Ultimate Guide to Vitamin C
Vitamin C, also referred to as Ascorbic Acid is an important vitamin that is required by the human body. You’ve probably heard about it through several sources. There’s more to vitamin C than what you might hear or see. However, before we get an in-depth view of vitamin C, we must first understand what vitamins are in general.
The term ‘vitamin’ actually originates from two separate words: vital and amine. Vitamins are basically organic molecules i.e. they are composed of carbon. Vitamins play their role as catalysts that support several reactions in the human body. In other words, vitamins help chemical reactions take place in an energy efficient and quick manner. Without vitamins, these reactions in our body wouldn’t take place and cause many functions to stop or slow down. This will eventually lead to diseases.
The lack of vitamins in the body is referred to as a vitamin deficiency. The human body requires vitamins on a regular basis. However, the requirement is minimal. About a few hundredths of a gram is all an average human needs. Vitamins can be obtained from 3 sources – beverages, food, and the body itself.
Some vitamins are synthesized by our own bodies. For example, vitamin K is produced by intestinal bacteria and vitamin D is produced from cholesterol through sun exposure.
Another thing about vitamins is that they can be either water soluble or fat soluble. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat soluble. This means that they tend to accumulate within the body’s fat deposits and also in the liver. Generally, fat soluble vitamins, in high quantities, can be toxic.
On the other hand, water soluble vitamins, which include vitamins B and C, are passed through the urine, when taken in excess. Also, they are not toxic in large quantities. Their storage also occurs in the liver.
Vitamin C Benefits
Vitamin C, is very necessary for the functioning of the human body. One of the key roles played by vitamin C is to help with the production of collagen. Vitamin C also plays a role in preventing the oxidation of fatty acids and the vitamins A and E. The disease known as scurvy is also fought off by maintaining a steady supply of vitamin C.
Even anemia, which is caused by a deficiency in iron, is treated by prescribing vitamin C.
Collagen is a connective tissue fiber that is found throughout the body. Connective tissue is what provides support to our organs and gives our body a certain shape and from. There are 5 types of collage and each of them plays a very important role. This includes:
• Collagen Type 1: This is the connective tissue that is found in ligaments, tendons, bone, skin, teeth, and organ capsules.
• Collagen Type 2: This is basically cartilage.
• Collagen Type 3: This is the connective tissue that is found in the internal organs such as kidneys, liver, and spleen.
• Collagen Type 4 and Type 5: This collagen type serves as the layer that separates the endothelial cells and epithelial cells. It also serves as the layer that separates the basal lamina, the lens capsule, kidney glomeruli, and the glial and Schwann cells in the nervous system.
So, how does vitamin C come into play here?
Well, collagen production results in the creation of a chain of events. These events are very complex in nature. Some events occur in the cell, while others occur outside the cell. Vitamin C plays an active role inside the cell. Here, it adds oxygen and hydrogen (hydroxylates) to lysine and proline, which are types of amino acids. This process leads to the development of ‘procollagen’, which when modified, turns into collagen. This collagen is formed on the cell’s external surface.
Vitamin C is also known to offer several other benefits.
• A meta-analysis conducted recently found that vitamin C proved to be beneficial to those with stress induced immune system weakening. Vitamin C is a nutrient known for its stress sensitivity. In fact, obesity, smoking, and alcoholism have been known to cause vitamin C depletion. This could indicate a correlation between stress and vitamin C.
• Vitamin C has often been associated with fighting cold or common cold. However, there is no evidence to suggest that this is possible. Nevertheless, studies have shown that vitamin C can help prevent the development of complications that are normally associated with common cold or flu. This includes lung infections and pneumonia.
• A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition stated that individuals with high vitamin C concentration in the blood were likely to enjoy lower stroke risk. To be specific, they were 42% more likely to not develop a stroke. The study also found that individuals who consumed more vegetables and fruits enjoyed a high vitamin C blood concentration.
• Another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that vitamin C could fight skin aging. The study observed a total of 4025 women between the ages of 40 and 74. It was observed that the women who had a high intake of vitamin C had fewer wrinkles, better skin appearance, and less skin dryness.
Vitamin C Intake and Dosage
Vitamin C, fortunately, is found in a lot of vegetables and fruits. However, according to the dietary intake data provided by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, 2005, a lot of people do not meet their daily vitamin C requirements. Also, the low vitamin C intake was more prevalent among smokers and African-American males, based on a research study conducted by a team at the University of Arizona.
Citrus fruits such as orange and lemon are rich in vitamin C. Other fruits and vegetables that are rich in vitamin C include white potatoes, tomatoes, green peppers, sweet potatoes, and broccoli.
You can also source vitamin C from pineapples, raspberries, cauliflower, red peppers, papaya, cantaloupe, dark leafy greens, brussels sprouts, cabbage, mango, blueberries, watermelon, mango, and winter squash.
As for vitamin C dosage, the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) is 60 to 90 mg per day.
• Men are required to consume a higher dosage of vitamin C than men.
• Smokers are advised to add 35 mg of vitamin C to the recommended daily intake. This is because smoking causes vitamin C depletion and initiates biological processes that cause cell damage.
• A minimum of 5 to 7 mg of vitamin C per day is enough to prevent the onset of scurvy.
• The average American consumes 72 mg of vitamin C per day.
An interesting fact about vitamin C is that it is often used as a preservative in processed food products. As a result, vitamin C deficiencies aren’t as common as other deficiencies.
Another way to boost vitamin C intake is to consume vitamin C supplements. According to the Food and Nutrition Board, the average adult human can consume a maximum of 2000 mg of vitamin C per day. This recommended dose is inclusive of the daily food based vitamin C consumption.
Though vitamin C is an excellent nutrient, the overall health of the human body still depends on consuming a balanced diet. According to Dee Sandquist, Spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, a varied diet, containing all the necessary nutrients in optimum amounts is the key to good health.