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Atherosclerosis or build-up of plaque in the arteries is known as one of the major factors that contribute to the onset and development of coronary heart disease.
Accumulation of plaque or fatty materials thickens and narrows the arteries. Sometimes these deposits can completely choke the artery carrying blood to the heart and other organs such as the brain; the reason we have heart attacks or strokes.
Dr. Linus Pauling, an American scientist and a two-time Nobel Prize-winner, found that mega doses of vitamin C when used with lysine can dramatically prevent the formation of plaque and reverse the risk of cardiovascular disease. Dr. Pauling proposed this therapy along with his German associate Matthias Rath.
The whole premise of the Linus Pauling Vitamin C therapy is based on the combination of two nutrients, vitamin C and lysine (an amino acid).
How does it work?
Cholesterol has always been knuckle-rapped for being one of the main players in plaque formation and heart disease. But this vilification is not based on solid science. If anything, cholesterol is a very important molecule performing a diverse range of functions in the body. Every cell in the body contains cholesterol in its membranes where it provides structure and integrity. It is required for the synthesis of bile acids, vitamin D and all steroid hormones. It is also important for healthy brain functions such as thinking, learning and creating new memories.
Most importantly, cholesterol is not the reason why plaque is formed. The process of plaque formation begins when there is any injury to the blood vessels and the immune system responds by initiating reactions that cause inflammation.
Cigarette smoke, excess sugar, toxic chemicals and metals, alcohol, trans fats and pathogens can irritate or inflame endothelium, the delicate layer of cells that line the inside of the blood vessels. Endothelium is in direct contact of the bloodstream and is extremely prone to damage from these toxic materials that end up circulating in the blood stream, thus damaging or weakening the arteries.
Now, deficiency of certain nutrients like vitamin C also substantially weaken the arteries. How? We will come back to this in a bit.
One of the relatively lesser known function of cholesterol is to help repair and heal damaged tissues in the body. We also need cholesterol to make new cells that can replace the ones that are damaged. So, not surprisingly our body sends LDL cholesterol to repair or patch up damaged arteries.
But free radicals or excess sugar molecules in the blood oxidize cholesterol and alter its structure. The immune system now works up more inflammatory responses to get rid of these modified cholesterol particles. A series of immune and inflammatory reactions that follow will eventually lead to plaque formation.
Summing it up, cholesterol does play a role in plaque formation but only when it is oxidized and retained in the weak, damaged arteries. Chronic inflammation caused by free radicals and other factors like insulin resistance, diabetes, high triglyceride levels, and high blood pressure play a far more important role in increasing your cardiovascular disease risk than cholesterol alone.
Unfortunately, we know cholesterol as something either good (HDL) or bad (LDL), which is rather a very simplistic way of looking at this complicated molecule. The fact is, the level of LDL (so called bad cholesterol) is useless in predicting the risk of heart disease. You can have low LDL-C but still be at a high risk of heart disease, and vice versa.
Your risk of developing heart disease depends on many factors such as the number of LDL particles and the type of LDL particles, which are the numbers that really matter. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Lipidology found that the number of LDL particles (or LDL-P) was a strong marker for atherosclerosis, irrespective of LDL-C and other lipid measures. 
There are different types of LDL particles, and not all are bad. For example, there are large LDL particles that are fluffy and quite harmless. And then there are small, dense LDL particles that are more prone to become oxidized and trigger a cascade of inflammatory reactions. 
LP (a): The dangerous, sticky LDL particle
One of the LDL particles that deserve special attention is Lp(a), which has dangerous properties that make it extremely inflammatory and atherogenic. It is a small and sticky molecule with a high tendency to interact with amino acids in the walls of arteries. This means Lp(a) can more readily penetrate the endothelial space and is also more firmly retained there than normal LDL particles.
Furthermore, Lp(a) particles also promote blood clotting, that congests the arteries even further. Studies show that the presence of Lp(a) particles is a very important and relevant indicator of your heart disease risk.
Vitamin C and Lysine: Connecting the dots
How does taking vitamin C and lysine help?
