Vitamin C, that is. In the world of micronutrients, vitamin C is already pretty well-known. But what makes it such a superstar? Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is perhaps the ultimate multi-tasker, performing a variety of essential functions throughout the body. For one, it is a powerful anti-oxidant, capable of neutralizing harmful free radicals and keeping your body’s cells healthy and happy. Oxidation is simply a chemical/molecular change caused by oxygen. Metal rusting is one example of an oxidative process. In the human body, oxidation is thought to be involved in cardiovascular disease, cancer, and overall health and aging. Vitamin C is also involved in collagen formation (a major structural component of animal tissue), which is why a deficiency can cause scurvy (a gum disease often associated with pirates and sailors characterized by loose teeth and bleeding gums). Vitamin C deficiency can also cause poor wound healing and a condition called Petechiae where small red dots appear on the skin. It is also involved in immune function, and is found in high concentrations in immune cells.
Vitamin C can be found in many foods, and its natural sources are almost always healthy. Even people living a gluten-free or other restricted dietary lifestyle should have no problem getting enough vitamin C in the diet, even without supplementation. Citrus fruits are of course loaded with vitamin C, but there are some other lesser known sources. Tomatoes, broccoli, strawberries, and potatoes also contain vitamin C, and peppers actually have 3 to 4 times more vitamin C by weight than even citrus fruits. Vitamin C is also often added to fruit juices, but try and stick to only 100% juice, with no sugar added. If the label says “juice cocktail,” that usually means there is added sugar. So always buy 100% juice and save the cocktails for the club on Saturday night. Most sources of vitamin C are from the plant kingdom, but one good animal-based source is liver.
Vitamin C intake through food and supplements can have many therapeutic effects. Most Americans get enough vitamin C in their diet without the need for supplementation, but some evidence has found that high-level supplementation may be beneficial. Specifically for those with Celiac disease, iron absorption can be, and often is, a major problem. Vitamin C enhances iron absorption and supplementation should at least be considered by those with Celiac Disease. It has also been found to help with Type 2 Diabetes, a disease that is unfortunately trending out of control in our society right now. Vitamin C has been found to decrease fasting blood sugar, lower triglyceride levels, and lead to decreased LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels in some populations. It may also help prevent the incidence of stroke. Atherosclerosis, a major cause of cardiovascular disease, is thought to be, at least in part, an oxidative process. Vitamin C, being a powerful anti-oxidant, can help slow this process down. There is also a commonly held belief that vitamin C helps with the common cold. Evidence is often conflicted on the subject, with some studies finding no benefit and other studies finding some preventative benefit. Vitamin C may help prevent the onset of a cold, or lessen the symptoms, but it will not completely prevent or cure a cold.
It is interesting to note that most animals, except for higher primates and few other species, are able to synthesize vitamin C from glucose. So that means that most animals don’t need to eat any vitamin C at all because they can simply turn sugar into vitamin C. The fact that humans have evolved away from this may mean that vitamin C containing foods have been a healthy part of the primate diet for many tens of thousands of years.
In conclusion, know that vitamin C does more than you might think and may be beneficial in the face of many health problems such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, and poor blood sugar control that can lead to diabetes. And specifically for those with Celiac Disease that often are poor iron absorbers, vitamin C increases iron absorption. If you do decide to supplement, always take vitamin C with food. The recommended amount of vitamin C is about 100mg per day (approximately the amount in one large orange or one cup of fortified fruit juice), a little less for women and a little more for smokers or other people exposed to high levels of oxidative stress. Given its many benefits though, supplementation of 1,000mg per day would probably be beneficial for many people. And because vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin, the body does not store much of it, so it needs to be consumed on a consistent basis.
Article Courtesy: Andrew Steingrube
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