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Posts tagged ‘cholesterol’

Top 5 Worst Internet Health Information Sites: Curezone.org Part 2: Liver Flush Forum

The name, “Liver Flush”, alone should be enough to raise red flags since this procedure does nothing to flush the liver.

The so-called “liver flushes” consist of ingesting olive oil, lemon juice and magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts), or variations of these ingredients.  The magnesium sulfate is to relax the bile ducts to allow the gallbladder to release gallstones easier.  I have seen different claims as to why the lemon juice is used from softening the stones to stimulating gallbladder contractions.  The oil is to contract the gallbladder to push the stones out of the gallbladder.

Ingestion of a large amount of oil will stimulate of gallbladder contractions.  The gallbladder though is not the liver.  Therefore, “liver flushing” is not only misleading, but also inaccurate.  The fact that the “liver flush” supporters do not know the difference between the liver and the gallbladder is very concerning by itself.  There are many more discrepancies though as well as dangers that the “liver flush” supporters have been making sure are not reported on Curezzone.

One of the largest supporters of “liver flushing” was Andreas Moritz.  One of his supporters told me that I should read his book because this has all the evidence proving “liver flushing” is for real.  Just because something is in print this does not mean something is true.  I addressed some of the claims in Moritz’s book here:

http://curezone.com/forums/fm.asp?i=1568425#i

People doing these “flushes” pass soft, squishy, greenish blobs that they claim are gallstones being passed from the gallbladder and the liver.  Lab analysis of these so-called “stones” have proven that they are not real gallstones, but rather saponified oil.  Saponification, which is the process of forming soap compounds, is a normal occurrence within the body, and are also known as fecal soaps.  The reaction occurs between the ingredients of the “liver flush” and the bile released in to the intestine forming the blobs of saponified oil.

Some of the “liver flush” supporters have claimed that it takes hundreds of degrees for the process of saponification to occur and since the body never reaches that temperature that it would be impossible for soap stones to form in the intestines.  Apparently these individuals have never had hydroxides come in to contact with their skin.  I don’t recommend testing this due to the dangers, but I have had caustic hydroxides come in to contact with my skin when doing some experiments.  The hydroxides react with the oils of the skin immediately forming soaps that can be easily felt on the skin.  Hundreds of degrees not required as the “liver flush” supporters falsely claim and it does not take days or weeks also contrary to their claims.

Other compounds formed in the intestines that can also be mistaken for real gallstones include sterol-cholesterol complexes and calcium oxalate stones.

Sterols are common in plant materials we consume, including olive oil, and have a very high affinity for cholesterol.  Cholesterol from our diets and cholesterol in the bile released from the gallbladder bind strongly with the sterols forming an insoluble complex that is excreted in the feces.  This is the same reason sterol sources are used to lower cholesterol.  By binding dietary cholesterol it prevents the absorption of the cholesterol.  By binding bile cholesterol the sterols prevent the reabsorption of this cholesterol.

Calcium oxalate is formed from the reaction of calcium with oxalic acid from our diets or produced within the body from sources such as excess vitamin C (ascorbic acid).  It is commonly thought that most calcium oxalate is excreted in the urine, where it is responsible for the formation of some kidney stones.  In reality though, most calcium oxalate is formed in the intestines by dietary oxalates reacting with dietary calcium.  This forms the insoluble salt calcium oxalate, which cannot be absorbed.  Therefore, the calcium oxalate formed in the digestive system is excreted in the feces where it can be mistaken for calcified gallstones.

The “liver flush” supporters claim that if fecal soaps were for real that people would see the fecal soaps more often in their feces.  The problem with their claim is that saponified oils are very common in the feces, but very few people go picking through their feces to find it.

Also keep in mind that the amount of saponified oil is dependent on the amount of oil ingested.  Even though fecal soaps are formed all the time in the intestines, it is usually in small amounts.   Most people do not go around consuming a cup of oil on top of the oils and fats they already consumed in their diet.  Therefore, the amount of fecal soaps produced by the average diet is small.  Consuming the large amount of oil though as people do with these so-called “liver flushes” provides much larger amounts of saponifiable material leading to the large lumps of saponified oil being excreted in the feces.

