Vitamin C is an important water-soluble vitamin that is also known as L-ascorbic acid.
Some animals have the ability to manufacture Vitamin C within their bodies, but humans have to obtain it from food.
Unlike fat-soluble vitamins, such as Vitamins A and D, the body does not retain stores of Vitamin C.
After it’s been consumed, the vitamin is carried to your tissues via body fluids. Excess water-soluble vitamins are excreted with the urine.
It’s best to top up your levels of Vitamin C and other water-soluble vitamins a few times a day by eating nutrient-rich food.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that can help purge the body of free radical toxins
These toxins enter the body with certain foods and can be obtained from the atmosphere.
When they build up in the body it can interfere with the metabolism and cause other problems that have a negative effect on the health and may encourage premature aging.
Despite its many virtues, many people overlook this important vitamin’s other abilities and often only think of it only as a vitamin that boosts the immune system.
Many cold and flu remedies that can be purchased over-the-counter contain Vitamin C.
There is evidence to suggest it may have “modest” abilities in this regard, but it benefits the body in numerous other ways.
A Look at Some Vitamin C Benefits
Although it’s potency as a remedy for colds and flu may be a little exaggerated, Vitamin C is important and you need to ensure your body obtains enough.
Vitamin C and Mineral Absorption
One of the most interesting things about Vitamin C is it helps the body absorb iron and calcium. So although its role is only supportive, it can prevent anemia and the associated consequences by helping prevent iron deficiency. Similarly, Vitamin C helps provide strong bones and teeth by boosting calcium absorption.
Capabilities as an Antioxidant
Working in a more direct manner, Vitamin C’s capabilities as an antioxidant allow it to lessen the risk of many life-threatening conditions including cancer, strokes, and cardiovascular disease.
Vitamin C’s capabilities as an antioxidant have been scientifically evaluated, as has its value in the role of disease prevention.
Its abilities have been proven again and again and epidemiological studies reveal diets that are high in fruits and vegetables are associated with lower risk of cancer, stroke, and cardiovascular disease.
Such diets also appear to increase longevity. Researchers are unsure whether these benefits are directly attributable to Vitamin C, but it seems likely that this is the case.
Fights the Signs of Aging
The antioxidant capabilities of Vitamin C protect the skin from the aging effects of free radicals.
It has value when taken orally, but works best when it’s added to products that are applied to the skin.
Vitamin C’s ability to prevent sagging skin, wrinkles, and fine lines has also been proven and the biopsy results provided by one study show Vitamin C encourages new collagen formation.
Vitamin C Improves the Circulation
Numerous studies show Vitamin C improves the circulation and it appears to help regulate blood pressure as well. It’s abilities have been shown to be effective for patients from a number of different backgrounds including ex-smokers and obese children.
Reduces the Risk of Urinary Tract Infection
Infections of the urinary tract can be most unpleasant and many people have to endure the condition multiple times throughout their lives.
Getting plenty of Vitamin C is a good way to reduce the likelihood of such infections.
Doctors sometimes suggest their patients drink citrus fruit juice that is rich in Vitamin C because it acidifies the urine.
Regularly passing urine that has been made more acidic in this way inhibits the bacteria responsible for urinary tract infections.
According to the cholesterol fact sheet provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), high cholesterol levels double the risk of heart disease.
Research suggests consuming 1000mg of Vitamin C per day may be a good way to bring cholesterol levels down.
Reduces Muscle Soreness During Exercise
The results provided by multiple studies show taking Vitamin C (1-3g) prior to exercise is a good way to protect against muscle soreness. It also helps limit muscle damage by reducing oxidative stress.
Vitamin C Boosts the Libido
Although the exact mechanisms involved have yet to be identified, research shows high doses of ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) improve the mood, boost the libido, and increase the frequency of intercourse.
Good Sources of Vitamin C
Consuming more fruit and vegetables is the best way to elevate your levels of Vitamin C. It will help prevent other vitamin deficiencies too and provide extra dietary fiber.
However, the Vitamin C content of food can be reduced or destroyed by prolonged periods of storage and by cooking.
Steaming or microwaving vegetables, in preference to boiling them, can reduce the amount Vitamin C that is lost and it’s always best to choose fresh food in preference to food that has been frozen or canned.
Five servings of fruit and vegetable per day can provide 200mg of Vitamin C or more.
Good sources of Vitamin C include:
- Citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, grapefruit)
- Brussels sprouts
- Red/green/yellow peppers
Although grains do not contain Vitamin C in their natural state, many breakfast cereals are fortified with a combination of vitamins including Vitamin C.
Eating a bowl of fortified cereal can go a long way to meeting the bodies nutritional needs and the high fiber content will satiate hunger and prevent the desire to snack between meals.
