Understanding risk and Vitamin C news

Continuing on the theme of understanding what doctors and scientists say when they use statistics…

If you’re like I was and get confused by what changes in relative and absolute risk mean according to the treatment you receive, or your postcode, for instance… and how to work out how it applies to your own risk, here’s a link which explains it in simple terms. breastcancer.org/risk/understanding.jsp
Forgive me, Moderator, if the same info is here on this site. If so, perhaps you could point it out.

I also wanted to raise the topic of Vitamin C. The Eureka news service to-day gave out information of some research that shows that Vitamin C mixes in the upper regions of the stomach with lipids - from fats and oils, that is, instead of being strongly anti-oxidant and anti-carcinogenic, instead becomes between 4 and 140 times worse in that instead of defusing free radicals it effectively becomes one. (A HUGE difference there.) Recent research has pointed to concentrated supplements being harmful and not helpful and that only food sources of vitamins and minerals are beneficial. From this Eureka published research it has been suggested that Vit. C interaction in the stomach with fats could be the reason - there are so many supplements which contain it after all and why results from megadoses of vitamin C are inconsistent. I thought that meant that taking vit. C on an empty stomach may be OK then, but the article further points out that after digestion the stomach wall lining cells absorb fat so it is sitting there just waiting for the vit. C to arrive. I think I’ll stick to fruit and veg and juices, thank-you.

Look out for this news and see how the media manipulate the numbers and try to work out what they mean! or if they publish it at all…

Data is a minefield - so difficult to extract the information we really need, huh?

Any mathematicians out there?

Wishing you well,


Hi Jenny

That’s interesting and takes me back to last summer when an insensitive colleague sent me an article about how good Vit C is for terminal cancer patients.

I attended a talk on nutrition (think it was at the Breast Cancer Haven) last year and was surprised to be told that tumours feed on iron so never take supplements that include, or have added, iron. On the other hand eat all the leafy green veg you can lay your hands on because dietary iron is the bees’ knees!

Meantime, when I was in hospital recently and lost a lot of blood and was then found to be anaemic, the staff couldn’t wait to dish out the iron tablets!

Confusing isn’t it?


Hi Jenny and Dahlia,

Thank you both for that info. I have been taking an iron supplement since my operation in May, and with vitamin C to help absorb it! I’ve read a fair deal about the benefits of diet vs. supplements, but I don’t seem to be able to absorb iron from food - and trust me I could compete with a goat when it comes to ‘leafy green’! Well, one more reason to have that looked into.

I agree it is all very confusing…


Just 3 brief comments on iron supplements for anaemia -
Firstly you can be anaemic and have adequate iron in your blood (serum iron they call it) but it may not be taken up by the red blood cells or the low numbers of red blood cells due to treatment and any damage to bone marrow where they are made can mean the red blood cell levels recover slowly.
Secondly if you DO have adequate serum iron, you should not take iron supplements which will put excessive iron into your bloodstream and favour tumour cells, but increase your B12 and folic acid/folate consumption to aid iron uptake and red blood cell production.
Finally if you DON’T have adequate serum iron, then, yes, you do need iron supplementation, but there’s a liquid/syrup form such as iron gluconate which can be taken before meals which will provoke less upset stomach/nausea than the regular ferrous suphate. BTW - You may find your iron supplement already contains folate/folic acid. So if you don’t know your serum iron level and it was not analysed in your last blood test, go easy on the iron and ask to be tested and stick to increasing your foods containing folic acid and supplement your B12 a little. I’m vegan so don’t get B12 in my food and started to supplement B12 when I got anaemia recently from RT. As I had no record of my serum iron and couldn’t get a blood test quickly and was exhausted from the anaemia, I only took 1 ampoule of iron gluconate a day instead of the recommended 6 and only took it for a couple of weeks. I recovered so strongly that in my case, I don’t think I needed the iron at all, though during this time, I’d taken extra molasses and drank nettle tea every day and checked out some iron-rich foods… I dont’ bother now - wondering what my blood test will say next month and I shall ask for a measure of serum iron.

Wishing you well,



Thanks for that about iron, explains it so much better and now I will not be turning up to my consultant asking daft questions!

Really helpful, thanks again.