Some people have claimed that what is being passed must be gallstones because they have passed these blobs without using oil and with repeated “flushes” they no longer pass these blobs.  What needs to be kept in mind is that our diets contain other sources of oils or fats that can be saponified.  The reason that they may not still pass these blobs after repeated “flushes” is that repeated, frequent flushes can deplete the level of cholesterol in the bile, which would otherwise become part of the saponified oil or sterol-cholesterol complexes that the “liver flush” supporters frequently mistake for real gallstones.

One of the regular posters on my old forum decided to find out if these “flushes” were for real or not.  She started by having an ultrasound performed, which confirmed she did not have any gallstones.  Then she tried the “liver flush” and passed the same green, squishy blobs despite not having any gallstones.

Some of the “liver flush” supporters have also posted their own evidence proving that these so-called “stones” were formed in the intestines, not the liver or gallbladder.  Various people have tested this by mixing red dye in the olive oil before ingesting it. When they collected the blobs from their feces and cut them open they found specs of the red dye in these blobs.  Since the dye never travels to the liver, nor the gallbladder the only possible way for the dye to have gotten in to these blobs was to have formed in the intestines where saponification is well known to take place.  Some of the supporters have claimed the dye got inside as what they refer to as “stones” passed in to the intestines since the stones are permeable to the dye.  Real gallstones though are hard and not permeable to dye.

Gallstones are soft when they first start out and they are super tiny and crumbly.  As they grow though real gallstones calcify making them hard and impermeable. As they grind against each other the gallstones form facets.  At no point are real gallstones soft, squishy, shapeless blobs like the soap stones passed during these so-called “liver flushes”.

There are various other facts that prove these blobs are not real gallstones:

  • Real gallstones do not melt.  Many of the websites promoting this quackery tell their readers to freeze the “stones” so they do not melt.  Again, large gallstones are calcified and do not melt.
  • People have claimed to have passed “stones” the size of quarters to the size of baseballs.  If these were real gallstones then this would have been impossible.  The maximum size the bile ducts can possibly expand, even with all the magnesium is only 8mm.  A real stone the size of a quarter would be around 25mm, which means that it could not possibly pass from the gallbladder in to the intestines
  • Real gallstones are dense and sink in water.  The squishy blobs that people are passing during these so-called “liver flushes” float due to their high fat content and lack of calcification since they are mostly saponified oil formed in the intestines.
  • The so-called “stones” people are passing during these “flushes” are bright green and translucent.  Real gallstones are not bright green and they are opaque due to their calcification.
  • People claim to only see these “stones” when they do these “flushes”.  If it were possible to pass real gallstones this large though by the ingestion of oil as they are claiming then simply eating high oil or fatty meals such as a hamburger would regularly flush the gallstones from the gallbladder.  Yet these people don’t find these large blobs in their feces unless they drink an excessive amount of oil during their “flushes” because they are formed from the “flush” ingredients.
  • People are claiming to pass amounts of “stones” that far exceed the amount of real gallstones the gallbladder can actually hold.  I read posts where people have claimed to pass cups full of “stones”, which far exceeds the size of the gallbladder.  Although the most ridiculous claim was from a man who gave the size and amounts of everything he passed in a week that he claimed were gallstones.  Calculating the total the volume of the so-called “stones” would have literally filled him up from his neck to his knees.  All these “liver flush” supporters need to do is to research the size of the gallbladder to realize that the gallbladder is not large enough to hold what they are claiming is being excreted.
  • I have had some people try and argue that the cups full of “stones” were coming from  the liver.  There are various flaws with their hypothesis though.  First of all there would not be this much space in the liver either.  Secondly, liver stones, which do exist, are EXTREMELY rare.  Most liver stones are found in Asian countries where they are formed as a result of parasitical infection.
  • People are claiming to pass these “stones” in amounts not only in quantities larger than the gallbladder can actually hold, but they are also claiming to do this repeatedly within short periods of time.  This provides more solid proof that these are not real gallstones.  Real gallstones are very slow growing and literally take years to form.  So how can people pass cups of what they are calling gallstones several times a week or month?  The answer is they can’t.  Real gallstones cannot form that fast.
  • One of the posters trying to argue that these really were gallstones told me that he cut them open and the smelled claiming that they therefore had to be in his body for years since food matter, such as oil cannot smell in such a short time. I wonder how he would explain the smell of feces since he claims that food matter cannot smell unless it is in your system for years?  Actually his claim provides even more evidence that these blobs are not real gallstones.  First of all the smell is from the action of bacteria on various substances.  But the gallbladder almost never contains any bacteria, and therefore we do not find bacteria in real gallstones.  On the other hand as the oil is saponified in the intestines bacteria is trapped within these soap stones the same way the red dye was trapped in the soap stones as I referred to earlier.  It is the bacteria acting on the materials in the soap stones that create the intense smell the poster referred to.

