Ascorbic acid (vitamin C's most common form) acidifies the urine, thereby dissolving phosphate stones and preventing their formation.
These are the same struvite stones associated with urinary tract infections.
The common calcium oxalate stone can form in an acidic urine whether one takes vitamin C or not. However, if a person gets adequate quantities of:
Any common B-complex supplement twice daily, plus about 400 milligrams of magnesium, is usually adequate.
Ascorbate (the active ion in vitamin C) does increase the body's production of oxalate. Yet, in practice, vitamin C does not increase oxalate stone formation.
Drs. Emanuel Cheraskin, Marshall Ringsdorf, Jr. and Emily Sisley explain in The Vitamin C Connection (1983) that acidic urine or slightly acidic urine reduces the UNION of calcium and oxalate, reducing the possibility of stones. "Vitamin C in the urine tends to bind calcium and decrease its free form.
This means less chance of calcium's separating out as calcium oxalate (stones)." (page 213)
Also, the diuretic effect of vitamin C reduces the static conditions necessary for stone formation in general. Fast moving rivers deposit little silt.
Furthermore, you can avoid excessive oxalates by not eating (much) rhubarb, spinach, or chocolate. If a doctor thinks that a person is especially prone to forming oxalate stones, that person should read the suggestions below before abandoning the benefits of vitamin C.
Robert F. Cathcart II, M.D. writes on “Why Don’t Massive Doses of Ascorbate Produce Kidney Stones?”
“Years ago when Linus Pauling wrote his book "Vitamin C and the Common Cold", the critics immediately labeled the taking of large doses of vitamin C dangerous because it would produce calcium oxalate kidney stones. This practice of telling people that vitamin C caused kidney stones continues today by the critics of vitamin C despite the lack of clinical evidence of kidney stones in people taking vitamin C.
“It was hypothesized that since a significant percentage of ascorbate was metabolized into and excreted as oxalic acid that this oxalic acid should combine with calcium in the urine and deposit as calcium oxalate kidney stones.
It is true that those of us who take large doses of ascorbate have elevated oxalic acid in our urine but no kidney stones. With the millions of people in the world taking vitamin C, if vitamin C caused kidney stones there would have been a massive epidemic of kidney stones noticed by this time. There has been none.
“I started using vitamin C in massive doses in-patients in 1969. By the time I read that ascorbate should cause kidney stones, I had clinical evidence that it did not cause kidney stones, so I continued prescribing massive doses to patients.
To this day (2006) I estimate that I have put 25,000 patients on massive doses of vitamin C and none have developed kidney stones. Two patients who had dropped their doses to 500 mg a day developed calcium oxalate kidney stones.
I raised their doses back up to the more massive doses and added magnesium and B6 to their program and no more kidney stones. I think that the low doses had no effect and they, by coincidence, developed the kidney stones because they were not taking enough vitamin C.”
(If you want to read more by Dr. Cathcart, a quick website search for “Cathcart” from the www.doctoryourself.com main page will bring up a lot for you to look at.)
Ways for ANYONE to reduce the risk of kidney stones:
1. Maximize fluid intake. Especially drink fruit and vegetable juices. Orange, grape and carrot juices are high in citrates which inhibit both a build up of uric acid and also stop calcium salts from forming. (Carper, J. "Orange Juice May Prevent Kidney Stones," Lancaster Intelligencer-Journal, Jan 5, 1994)
2. Control urine pH: acidic urine helps prevent urinary tract infections, dissolves both phosphate and struvite stones, and will not cause oxalate stones.
3. Eat your veggies: studies have shown that dietary oxalate is generally not a significant factor in stone formation. I would go easy on rhubarb and spinach, however.
4. Most kidney stones are compounds of calcium and most Americans are calcium deficient. Instead of lowering calcium intake, reduce excess dietary phosphorous by avoiding carbonated soft drinks, especially colas. Soft drinks contain excessive quantities of phosphorous as phosphoric acid. This is the same acid that has been used by dentists to etch tooth enamel before applying sealant.
Remember that Americans get only about 500 mg of dietary calcium daily, and the RDA is 800 to 1200 mg/day. Any nutritionist, doctor or text suggesting calcium reduction is likely in error.
