When you take vitamin C because you want to protect yourself against the cold of winter, you may not be doing enough to stay in good shape. Practically all the vitamin supplements contain the synthetic form of vitamin C. Very pure, but absolutely void of the very necessary co-factors. Some manufacturers add bioflavonoids to the vitamin C, but most bioflavonoids are destroyed in the gut. The solution is to take OPC with the vitamin C. Masquelier’s OPCs, because unqualified “OPC” is as useless as “bioflavonoids.”
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Milestone scientific event: The discovery of vitamin C
A truly milestone scientific event in the quest for understanding the relationship between nutrition and health took place in 1928, when the Hungarian scientist Albert Szent-Györgyi isolated the first ascorbic acid, the vitamin we all know under the letter C. Initially, Szent-Györgyi focused his studies on paprika, which turned out to be rich in vitamin C and were grown in his homeland, Hungary, in large quantities. Later, Szent-Györgyi would focus on lemon peels to extract vitamin C from. His major accomplishment was that he isolated ascorbic acid from the paprikas and lemon, preserved it in its pure form, crystallized it, and defined its molecular structure.
The puzzle of vitamine C
Even though his work on Vitamin C made Szent-Györgyi a Nobel Prize winner, he was never completely satisfied with the discovery. This feeling stemmed from the fact that when he tried to find vitamin C’s potential benefits, he ran into a puzzle. He knew quite well that vitamin C was involved in preventing and curing scurvy, but he also discovered that vitamin C alone in creating this benefit. There was a phantom cofactor, but what was it ?
When the capillaries collapse
In animal tests, Szent-Györgyi had discovered that pure ascorbic acid was less effective in fighting scurvy symptoms than was vitamin C together with the substances that were co-extracted from lemon peel still present in the extract. One of the main symptoms of this degenerating and deadly deficiency disease is the collapse of the vascular wall. This hurts most in the capillaries, which, when they disintegrate, cause unstoppable bleedings. Ascorbic acid was found to be less effective alone in preventing this collapse than in combination with the extract Szent-Györgyi had prepared from lemon peel and called Citrin. Citrin consisted of a mixture of various substances, mostly of the so-called bioflavonoids. Sometimes Citrin was able to enforce Vitamin C’s anti-scurvy effect on the vascular wall. But the results obtained with Citrin were very inconsistent, and Citrin alone did not invariably cure scurvy.
In his book The Living State, Szent-Györgyi explained: “While I was isolating ascorbic acid in Hungary, a patient was admitted to the medical clinic of my University with extensive subcutaneous bleeding. Since such bleeding is a classic syndrom of scurvy, on advice of Professor St. Rusznyak, my impure preparation of ascorbic acid was injected into the patient, wherupon the bleeding stopped. After I crystallized ascorbic acid another patient with the same complaint was treated with the pure vitamin C. It had no effect. I had a hunch that the action in the first patient may have been due to the flavones [bioflavonoids] present as impurity and so several similar cases were treated later with flavones with excellent results. It seemed possible that the flavones too were vitamins. I was not sure of this, so tentatively, I called them ‘vitamin P’.”
Vitamin C and its co-factors
Szent-Györgyi failed to identify the Citrin mixture in its entirety, but he realized that the compound he described as “flavones” had to be the co-factor(s) of vitamin C. Since the combination of vitamin C and Citrin was more suitable than pure ascorbic acid to prevent the collapse of the vascular wall and stop bleedings, he was certain that in addition to vitamin C, he had discovered another vitamin. Szent-Györgyi used the letter P “because it was toward the end of the ABC’s, still far from the letters used in vitaminology. In the event that I was wrong, the name could be dropped without causing any difficulty. I also chose ‘P’ because the name of most pleasant things, in Hungarian, begin with the letter P.” What’s more, P is the first letter of permeability, by which is meant the permeability of the wall of the hair vessel or capillary. Szent-Györgyi never managed to prove the existence of such a vitamin P, which was, to a certain extent, a personal tragedy for him. He was highly regarded as the discoverer of vitamin C, although he considered vitamin C only a nutritional element. On the other hand, he was convinced that he had discovered vitamin P, but the failure to systematically produce a vitamin P deficiency carried this vitamin to an early grave.
The “father of OPCs” meets the “father of vitamin P”
Professor Jack Masquelier encountered the very fascinating Szent-Györgyi a couple of times and had the opportunity to discuss his work with him. In 1947, Masquelier met Szent-Györgyi in Oxford at the first International Physiology Congress that took place after World War II. On April 12, 1961, the two also saw each other in Bordeaux, where Szent-Györgyi was awarded an honorary degree. Masquelier’s Hungarian colleague showed great interest in his French colleague’s work because OPCs always did what Citrin did only from time to time: increase capillary resistance and regulate capillary permeability. Fourteen years after the discovery of OPCs, while meeting with Masquelier in his Bordeaux laboratory, Szent-Györgyi said to him, “But Mr. Masquelier, are you still interested in this issue? Don’t you know that in the United States no one believes in the effects of bioflavonoids [Citrin / “flavones”] anymore?” Obviously, even the man who had coined the notion of vitamin P had abandoned his track. The unresolved mystery of this vitamin had left Szent-Györgyi with a feeling of regret. Joking about his discoveries, he said, “It is unbelievable. They have made me the father of vitamin C, although I wasn’t, and they refused to make me the father of vitamin P, which I was.”
Vitamin P did not survive
With all due respect to the great Szent-Györgyi, it cannot be denied that the research that was performed as a result of Szent-Györgyi’s coining of bioflavonoids as vitamin P kept producing conflicting and unclear results. Bioflavonoids are complex phytonutrients, which makes that not all bioflavonoid compounds are identical in composition. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. Some work better than others. In 1950, the International Vitamin Committee finally decided to completely abandon the term vitamin P. Yet, Szent-Györgyi never accepted this decision. He knew that people could best prevent and overcome the deficiency disease called scurvy by taking a combination of the vitamins C and P.
Masquelier completed the puzzle
Szent-Györgyi deeply regretted that he had never been able to lay his finger on the actual vitamin P. Had he looked outside the realm of the yellow bioflavonoids, he might have found what Masquelier found: OPCs. Unfortunately for the progress of nutritional science, vitamin P was equated with the yellow bioflavonoids, and this is how the scientific relevance was lost. Until this very day, the wrinkles created by the demise of vitamin P blur the work of those who try to identify the real vitamin P. That scientific pursuit kept Masquelier busy all his life.
Is taking vitamin C enough ?
So, when you take vitamin C because you want to protect yourself against the cold of winter, you may not be doing enough to stay in good shape. Practically all the vitamin supplements contain the synthetic form of vitamin C. Very pure, but absolutely void of the necessary co-factors. Some manufacturers add “bioflavonoids” to the vitamin C, so as to suggest that these are the co-factors that will optimize the vitamin’s efficiency. But most “bioflavonoids” are destroyed in the gut and, as Szent-Györgyi pointed out to Masquelier long ago, “no one believes in them anymore.” The solution, as you may have guessed by now, is to take OPC with the vitamin C. Masquelier’s OPCs, because unqualified “OPC” is as useless as “bioflavonoids.”