As an example look at these pictures soap stones, produced in the intestines, that are being posted as gallstones from a “flush”:

http://curezone.com/ig/i.asp?i=1110

Now compare those soap stones  to these pictures of real gallstones:

https://s3.amazonaws.com/healthtap-public/ht-staging/user_answer/avatars/263182/large/open-uri20120701-17085-p20tka.jpeg?1341153391

Notice the differences.  For example, the soap stones are not solid like the real gallstones.  The real gallstones are also faceted unlike the soft, squishy soap stones.  This occurs with larger real gallstones in the gallbladder because the stones calcify as they grow becoming hard and solid.  As the real gallstones rub against each other the faceted faces form on the stones.

If they were soft and squishy like the soap stones produced during these “flushes” they would simply break down in to little, irregular chunks during the gallbladder contractions.

Also note that the soap stones in the Curezone link would be way too large to pass through the bile ducts if they were real gallstones.  Because they are produced in the intestines though and do not have to pass through the ducts since they do not come from the liver or gallbladder there is no problem excreting them.

Often the amount of soap stones being passed far exceed the total volume that the gallbladder could actually hold if these were actually gallstones.  The Curezone “liver flush” supporters falsely claim that the reason for this is that the “stones” are not coming from the gallbladder, but rather the liver.  There are several problems with this claim though.  First of all I have seen people on Curezone claim to have passed “stones” in volumes that far exceed the volume of the liver and the gallbladder combined.  Secondly, liver stones are EXTREMELY rare and are seen almost exclusively in Asian countries where the stones are caused from parasites.  Still this myth persists among the “liver flush” supporters.  One even posted this photo claiming this was proof that liver stones are real:

http://curezone.com/forums/fm.asp?i=1871497#i

Yes, liver stones are real.  But once again they are extremely rare.  Furthermore, what the picture shows in this liver with macronodular cirrhosis.  Those little green round parts are nodules, not stones.  The green color comes from bile accumulations that can result from either a biliary obstruction or damage to the liver.  Bile is not the same as stones.  In fact, bile is a liquid while real gallstones are a solid.

Some “liver flush” supporters claimed that they were confirmed to have gallstones by ultrasound and after doing the “flush” their gallbladders no longer contained any gallstones.  This can be easily explained.  There is a somewhat common condition in which the gallbladder can build up with precipitated cholesterol known as sludge.  Sludge particles are very tiny and with a little help from gallbladder contractions can easily pass through the bile ducts along with tiny stones.  On an ultrasound sludge is frequently mistaken for gallstones since real gallstones look the same on an ultrasound.  When these people drink the large amount of olive oil this stimulates the strong contractions of the gallbladder that can move the sludge and tiny real gallstones out of the gallbladder.

This also brings up though why these so-called “liver flushes” can be so dangerous.  If a person really has gallstones of any significant size the ingestion of a large amount of oil can cause the gallbladder to contract strong enough to force a real stone in to the bile ducts where it can get lodged.  This leads to pancreatitis and requires emergency surgery to correct.  This is not hypothetical, cases of this happening after people did these so-called “flushes” have been reported in the medical journals.  I have also read posts on Curezone where supporters reported symptoms of a lodged gallstone in their ducts after doing these flushes.  The symptoms were blamed on other things though such as having a panic attack.

