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Impact of oral vitamin C on histamine levels and seasickness


BACKGROUND: Seasickness is a risk aboard a ship. Histamine is postulated as a causative agent, inversely related to the intake of vitamin C. Persons with mastocytosis experienced improvement of nausea after the intake of vitamin C.

OBJECTIVE: To determine whether vitamin C suppresses nausea in 70 volunteers who spent 20 minutes in a life raft, exposed to one-meter-high waves in an indoor pool.

METHOD: Double-blind placebo-controlled crossover study. Two grams of vitamin C or placebo was taken one hour before exposure. Blood samples were taken one hour before and after exposure to determine histamine, diamine oxidase, tryptase, and vitamin C levels. Symptom scores were noted on a visual analog scale. On the second day the test persons were asked which day they had felt better.

RESULTS: Seven persons without symptoms were excluded from the analysis. Test persons had less severe symptoms after the intake of vitamin C (p< 0.01). Scores on the visual analog scale were in favor of vitamin C, but the difference was not significant. Twenty-three of 63 persons wished to leave the raft earlier: 17 after the intake of placebo and 6 after the intake of vitamin C (p< 0.03). Women (p< 0.02) and men below 27 years of age (p< 0.02) had less pronounced symptoms after the intake of vitamin C. Histamine (p< 0.01) and DAO levels were increased after the intake of vitamin C (p< 0.001) and after placebo (n.s.). The fact that the second test day was rated less stressful by most volunteers is indicative of habituation.

CONCLUSIONS: Some of the data show that vitamin C is effective in suppressing symptoms of seasickness, particularly in women and men younger than 27 years of age, and is devoid of side effects. Histamine levels were initially increased after the test persons had been exposed to waves.