|Vitamin :: Vitamin C|
|Other Terms:||Ascorbic Acid|
|Solubility:||Water soluble, which means any excess is readily excreted. Most of it is lost in urine. It is not stored in the body, but must be taken in daily.|
|On this Page:||What is Vitamin C · Benefits · Deficiency Signs · Foods · Supplements · RDA · Toxicity | Overdose|
It is an important antioxidant vitamin that plays a mainly protective role in the body. It is also known as ascorbic acid.
It has also been the subject of more scientific study, scrutiny, and hype, than any other nutrient. It has been claimed to prevent or cure so many disorders and diseases, that, inevitably, some of the claims fall short.
Some studies on vitamin C’s benefits show conflicting results, but there still remains a solid body of scientific evidence that vitamin C does indeed play many important health-enhancing roles.
The body cannot make vitamin C and relies completely on intake from diet and supplements. Intake requirements vary greatly from person to person and within the same person, depending on age and state of health.
Vitamin C is easily depleted by air, water, freezing, and cooking. About 25-50% of the vitamin content in food can be lost in freezing/thawing or cooking. Canning and reheating causes even more, up to 2/3, to be lost.
Dangerous free radicals are released in our bodies as by-products of the conversion of food to energy, and when we fight off the toxic effects of stress, prescription drugs, and pollutants like pesticides, cigarette smoke, car exhaust, UV rays, and radiation.
These free radicals cause oxidative stress to cells and damage them. Free radicals that build up in our bodies over time are the main cause of aging, and contribute to a whole host of diseases linked to oxidative stress, such as cancers, diabetes, arthritis, cataracts, and cardiovascular diseases.
Antioxidants play a vital role as they block such damage by free radicals, and neutralize them. Vitamin C is one of the most important antioxidants.
In addition, vitamin C benefits our body and is important to health in many other ways.
|::||Vitamin C Benefits & Functions|
|1.||plays critical role in the body’s immune system function as it stimulates production of interferon and antibodies that fight bacteria and viruses to protect against infections and illnesses|
|2.||powerful antioxidant that protects against damage from toxic chemicals and pollutants, and from free radicals that accelerate the aging process and are largely responsible for degenerative diseases such as cancer, cataracts, and cardiovascular disease, and inflammatory disorders such as arthritis|
|3.||helps prevent cancer by blocking the formation of cancer-causing nitrosamines (produced in the stomach from nitrites) that increase risk of cancer, especially those of the digestive system|
|4.||needed to make collagen, the protein necessary for formation and repair of blood capillaries and connective tissue such as cartilage, skin, bone, tendons and ligaments, as well as to form scar tissue for wounds|
|5.||needed for healthy skin, teeth and gums, and bone development|
|6.||essential for the healing of wounds|
|7.||helps the body absorb iron needed to make red blood cells|
|8.||has been found to lower levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol and raise levels of high density lipoprotein (HDL or “good”) cholesterol in some studies, which might help prevent atherosclerosis (narrowing and hardening of arteries) and heart attacks or disease|
|9.||may help normalize blood pressure and prevent hypertension|
|10.||reduces susceptibility to allergens (has powerful anti-histamine action)|
|11.||has been shown to help expel toxins and heavy metals such as lead from the body (high levels of lead can impair intelligence in children)|
|12.||initial studies suggest that supplementation may help women suffering from non-specific vaginitis (infection or inflammation of the vagina)|
Vitamin C Deficiency Symptoms and Causes
Vitamin C needs to be consumed every day as the body does not store it. Deficiency is usually caused by a diet low in it, such as one short of fresh fruits and vegetables. One third of all adults in the US take less vitamin C in their diet than is recommended in the RDA.
In addition, illnessness that cause high fever or inflammation, surgery,oral estrogen, prolonged high alcohol consumption, smoking, pollutants, burns, antibiotics, steroids, aspirin, and barbiturates, tend to deplete vitamin C, which means a higher intake of it is needed.