It was posting this warning that got me banned from Curezone’s Liver Flush Support forum.  As with so many forums  on Curezone posting potential dangers is not considered “support”.  “Support” means agreeing with the moderator’s opinion no matter how much evidence there is to the contrary.  This also means that questioning the validity of these so-called “flushes” or providing any evidence that they are bogus is not allowed either.  Even posting evidence to the contrary is taboo in the “Liver Flush Debate” forum.  Unless you are agreeing with the false claims made by the “liver flush” supporters you are not welcome on the “Liver Flush Debate” forum either.  Interestingly, since they cannot argue the facts they try to turn the tables and require that others provide proof that the “flushes” are bogus. And when you do they twist what was said, go on the attack, try to get the evidence provider banned, etc.  Here is a thread of posts that are a clear example of the multiple games the “liver flush” supporters play to make sure their quackery is not exposed:

http://curezone.com/forums/fm.asp?i=1752316#i

Another mistake the “liver flusher” supporters make is that they report they feel better after doing the “flushes” and thus this is proof they are passing gallstones.  Claims of being cured from everything from indigestion to allergies have been reported even though the passing of gallstones would not do anything for these.  Still, the unverified testimonials of all these cures after doing the “flushes” abound as evidence the “flushes” work.  One of the things that the “liver flush” supporters do not seem to comprehend is that feeling better does not mean one has been cured of something.   Morphine can make a person with a broken leg feel better, but this does not mean their leg is healed.

There are several things that can explain why people feel better though.

First of all the ingestion of all the oil has a laxative effect due to the oil itself and the release of the bile, which both promote bowel movements.  If you have ever been constipated didn’t you feel better when the constipation was corrected?

The ingestion of oil can also prevent bile stagnation, which can also make a person feel better.  But it is safer and less caloric to prevent bile stagnation by ingesting small amounts of oil/fat with each meal to stimulate the gallbladder rather than ingesting single large amounts of oil.

It also helps to keep the hormones in balance since both elevated estrogen and progesterone contribute to actual gallstone formation.  This is also why women are more prone to gallstones than men.

Another factor with the “liver flushes” that can make a person feel better is the ingestion of the magnesium sulfate.  Magnesium deficiencies are actually rather common and can lead to a variety of health problems including muscle cramping, constipation, high blood pressure and increased risk of asthma attacks.  Magnesium is involved in about 300 different processes within the body.  Simply correcting the magnesium deficiency with the ingestion of magnesium salts therefore can make a person feel better.

I have had posters repeatedly tell me that the burden of proof of these claims is on me and that I should demonstrate this principle in an experiment to prove the claims.  My responses to this claim are first of all the burden of proof is on the original claimants, which are the “liver flush” supporters.  Secondly, this process has been shown in experiments and is one of the experiments demonstrated in college chemistry classes.  Since the burden of proof is really on the “liver flush” supporters though they can run the experiment themselves if they really want to see the proof.  All they need to do is to buy some cholesterol from a lab supply, which is about $500-600 a pound.  Get some oil, magnesium hydroxide (formed from the breakdown of magnesium sulfate) and some bile then go to town  with the experiment.

Personally I think it would be a waste of time since the process is already known and all the evidence already presented proves beyond a reasonable doubt that those big squishy blobs are not real gallstones.

Still, people are not going to test this concept nor accept the evidence for a simple reason.  When people have been duped by such quackery they feel foolish when they finally see the truth.  And nobody likes feeling like a fool.  Therefore, some people will continue to try and argue that those blobs are real gallstones until the day they die despite the overwhelming evidence.  This is why places like Curezone attract so many quacks and gullible people.

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Why Statins and Low Cholesterol Cause Heart Attacks and Strokes

No studies have ever proven that high cholesterol causes heart disease since this simply is not true.  Inflammation, not high cholesterol leads to atherosclerosis.  Yet the pharmaceutical companies keep pushing the cholesterol myth to promote drug sales while ignoring the fact that they are endangering lives.

Statins are the most commonly prescribed form of medicine for the treatment of “high” cholesterol.  The drug companies have failed though to inform the public about the dangers of not only these drugs, but also of the dangers of low cholesterol, which among other things can cause heart attack and stroke.

I find it rather ironic that the drug companies are pushing statins claiming they help prevent heart disease when these drugs are well known to increase the risk of heart failure, heart attacks and strokes!  There are several reasons for this.

