the first day after surgery. At the same time, there was an average 37 percent increase in "metabolic clearance" of vitamin C from the body.

He calculated that a dose of approximately 1,150 mg of vitamin C would be needed to offset the loss and to return vitamin C to normal levels. But he also acknowledged, "The optimal post-operative plasma concentration of ascorbic acid is not known."

Reference: Rumelin A, Humbert T, Luhker O, et al. Metabolic clearance and the antioxidant ascorbic acid in surgical patients. Journal of Surgical Research, 2005;129:46-51.
-- (c) Jack Challem, The Nutrition Reporterô

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