Vitamin C – A Diverse and Essential Nutrient
Vitamin C has had it’s fair share of debate in recent times over dosage requirements and safety. Linus Pauling, founder of the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, has dedicated his research to Vitamin C and its related health benefits since 1966. He was the first to identify this vitamin as a cure for the common cold!
“The more we study vitamin C, the better our understanding of how diverse it is in protecting our health” states researcher Mark Moyad, MD, MPH of the University of Michigan.
Research has linked an adequate intake of Vitamin C with powerful health benefits such as:
Stress, Brain function, Mood & creation of Neurotransmitters:
Stress is a condition which is very common in our society, and it weakens the immune system.
Vitamin C is one of the nutrients sensitive to stress. Prolonged stress depletes Vitamin C in the adrenals and blood levels, and is the first nutrient to be depleted in alcoholics, smokers and obese individuals.
It makes it an ideal marker for overall health.
Lowering the risk of Heart Disease, Stroke and Protection of Blood Vessels
A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that those with the highest concentrations of Vitamin C in their blood were associated with 42% lower stroke risk than those with the lowest concentrations.
Vitamin C has been shown to lower blood pressure and therefore lessen the probability of hypertension, as well as the serious health problems that follow, such as cardiovascular disease.
Proper dilation of blood vessels is ensured with adequate intake of vitamin C, which may prevent diseases like atherosclerosis, congestive heart failure and angina. Studies show that people with high levels of Vitamin C have lower total blood cholesterol levels.
According to one study, it was speculated that if every adult in Australia took an extra 500mg of Vitamin C every day, about 20,000 people would not die of heart disease every year. Not only would all those people still be alive, they wouldn’t be costing billions of dollars in care costs every year.
Immunity, Creation of Collagen and Skin Ageing
Along with its immune functions that fight bacteria, viruses and infection, there is good evidence that taking vitamin C for colds and flu can help prevent more serious complications, such as pneumonia and lung infections.
A healthy dose of vitamin C will protect your body from infection and maintain healthy bones as well as quicken the body’s ability to repair wounds and protect teeth. It has been shown that taking vitamin C before an operation and after surgery will make healing faster, fight infection and strengthen collagen levels.
Not only is vitamin C a well known component of your immune system, it is also necessary for collagen, the main structural protein found in connective tissue.
Vitamin C affects cells on the inside and outside of the body. One published study examined links between nutrient intakes and skin ageing in women aged 40-74. It found that higher vitamin C intakes were associated with lower likelihood of a wrinkled appearance, dryness of skin, and a better skin ageing appearance.
Allergies and Asthma
Vitamin C is a natural antihistamine. At higher amounts, Vitamin C may decrease the production of histamine, and also helps the body remove the histamine out of bloodstream faster, thereby reducing allergic reaction. Vitamin C is even more effective for asthma if some magnesium is also supplemented at the same time.
Study after study proves that Vitamin C can help protect against cancer. People with high levels of vitamin C and other antioxidants are markedly less likely to get cancer of the lung, cervix, colon, pancreas, eosophagus, mouth and stomach.
Research shows that the antioxidants remove the free radicals and damaging toxins before they can damage cells/DNA and trigger cancer.
Vitamin C dramatically lowers your blood lead level. This is especially important for children living in urban areas, as studies have shown that lead toxicity can lead to behavioural and developmental problems such as learning disabilities and lowered IQ. Adults, moreover, may suffer from kidney damage and high blood pressure.
Cataracts and Macular Degeneration
The lens of the human eye requires vitamin C to function properly, and deficiency can lead to cataracts (where the lens becomes increasingly opaque, causing blurry vision). A higher intake of vitamin C has been shown to fight cataracts by increasing the amount of blood flow to the eye.
A recent study found that taking vitamin C supplements over a long period – over 10 years – lowered the risk of cataracts by over 77%.
Vitamin C’s Role in the Body
Vitamin C is necessary for growth, development and repair of all body tissues. It’s involved in many body functions, including absorption of iron, the immune system, wound healing and the maintenance of cartilage, bones and teeth.
Other conditions that benefit from Vitamin C metabolism include certain cases of male infertility, there is some evidence to suggest that taking vitamin C can improve the quality and quantity of men’s sperm. This is news for “infertile” couples. Studies show that supplementation with Vitamin C markedly raised sperm count.
Sources of Vitamin C
Vitamin C has always been claimed to be an essential nutrient for overall health and well being. Humans are not able to produce this vitamin themselves, it is not stored in the body for future use (excess amounts are excreted), so overdose is not a concern but taking a supplement can ensure adequate amounts for optimal health. The only other way to ensure correct dosage is to eat 5 servings of good quality fruit and vegetables every day.
Similarly animal foods contain almost no Vitamin C, although if you like eating raw fish you can get enough to prevent deficiency symptoms.
People who consume more fruit and vegetables will not only have higher blood levels of vitamin C, but higher intake of other nutrients potentially beneficial to health.
Vitamin C is one of the least stable vitamins. Being mostly contained in the watery part of fruits and vegetables, cooking can destroy much of the Vitamin C content in food, so steaming of vegetables minimizes its loss. It is also easily oxidized in air and sensitive to light.
If I supplement which is the best form of Vitamin C to take?
When taking Vitamin C supplements, consider Calcium Ascorbate, a natural form of vitamin C and also a compound made up of vitamin C and calcium.
It is vitamin C in buffered form, excellent for people with sensitive stomachs because it is less acidic and easier on the digestive tract.
Calcium ascorbate allows higher doses to be taken without the unwanted side effects like diarrhoea and stomach aches that may be experienced by sensitive individuals when taking pure vitamin C.
People at risk of vitamin C deficiency
Smokers : cigarette smoke breaks down vitamin C very quickly and extra is needed to combat the damage smoking does to cells (studies show that people exposed to passive smoking also need extra vitamin C)
The elderly : older people need more vitamin C in general, especially if they take drugs that interfere with vitamin C absorption.
Pregnant or breastfeeding women : much of the nutrients eaten are passed onto the child and extra may be needed each day to top up supplies of vitamin C.
Allergies and asthma : fighting allergic reactions and asthma attacks use up a lot of the vitamin C reserves.
After surgery : vitamin C helps heal wounds faster and fights infections.
Diabetes : diabetics often have low levels of Vitamin C. Insulin, which carries glucose into the cells, to be used for energy, also carries vitamin C into the cells. In diabetics, not enough insulin enters the cells and neither does enough vitamin C. Supplementation may be required.
Chronic or acute infections/illnesses : the immune system needs plenty of vitamin C when it is fighting off illness or disease.
Aspirin, birth control pills, antibiotics and other prescription drugs : these drugs either block vitamin C from being absorbed in the body or break it down too quickly.
Alcoholics : absorb less of some of the vitamin C and may not eat properly.