All connective tissues in the body are made of collagen, a fibrous protein we normally associate with skin. But collagen is the most ubiquitous fibre in the body. It acts like a glue that sort of holds together all structures within the body.
We need enough collagen to maintain the strength and integrity of bones, muscles, cartilage, organs, tendons, skin and the blood vessels, including the arteries in the heart and brain. And the fact is we can’t make collagen without Vitamin C. Vitamin C is an essential co-factor in the steps required to produce collagen.
Vitamin C deficiency means less collagen production, without which the blood vessels become weak. Cholesterol, including the sticky Lp (a) particles, rushes to the site to repair and patch the blood vessels. This life-saving mechanism prevents the rupture of blood vessels that could be fatal. So far, cholesterol is only there to help patch the arteries.
But very soon this entire well-intentioned function means little when cholesterol is oxidized by free radicals in the sub-endothelial space. And Lp(a) particles – that are more likely to be retained in the endothelial lining and become oxidized – initiate the inflammatory responses that trigger the process of plaque formation. It is a fact that normal, circulating LDL cholesterol is not likely to stick to healthy blood vessels.
What happens when you have healthy levels of Vitamin C in the body? The body will have enough collagen to repair and heal damaged walls of arteries. And the body will not have to depend on Lp(a) to perform this healing action.
Dr. Pauling discovered that Lp(a) has a very strong affinity to bind with lysine, an amino acid present in the collagen on the walls of the blood vessels. What is even more interesting is that only Lp (a) particles have the lysine binding sites. So, when LDL particles arrive at the site of injury, small and sticky Lp(a) particles are able to infiltrate the endothelial lining and bind to the strings of lysine hanging from the damaged blood vessels, where they accumulate and cause inflammatory mayhem.
Dr. Pauling stressed that if your body gets some additional lysine molecules, Lp (a) particles will have something else to bind with. This would prevent the accumulation or retention of Lp (a) in the endothelium, a desirable outcome.
Vitamin C helps the body to make sufficient collagen, keeping arteries strong, well-mended and healthy. In fact, Vitamin C works in many other ways to prevent the risk of heart disease. Vitamin C is a strong anti-oxidant that prevents the oxidation of lipids (LDL particles) and proteins in the body. Vitamin C also increases the production of nitric acid (NO) in the endothelium. NO is a heart healthy molecule that is a powerful vasodilator and helps the blood vessels to dilate and relax.  This improves the flow of blood and regulates blood pressure.
Most of the recommendations to reduce your risk of coronary heart disease revolve around lowering cholesterol levels. This is futile as a number of studies provide concrete evidence that high cholesterol doesn’t increase your risk of cardiovascular events.  . It simply makes much more sense to address the primary factors that trigger inflammation and damage blood vessels in the first place. Linus Pauling Therapy with mega doses of Vitamin C and lysine addresses all these factors to reverse your risk of coronary heart disease.
- Zaid M et al. Associations of serum LDL particle concentration with carotid intima-media thickness and coronary artery calcification. Journal of Clinical Lipidology. 2016 Sep-Oct;10(5):1195-1202.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jacl.2015.12.027. Epub 2016 Jan 6.
- Davidson et al. Clinical utility of inflammatory markers and advanced lipoprotein testing: advice from an expert panel of lipid specialists. Journal of Clinical Lipidology. 2011 Sep-Oct;5(5):338-67. doi: 10.1016/j.jacl.2011.07.005.
- Tousoulis D et.al. The role of nitric oxide on endothelial function. Current Vascular Pharmacology. 2012 Jan;10(1):4-18.
- Petursson H, Sigurdsson JA, Bengtsson C, Nilsen TI, Getz L. Is the use of cholesterol in mortality risk algorithms in clinical guidelines valid? Ten years prospective data from the Norwegian HUNT 2 study. Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice. 2012 Feb;18(1):159-68. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2753.2011.01767.x. Epub 2011 Sep 25. 10.
- Uffe Ravnskov, David M Diamond, Rokura Hama et all. Lack of an association or an inverse association between low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol and mortality in the elderly: a systematic review. Cardiovascular medicine.