Linus Pauling and Your Heart: How to Prevent Heart Attacks and Strokes


At the age of 93, Nobel prize winning scientist Linus Pauling, well known for advocating the healthful benefits of vitamin C, announced 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 integrity 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 atherosclerosis and closely simulates the human form of the disease.

In 1954 the Willis group studied the actual progression and regression 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 studies, Willis announced that "Massive doses of parenteral ascorbic acid (vitamin C) may be of therapeutic value in the treatment of atherosclerosis and the prevention of intimal hemorrhage and thrombosis."

Recently, a 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 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%. At the same time, mortality from heart disease decreased by 30%. The U.S. was the only country 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.


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. discovered that 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.

Dr. Linus Pauling suggests that Lp(a), rather than LDL cholesterol, is the real danger to human health. Lp(a) relates to vitamin C. This has been confirmed in many studies dating from the early 1970s. 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 for cardiovascular disease.


The Pauling/Rath theory of heart disease claims that Lp(a), with its "sticky" surface, acts as acts as a surrogate for chronic low levels of vitamin C in human beings. Pauling claims that heart disease begins when there is collagen syhnthesis. 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 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 are kept strong by an optimum intake of vitamin C, (and other antioxidants), lesions will not develop. If lesions do not develop, heart disease will 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 and thus have Lp(a). An experiment was done at the Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine:

Laboratory guinea pigs were divided into two groups. One group was given only a small amount of vitamin C (roughly equivalent to the U.S. RDA). Lp(a) levels rose, and these 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 mg of vitamin C per day. These animals did not develop the disease, and Lp(a) levels remained low. This experimental work (confirming the earlier work by Willis) led to the first U.S. patent for a non-surgical intravention for heart disease, in 1994.


The key to a possible noninvasive cure for heart disease came when it was discovered that the amino acid, lysine, is contained in a protein in artery walls. L-lysine is one of the twenty essential amino acids, and lipoprotein-(a) binds to it.

Pauling believes that lysine can reverse heart disease.

According to 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."

The "lysyl" residue is a side chain of the lysine molecule that projects out from the rest of the molecule, creating a sort of "tail" that is easily oxidized. Lp(a) sticks to this oxidized area more easily than other areas -- making this part of lysine a magnet for Lp(a). Pauling believes that by adding free lysine to the blood, it will divert Lp(a) away from sticking to the arteries, and towards sticking to the free lysine, where it will do no harm. Vitamin C, an antioxidant, should reduce oxidation.

Pauling filmed a video of his lecture on Heart Disease at the age of 92. In this video, Pauling cites three cases where 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:

After a routine physical exam, Rich B. of Shorewood Illinois was told that his carotid arteries were probably blocked. Ultrasound confirmed a 90% blockage in one artery, and 50-60% in the other. Two operations were scheduled. In May, 1996 the 90% blockage was removed.

The second operation was scheduled for a month later. Rich's wife Betty, was aware of Pauling's recommended dose of 2.5 grams of lysine and 2-5 grams of Vitamin C. After the first operation, she was able to get her husband to consume approximately 1/2 this dose for a month.

The regimen apparently helped. When Rich came out of the second surgery, he was very bruised where the surgeon had "looked" for the blockage that was on the ultrasound taken a month before. Despite his best effort, the surgeon found only one small pebble of plaque, and apologized to the couple.

I personally know of other cases, and Pauling himself has reported cases where plaque cleared in 2-4 weeks after therapeutic levels are reached. Data is accumulating that patients with severe disease are responding to this treatment.

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

"I think so. Yes. Now I've 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 cute 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."

Life Extension Foundation.


By Owen R. Fonorow

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