The recommended daily requirement (RDA) for adults is 65-90mg of Vitamin C per day. The upper limit is 2000mg per day.
Symptoms of Vitamin C Deficiency
Many years ago, sailors used to be prone to a condition called scurvy that was caused by the fact their on-board food options were incapable of providing an adequate amount of Vitamin C.
These days Vitamin C deficiency is quite rare but it still affects around 7% of adults in the USA and it can take several months before symptoms develop.
Symptoms of Vitamin C deficiency include:
- Bruising more easily
- Impaired wound healing ability
- Rough, uneven skin
- Dry skin
- Weak, corkscrew-shaped hair
- Red hair follicles
- Spoon-shaped fingernails
- Red Spots or lines under the nails (splinter hemorrhages)
- Pain and/or inflammation of the joints
- Weak bones
- Poor Immune system
- Bleeding from the gums
- Teeth falling out
- Weight gain
The Role and Value of Supplements
Vitamin C is lost easily from the body.
Drinking alcohol and smoking are but two ways your lifestyle choices may rob your body of this important vitamin and have a negative effect on your health.
Stress also has the potential to reduce levels of Vitamin C.
These are issues worthy of extra consideration, especially if you are not eating the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetable per day
Supplements normally provide vitamin C in the form of ascorbic acid. It offers the same bioavailability as the ascorbic acid found in broccoli, oranges, and other foods. However, some supplements provide Vitamin C in other forms that are not so easily absorbed.
Although supplements offer a good way to get extra Vitamin C into the body, they should never be seen as the best way of obtaining it.
There is no substitute for a healthy diet. However, certain medical conditions can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb Vitamin C.
When nutrient absorption has been impaired by disease, supplements can play an important role in protecting the health. If you think you are not getting enough Vitamin C, you should share your concerns with a doctor.
What Happens If You Get Too Much Vitamin C
You are unlikely to exceed the upper limit just by eating food, but the overuse of supplements may cause you to do so.
Consuming overly-high amounts over a period of time can lead to a number of adverse effects. For one thing, it may cause digestive stress.
This will usually manifest itself in the form of nausea and diarrhea. However, digestive problems are usually the result of consuming more than 2000mg of Vitamin in a single sitting.
Too much Vitamin C has also been linked to kidney stone formation, but research has only established this can be a problem for men.
Further study is needed to ascertain if it’s likely to be a problem for women too, but it seems probable that it will and it’s been speculated that one out of every 680 people who take overly-high doses of Vitamin C may develop kidney stones.
Excess Vitamin C may also cause the body to become susceptible to iron overload.
Although most people are unaware of this fact, there are two types of iron. Heme iron is the form of iron your body receives from liver, steak, and other animal products.
Non-heme iron is the type of iron that occurs naturally in fruit, vegetables, and nuts.
The body does not absorb non-heme iron as easily as heme iron, but has the ability to bind with non-heme iron and improve its bioavailability. T
his can be a blessing for Vegetarians because it lowers their risk of iron deficiency.
Some research suggests Vitamin C can boost non-heme iron absorption by up to 67%.
This can dangerous for individuals who are prone to iron accumulation because iron overload can be very damaging to the body and the condition may be fatal if it is not identified in time.
Interactions with Drugs and Medication
Due to their potency, supplements that provide Vitamin C also have the potential to interact in an unfavourable way with certain drugs and medications including the statins uses by many people who are prone to excess cholesterol in their blood.
Large doses of Vitamin C may also impair the effectiveness of the Warfarin medication some people have to take to lower their risk of blood clots.
The medication prescribed to people suffering from HIV/AIDS may also be rendered less effective by high doses of Vitamin C because it can reduce the amount of Warfarin retained in the body.
Despite the fact that Vitamin C and other antioxidants have been shown to be beneficial for some cancer patients, there are worries that the overuse of antioxidants may impair the abilities of some cancer medications.
There are also concerns that large doses of Vitamin C may slow the breakdown of aspirin, thereby increasing the likelihood of side effects.
Vitamin C is an important nutrient. The body needs to obtain it in sufficient amounts every day, but most people are likely to get enough from their food.
Although certain individuals may need to get extra Vitamin C by using supplements, due to ill health or situations that are causing their bodies to become deficient, the average person is unlikely to need supplements.
Despite some of the negative issues associated with overuse, there is no need to be scared of Vitamin C.
Side effects and drug interactions are normally due to the overuse of supplements, not from eating foods that are rich in Vitamin C.
Unless you have a genuine deficiency, using supplements may not be wise and such deficiencies are rare in healthy people.
If you have concerns about your diet or health, the best thing to do is contact your doctor and get some professional advice.