5. Take a magnesium supplement of AT LEAST the US RDA of 300-350 mg/day (more may be desirable in order to maintain an ideal 1:2 balance of magnesium to calcium)
6. Be certain to take a good B-complex vitamin supplement daily, which contains pyridoxine (vitamin B-6). B-6 deficiency produces kidney stones in experimental animals. In high doses, it is also used medically to treat kidney stones. Remember:
* B-6 deficiency is very common in humans
* B-1 (thiamine) deficiency also is associated with stones (Hagler and Herman, "Oxalate Metabolism, II" American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 26:8, 882-889, August, 1973)
7. Additionally, low calcium may itself CAUSE calcium stones (L. H. Smith, et al, "Medical Evaluation of Urolithiasis" Urological Clinics of North America 1:2, 241-260, June 1974)
8. For uric acid/purine stones (gout), STOP EATING MEAT! Nutrition tables and textbooks indicate meats as the major dietary purine source. Naturopathic treatment adds juice fasts and eating sour cherries. Increased vitamin C consumption helps by improving the urinary excretion of uric acid. (Cheraskin, et al, 1983). Use buffered ascorbate "C".
9. Persons with cystine stones (only 1% of all kidney stones) should follow a low methionine diet and use buffered C.
10. Kidney stones are associated with high sugar intake, so eat less (or no) added sugar (J. A. Thom, et al "The Influence of Refined Carbohydrate on Urinary Calcium Excretion," British Journal of Urology, 50:7, 459-464, December, 1978)
11. Infections can cause conditions that favor stone formation, such as overly concentrated urine (from fever sweating, vomiting or diarrhea). Practice good preventive health care, and it will pay you back with interest.
REFERENCES: Cheraskin, Ringsdorf Jr., and Sisley: The Vitamin C Connection, Harper and Row, 1983
Pauling, Linus. "Are Kidney Stones Associated with Vitamin C Intake?" Today's Living, September, 1981
Pauling, Linus. "Crystals in the Kidney," Linus Pauling Institute Newsletter, 1:11, Spring, 1981
Pauling, Linus. How to Live Longer and Feel Better, Freeman, 1986
VITAMIN C MYTH-BUSTERS
Is some clown still trying to tell you that vitamin C is somehow dangerous? Or that you shouldn't take more than 200 mg/day? There is an excellent summary article you will want to read at
And here's some more really good news for all you health nuts who every day try so valiantly to convince friend, foe and family to take their vitamins:
VITAMIN C SAFETY STUDY
“Ascorbic Acid is a generally recognized as safe (GRAS) substance . . . Mice given Ascorbic Acid subcutaneous and intravenous daily doses (500 to 1000 mg/kg bw) for 7 days had no changes in appetite, weight gain, and general behavior; and histological examination of various organs showed no changes. Ascorbic Acid was a photoprotectant when applied to mice and pig skin before exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. . . . Pregnant mice and rats were given daily oral doses of Ascorbic Acid up to 1000 mg/kg bw with no indications of adult-toxic, teratogenic, or fetotoxic effects. Ascorbic Acid and Sodium Ascorbate were not genotoxic in several bacterial and mammalian test systems, consistent with the antioxidant properties of these chemicals. . . These data coupled with an absence of reports in the clinical literature of Ascorbic Acid sensitization strongly support the safety of these ingredients."
(Elmore AR. Final report of the safety assessment of L-Ascorbic Acid, Calcium Ascorbate, Magnesium Ascorbate, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Sodium Ascorbate, and Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate as used in cosmetics. Int J Toxicol. 2005;24 Suppl 2:51-111.)
VITAMIN C DOES NOT CAUSE KIDNEY STONES
"The relation between the intake of vitamins B6 and C and the risk of symptomatic kidney stones were prospectively studied in a cohort of 85,557 women with no history of kidney stones. . . Large doses of vitamin B6 may reduce the risk of kidney stone formation in women. Routine restriction of vitamin C to prevent stone formation appears unwarranted."
(Curhan, G. C., Willett, W. C., Speizer, F. E., Stampfer, M. J. Intake of vitamins B6 and C and the risk of kidney stones in women. J Am Soc Nephrol 10:4:840-845, Apr 1999.)
VITAMIN C PREVENTS AND CURES RECTAL POLYPS
Jerome J. DeCosse, M.D., Ph.D., Mark B. Adams, M.D., Joseph F. Kuzma, M.D., Paul LoGerfo, M.D., and Robert E. Condon, M.D. Effect of ascorbic acid on rectal polyps of patients with familial polyposis. Surgery, November, 1975, Vol. 78, No. 5, pp. 608-612.
CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE DECREASED BY VITAMIN C
"(T)here was a 27% decreased prevalence of coronary heart disease and a 26% decreased prevalence of stroke among those in the highest serum vitamin C category. In the NHANES I Epidemiologic Follow-up Study, it was found that the highest intakes of vitamin C had a 25% to 50% reduction in cardiovascular mortality."
(Simon, JA et al. Serum ascorbic acid and cardiovascular disease prevalence in U.S. adults. Epidemiology, 1998;9:316-321.)
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