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Vitamin C is a very popular vitamin. It plays important roles in several processes taking place in the body. This means you may have some health issues when having a deficiency. Scurvy is one that easily comes to the mind of many people when talking about the issues that could result from a deficiency. There are several more. We discuss here some of the health benefits of vitamin C, sources, and side effects, among others.
About Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a water soluble substance crucial to health in humans and animals. You may also see people calling it ascorbic acid. But that is actually just one among a number of chemical compounds that have vitamin C activity. You need this vitamin for several enzymatic reactions in the body.
For many centuries, people noticed certain health benefits in foods containing vitamin C. But they had no knowledge of what might be responsible. It wa
s discovered in 1912 by Casimir Funk, a Polish chemist. The vitamin was first isolated and made in 1928 and 1933 respectively.
Many animals and plants are able to produce vitamin C through a series of steps that are facilitated by enzymes. The production involves conversion of monosaccharides. However, human beings lack the ability to produce this vitamin. You, therefore, need to get it from your diet. This also has to be in sufficient quantity because your body does not store it due to its water solubility.
Scurvy is the most popular sign of a deficiency. In fact, it was the usefulness for this condition that drew the attention of many early researchers. But lack of the organic compound can present itself in several other ways, including:
- Bleeding gums
- Muscle weakness and aches
- Joint ache
- Slow pace of wound healing
- Slow metabolism, possibly resulting in weight gain
- Dry, scaly skin
- Cardiovascular disease
Why You Need Vitamin C
By now, you may have an idea of why you need to ensure you have sufficient amount of vitamin C, at least based on the foregoing. Let’s take a closer look at some of its health benefits.
Keeps off skin issues
Scurvy, which some people describe it as an avitaminosis of vitamin C, has a connection to the skin. Breakdown of collagen is a major effect of this disease. Naturally occurring collagen becomes highly unstable, thereby making it impossible for the substance to carry out its functions.
As a result, brown spots can appear on your skin. These are usually more noticeable on the legs and thighs of those with severe vitamin C deficiency. Sufferers tend to look pale, wrinkled and less attractive. These emphasize why you need to get enough of the substance to promote a healthy, glowing skin.
Collagen synthesis is just one of the enzymatic reactions that Vitamin C plays a role in. The vitamin was found to lower likelihood of skin dryness and reduce appearance of wrinkles in a large scale study. It helps wounds to heal faster and may assist in preventing skin cancer, being a powerful antioxidant.
If you are experiencing so much stress right now, it may well be that you lack vitamin C. You can fight back by increasing levels. You will recall that this is a powerful antioxidant; it can be beneficial for this reason.
Experts say the vitamin help due to how it assists in rapidly clearing up cortisol. That substance is a primary cause of stress. This is why you need to get more vitamin C when under significant stress. Your body uses it up faster in such condition.
Boosts your immune system
This benefit has a connection to the previous. Your immune system tends to become weak when passing through considerable stress. Research evidence suggests that you can give your immunity a boost by increasing your vitamin C intake. This will be useful in guarding against a variety of infections.
Keeps off cold and flu
With your immune system given a boost, you can expect better protection against cold and flu. Research shows that vitamin C intake can indeed be useful for prevention and treatment of these issues. It may also help to reduce the risk of complications, such as pneumonia and lung infection.
However, experts think that usefulness will differ between individuals when dealing with common cold. While some may see improvement, others may not. Studies show that people who do vigorous exercises in cold conditions are more likely to benefit in this regard.
Guards against gout
Gout is a form of arthritis that more commonly affects the big toe. It is often a painful condition as a result of inflamed, stiff joints from accumulation of uric acid. There is research evidence showing that you can fight it with vitamin C. In one study, daily dose of between 1,000 mg and 1,500 led to significant reduction in the risk of developing gout among treated subjects.
Improves cardiovascular health
The vitamin can offer a hand if you wish to keep cardiovascular disease at bay. Who wouldn’t? It brings about a decrease in the amount of low density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol. Vitamin C also reduces triglyceride and overall cholesterol levels, thus guarding against heart disease.
Research has shown that the compound can especially be beneficial for the prevention of stroke. It was found in a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that people with high levels of the vitamin were at lower risk of developing stroke, compared to those with low levels.
The vitamin improves endothelial function in health and disease when you consume it in sufficient amount. A 2014 review article revealed that it helped for this purpose when used at daily doses higher than 500 mg. People at greater risk of cardiovascular issues are likely to notice the positive effects more.