Other than liver damage, the best known side effect of statins is a condition known as rhabdomyolosis.  This is a condition in which muscle tissue deteriorates.  The deterioration occurs from declining levels of CoQ10 in the tissues, which is required for the proper function of cells and their energy production through the formation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP).  What people often do not stop and think about is that the heart is also a muscle and is prone to the same damaging effects from the use of statins.  If taking statins I highly recommend taking at least 200mg of CoQ10 daily to help reduce the risk of statin induced heart failure.

The increased risk of heart attack and stroke actually occur for a totally different reason.  If you read my blog articles on the dangers of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) you will see that the risk of heart attack and stroke are related.  Several NSAIDs, such as Vioxx and Celebrex have been either pulled off the market or have required stronger warning labels warning of the increased risk of heart attack and stroke from these drugs.  Even though the drug companies tried to make it sound like a new discovery, the risk had been known prior to the drugs ever reaching the market.  The problem stems from the way these drugs work.  NSAIDs interfere with inflammatory prostaglandins.  Inflammatory prostaglandins are hormones that dilate blood vessels.  For example during injuries these hormones open up blood vessels to increase oxygen and nutrient levels to the area to promote healing.  By inhibiting these hormones NSAIDs decrease blood flow to the organs including the heart and brain.  If the blood supply is sufficiently reduced to the heart and brain, heart attack or stroke can occur.

So what does all this have to do with statins and cholesterol levels?  Prostaglandins, as with other hormones, are formed from cholesterol.  Therefore, reduced cholesterol levels lead to decreased prostaglandin formation, which in turn decreases blood flow to the organs.  This explains why studies have consistently shown increased mortality with decreased cholesterol levels.

The Cholesterol Myth

One of the largest frauds perpetuated on the American public has been the false claim that high cholesterol causes heart disease.  Even though this has been known for decades to be false the myth keeps getting promoted by the drug companies to increase drug sales of drugs, such as statins.  The whole idea of high cholesterol causing heart disease started with a faulty, outdated rabbit study from the 1920s.  No solid evidence of high cholesterol causing heart disease in humans has ever been shown.  In fact, evidence is to the contrary.  Several studies have confirmed that as cholesterol levels go down that the mortality rate goes up primarily from increased heart attacks and strokes.  It has been known for a while that around 50% of people who die from heart vascular disease have normal to low cholesterol levels.

What I really find interesting is how doctors who should be reasonably intelligent don’t seem to be questioning how people can have low cholesterol and clogged arteries or high cholesterol and clean arteries.  In fact I just heard a commercial for Lipitor where Dr. Jarvic is claiming that high cholesterol can lead to heart attack and stroke.  I would love to ask him in person to explain this mechanism since there is absolutely no science whatsoever to back up his claim!

Cholesterol levels are actually totally irrelevant to the risk of atherosclerosis.  It is inflammation, not high cholesterol that leads to atherosclerosis.  Cholesterol is actually a healing agent for the body.  Where there is an injury in the body cholesterol will increase in that area to aid in the healing by acting as both a patchwork and as a precursor for other substances such as hormones that play a role in healing.  Various things can cause trauma and inflammation to the arteries and are well known for increasing the risk of heart disease.  These include high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking and even bypass operations.  Damage to the arterial lining leads to inflammation.  In response, cholesterol floods the area and lays down as a “patchwork” over the injured area.  The problem is that if the source of inflammation is not removed then the cholesterol will keep depositing in an attempt to heal the injured area narrowing the artery.

Vitamin C Interactions

Pharmaceutical drugs often react with foods and supplements, including vitamin C.  And as we have seen, excessive vitamin C intake can interact with some nutritional compounds.  Sometimes these interactions are beneficial such as increasing the absorption of minerals.  And sometimes it leads to problems such as iron overload or copper and B12 deficiencies.
Another problem that is often overlooked is the interference of laboratory tests by excessive intake of vitamin C.  For example, excessive vitamin C intake may lead to false high or low bilirubin levels depending on the assay test being used.  Lactate dehydrogenase, cholesterol and triglyceride levels will read erroneously low.  Aspartate aminotransferase levels may read erroneously high.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) reported on a case in which a woman with unexplained anemia was taking 2,000mg of vitamin C daily.  When tested for occult blood in the stool repeated tests showed negative results.  The woman discontinued taking the vitamin C for 4 days, and when retested stool samples tested positive for blood.  It was also found that taking 750mg of vitamin C daily can interfere with detecting blood in stool and urine.

