Vitamin C or L-ascorbic acid, or simply ascorbate (the anion of ascorbic acid), is an essential nutrient for humans and certain other animal species. Vitamin C describes several vitamers that have vitamin C activity in animals, including ascorbic acid and its salts, and some oxidized forms of the molecule like dehydroascorbic acid. Ascorbate and ascorbic acid are both naturally present in the body when either of these is introduced into cells, since the forms interconvert according to pH.
Vitamin C is a cofactor in at least eight enzymatic reactions, including several collagen synthesis reactions that, when dysfunctional, cause the most severe symptoms of scurvy. In animals, these reactions are especially important in wound-healing and in preventing bleeding from capillaries. Ascorbate may also act as an antioxidant, protecting against oxidative stress.
Ascorbate (the anion of ascorbic acid) is required for a range of essential metabolic reactions in all animals and plants. It is made internally by almost all organisms; the main exceptions are most bats, all guinea pigs, capybaras, and the Haplorrhini (one of the two major primate suborders, consisting of tarsiers, monkeys, and humans and other apes). Ascorbate is also not synthesized by some species of birds and fish. All species that do not synthesize ascorbate require it in the diet. Deficiency in this vitamin causes the disease scurvy in humans.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin. We can’t store it in the body, which means we need it from our diet every day.
Vitamin C helps protect cells and keep them healthy. It is also involved in the production of collagen, which maintains healthy connective tissues, important for the support and structure of tissues and organs including the skin, bones and blood vessels.
Vitamin C helps with wound healing, and consuming vitamin C increases the amount of iron we can absorb from plant sources, such as kale, broccoli and sprouts.
Vitamin C is one of many antioxidants that may protect against damage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals, as well as toxic chemicals and pollutants like cigarette smoke. Research suggests that free radicals can build up and contribute to the development of health conditions such as cancer, heart disease and arthritis.
The benefits of vitamin C may include protection against immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, prenatal health problems, eye disease, and even skin wrinkling.
Vitamin C is rapidly finding new applications in protecting against endothelial dysfunction, high blood pressure, and the blood vessel changes that precede heart disease. Additional research is discovering that vitamin C can be helpful in preventing asthma, protecting against cancer, and supporting healthy blood sugar levels in diabetics.
While often taken for granted, vitamin C is a critical supplement in your program to improve cardiac health and avoid degenerative diseases.
It is official that vitamin C has an important role to play in protecting the brain and nervous system from the harmful effects of stress. This is because sufficient levels of vitamin C are required for the synthesis of stress hormones like adrenaline and nor-adrenaline, which play a role in fight-or-flight mechanism of combating stress.
Researchers are finding that vitamin C impacts several aspects of cardiac health, ranging from blood pressure to endothelial health. Perhaps it’s not surprising that as the relationship between oxidative damage, inflammation, and atherosclerosis becomes increasingly investigated by science, vitamin C is seen as a key protective element against many aspects of cardiovascular disease.
In the early stages of atherosclerosis, white blood cells called monocytes migrate and stick to the walls of the endothelium. Once this process begins, our vessel walls begin to thicken and lose their elasticity, which paves the way for atherosclerosis.
Interestingly, British researchers studied the effects of vitamin C supplementation (250 mg/day) on this adhesion process in 40 healthy adults. Before the study, subjects with low pre-supplementation levels of vitamin C had 30% greater monocyte adhesion than normal, putting them at higher risk for atherosclerosis. Impressively, after six weeks of supplementation, the rate of this dangerous monocyte adhesion actually fell by 37%.
Arthritis is caused by the collapse of cellular processes that help in the production, maintenance and repair of cartilaginous tissues. Physical stress on the cartilage can cause destruction of collagen and can also interfere in its production. Since vitamin C is required for collagen production it helps to reduce pain, inflammation and swelling of joints in people with arthritis. It also helps in maintaining healthy joints and keeping them flexible.
Foods rich in vitamin C
Deficiency and Dosage
People who don’t get enough vitamin C in their diets are at risk of getting scurvy, although it is very rare to find cases of scurvy in the developed world.
Signs that you are not getting enough vitamin C include bleeding gums, feeling lethargic, bone pain, and joint pain. You might also have a vitamin C deficiency if wounds don’t heal or they break open after they appear to have healed.
If you eat a balanced diet it is unlikely that you will have a vitamin C deficiency. Many food companies fortify their products, including bread, cereal and soya milk, with vitamins. The only time we see vitamin C deficiency nowadays is in people with very, very poor diets. People who don’t eat any fruit or veg, just processed food, may have a vitamin C deficiency.
Vitamin C deficiency is fairly common. Smoking cigarettes can lower the amount of vitamin C in the body, so smokers are more prone to a deficiency. Often, doctors will suggest a vitamin C supplement to smokers to prevent or cure a deficiency.
Not getting enough of this vitamin can cause easy bruising, gingivitis and bleeding gums, dry and splitting hair, rough, dry, scaly skin, a decreased wound-healing rate, nosebleeds and a decreased ability to ward off infection.
An extreme lack of vitamin C for long periods of time can cause scurvy. Symptoms of scurvy are skin that bruises easily, bleeding gums, joint pain and poor wound healing.
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin C varies, depending on age, gender and other factors. Typically, the RDA is 75mg for women and 90mg for men, according to Oregon State University. Pregnant and nursing women should take 80mg to 120 mg, depending on age.
Most of the population can take substantially more than the RDA without any side effects since vitamin C is water soluble. This means that it is not stored by the body. It is filtered out and leaves the body in urine.