A number of studies indicate that you may get help from vitamin C in keeping off some cancers. Its antioxidant properties assist in getting rid of free radicals, major culprits in the development of the scary condition. It also reduces the effects of carcinogenic preservatives that are present in some processed and packaged foods.
Essentially, vitamin C may not only help in preventing some cancers, but also in treating them. It improves the efficacy of drugs that are used in chemotherapy. The compound ensures that essential ingredients or properties get cells to perform relevant functions. Researchers observed in a 2014 meta-analysis in Scientific Reports that Vitamin C might help to lower risk of lung cancer.
Promotes growth hormone release
If you are looking to boost your growth hormone levels for some reason, vitamin C may prove beneficial. Researchers have observed its association with release of the substance, which some use to fight off aging. Some people even argue that no other vitamin comes close to this one when talking about HGH secretion.
Therefore, people with low vitamin C levels are more likely to also have low growth hormone levels. This has been observed to be the case among many older individuals. The usefulness of the vitamin explains why foods offering it are often advised when undergoing HGH therapy.
Vitamin C helps your body to better absorb minerals from foods and supplements into your bloodstream. It is an essential nutrient for the repair and regeneration of tissues. There is also claim that it may prevent or delay development of cataract.
How Much Vitamin C Do You Need?
There appears to be no consensus on the amount of vitamin C you need daily. This sometimes depends on the particular agency advising on recommended dietary allowance (RDA). The North American Dietary Reference Intake stipulates the following for adults:
- Male – 90 mg a day
- Women – 75 mg a day
- Pregnant women – 85 mg a day
- Lactating women – 120 mg a day
The National Institutes of Health suggests the following for persons younger than 19 years:
- Zero to six (0-6) month old – 40 mg a day
- 7-12 months old – 50 mg a day
- 1-3 year old – 15 mg a day
- 4-8 year old – 25 mg a day
- 9-13 year old – 45 mg a day
- 14-18 (male) – 75 mg a day
- 14-18 (female) – 65 mg a day
Certain conditions may necessitate increasing these doses. For example, you are going to need a higher amount to enjoy some benefits discussed earlier. Smokers also require a higher amount. But daily dosage must not exceed 2,000 mg.
Foods You Can Vitamin C From
Citrus fruits – oranges, lime and lemon – readily come to mind at the mention of vitamin C to some people. These are more likely what you will find on the label of products containing the compound. But this does not mean they are the best sources.
For instance, 100 g of orange gives you just about 53 mg and lime, 30 mg. Red pepper, in comparison, provides 90mg vitamin C from similar amount, while blackcurrant supplies 200 mg.
According to researchers, the following are some foods that offer highest amounts of vitamin C (at least 100 mg per 100 g):
- Kakadu plum
- Camu Camu
- Sea buckthorn
- Indian gooseberry
- Rose hip
- Chili pepper
Other more common, good sources of the vitamin include pineapple, kiwi fruit, broccoli, papaya, strawberry, redcurrant, and loganberry.
Vitamin C is present in high amounts in plants, especially in fruits and vegetables. But it is possible to get them from animal sources. Examples of these are:
- Liver meat
- Lamb brain
- Lamb heart and tongue
You should note that the amounts of vitamin C available in foods of animal sources are significantly lower, compared to those of plant origin. Besides, you need to eat most of these raw to get the most of the organic compound on offer.
Vitamin C Safety and Precautions
Vitamin C is well tolerated by the body and so unlikely to produce side effects. It is not common to see reports of negative outcome from use. This is because the compound doesn’t last long in the body – that is, excess amounts.
But too much of everything is bad. You can expose yourself to certain side effects when you take the vitamin in very high doses. These include:
- Upset stomach
- Abdominal cramps
- Iron poisoning
You can especially expect these when taking doses in excess of 2,000 mg. This may also lead to development of kidney stones and gastritis.
Be careful not to use vitamin C together with antacids and estrogen. In the former case, it increases absorption of aluminum and this could give rise to issues. It may slow the rate at which your body regulates estrogen levels. This can make you more likely to experience side effects from estrogen therapy. Besides, the hormone is thought to reduce vitamin C levels.
The vitamin can lower the efficacy of anticoagulants, such as warfarin (Coumadin). On the other hand, tobacco, barbiturates, aspirin and tetracycline can all cause the amount of the compound to drop.
In vitamin C you have a substance that can promote your skin health and enhance your overall health. It boosts your immune system to better fight against infections while also facilitating tissue repair. Plant sources, specifically fruits and vegetables, offer the best way of getting the organic compound.
Vitamin C is also available as dietary supplements. But caution is important when using these. The risk of excessive levels is higher when using such products.