Vitamin C interferes with several glucose tests, including tests diabetics use at home.  Urinary glucose test strips will test false positive with as little as 2,000mg of vitamin C daily.  Home test strips can show normal blood glucose readings even when glucose levels are elevated or with as little as 2g of vitamin C daily.  Laboratory glucose tests may show erroneously low glucose levels with excessive vitamin C intake.

To decrease the risk of false laboratory readings it is recommended that all supplements be stopped at least 48 hours before having any lab work done.

Below is a link from the NIH and a portion of the article that discusses the interactions of vitamin C with drugs and supplements, and interference with laboratory tests.

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/patient-vitaminc.html

Interactions with Drugs

Acetaminophen (Tylenol): Vitamin C may increase adverse effects associated with acetaminophen.

Antacids: Vitamin C may increase adverse effects associated with aluminum-containing antacids such as aluminum hydroxide (Maalox, Gaviscon).

Aspirin: Vitamin C may increase blood levels and adverse effects of aspirin, whereas aspirin may decrease blood levels of vitamin C.

Barbiturates: The effects of vitamin C may be decreased by barbiturates including phenobarbital (Luminal, Donnatal), pentobarbital (Nembutal), or secobarbital (Seconal).

Fluphenazine (Permitil, Prolixin): Vitamin C supplementation may decrease levels of the drug fluphenazine in the body.

HIV medications (protease inhibitors): Concomitant administration of high doses of vitamin C can reduce steady-state indinavir plasma concentrations.

Levodopa (Dopar, Larodopa): There is limited case report evidence that high dose vitamin C may reduce side effects of levodopa therapy such as nausea or malcoordination.

Nicotine: Nicotine products such as cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, or nicotine patches may decrease the effects of vitamin C.

Oral contraceptives/estrogens: Oral estrogens may decrease the effects of vitamin C in the body. When taken together, vitamin C may increase blood levels of ethinyl estradiol.

Tetracyclines: The effects of vitamin C may be decreased by tetracycline antibiotics such as doxycycline (Vibramycin), minocycline (Minocin), or tetracycline (Sumycin).

Warfarin (Coumadin): Vitamin C in high doses appears to interfere with the blood thinning effects of Warfarin by lowering prothrombin time (PT) as noted in case reports in the 1970s.  Complications have not been reported (such as increased blood clots).

Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements

Iron: When taken together, vitamin C may increase the absorption of iron in the gastrointestinal tract, although this effect appears to be variable and may not be clinically significant.

Lutein: Vitamin C may increase absorption of lutein vitamin supplements.

Vitamin B12 (cobalamin, cyanocobalamin): Large doses of vitamin C may interfere with the absorption and metabolism of vitamin B12.

Interactions with Laboratory Tests

Bilirubin: Vitamin C supplements may cause false increases in tests of blood bilirubin levels.

Carbamazepine levels: Vitamin C supplements may cause false increases in blood carbamazepine levels.

Creatinine: Vitamin C supplements may cause false increases in blood creatinine levels.

Glucose: Vitamin C supplements may interfere with the accuracy of blood glucose tests.

LDH (lactose dehydrogenase): Vitamin C may cause a false decrease in blood LDH levels.

Prothrombin time (PT): Vitamin C in high doses appears to interfere with the blood thinning effects of warfarin by lowering prothrombin time (PT), as noted in case reports in the 1970s. Complications have not been reported (such as increased blood clots).

SGOT (glutamic oxaloacetic transaminase): Vitamin C supplements may cause false increases in blood SGOT levels.

Stool occult blood (guaiac): Vitamin C supplements can cause false-negative stool occult blood tests, within 48-72 hours after vitamin C ingestion.

Theophylline levels: Vitamin C supplements may cause false decreases in blood theophylline levels.

Uric acid levels: Vitamin C supplements may cause false increases in blood uric acid levels.

Urinary acetaminophen (Tylenol): Vitamin C supplements can cause false-negative urine acetaminophen tests.

Urinary glucose: Vitamin C supplements can cause false-positive urinary glucose results with the cupric sulfate reagent test and false-negative urinary glucose results with the glucose oxidase test, within 48-72 hours after vitamin C ingestion.

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