Vitamin C is essential for the synthesis of collagen. The classic vitamin C deficiency symptom is scurvy, where the body stops making collagen and so falls apart – joints fail due to breakdown of cartilage and tendons, gums ulcerate, teeth fall out, blood vessels break open, and the immune system deteriorates. In severe cases the person dies.
Signs of scurvy and other vitamin C deficiency symptoms are listed here.
|::||Vitamin C Deficiency Symptoms|
|1.||weak blood capillaries leading to easy bruising and small spots of bleeding around hair follicles and under the skin (which appear as pink spots on the skin)|
|2.||swollen or painful joints or bones|
|3.||slow-healing wounds and fractures|
|5.||spongy, bleeding or inflamed gums (gingivitis) and loose teeth|
|6.||teeth decay easily due to weakened tooth enamel|
|7.||dry brittle hair|
|8.||dry rough scaly skin|
|9.||anemia / anaemia|
|10.||fatigue or lethargy or muscle weakness|
|11.||loss of appetite|
|12.||susceptibility to colds and infections, especially lung-related infections|
|13.||arteriosclerosis / atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of arteries)|
|14.||possible weight gain due to slower metabolism|
Vitamin C Foods
High vitamin C foods
· guava · lychees / litchis · papayas · strawberries · vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, mustard greens, bell peppers, turnip greens, spinach.
Other food containing vitamin C
· berries such as blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, blackcurrants · citrus fruit such as grapefruit, lemons, limes, oranges, tangerines · fruits such as cantaloupe, kiwifruit, mangos, melons, persimmons, pineapple · onions · herbs such as fennel, parsley, peppermint · rose hips · radishes, turnips, potatoes and sweet potatoes (baked with skin) · vegetables like asparagus, beet greens, chard, garden cress, green peas, lettuce, tomatoes, winter squash, zucchini.
Vitamin C Supplements
Taking vitamins and minerals in their correct balance is vital to the proper functioning of all vitamins. They work synergistically, which means that the effectiveness of any one nutrient requires or is enhanced, sometimes dramatically, by the presence of certain other nutrients.
For this reason, if you are looking to take supplements for maintenance of optimal health, the recommended approach is to take a multi-vitamin that has the proper balance of all the necessary nutrients your body needs.
For a list of reputable top ranked vitamin and mineral supplements chosen in an independent supplement review, see Best Multivitamin Supplements. Many of these are manufactured to pharmaceutical or nutraceutical GMP compliance, which is the highest multivitamin standard possible.
Keep in mind, however, that while vitamin supplements are useful to plug nutritional gaps that are almost inevitable in modern diets, and to ensure we get optimal doses ofnutrients, they are no substitute for a good diet. Instead, use them to complement a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Vitamin C RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance)
The Food & Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, in their 1997-2001 collaboration between the US and Canada, set the daily Adequate Intake (AI) of Vitamin C as follows.
|Life Stage | Gender||Vitamin C Dosage | Day|
|Infants 0-6 mths||40* mg|
|Infants 7-12 mths||50* mg|
|Children 1-3 yrs||15 mg|
|Children 4-8 yrs||25 mg|
|Girls 9-13 Yrs||45 mg|
|Boys 9-13 Yrs||45 mg|
|Females 14-18 Yrs||65 mg|
|Males 14-18 Yrs||75 mg|
|Females 19-50 Yrs||75 mg|
|Males 19-50 Yrs||90 mg|
|Females older than 50 Yrs||75 mg|
|Males older than 50 Yrs||90 mg|
|Pregnant Women 14-18 Yrs||80 mg|
|Pregnant Women 19-50 Yrs||85 mg|
|Lactating Mothers 14-18 Yrs||115 mg|
|Lactating Mothers 19-50 Yrs||120 mg|
These dosages are the minimum required per day to ward off deficiency. In therapeutic use of this nutrient, dosage is increased as necessary for the ailment, keeping in mind Vitamin C toxicity levels.
1 µg = 1 mcg = 1 microgram = 1/1,000,000 of a gram
1 mg = 1 milligram = 1/1,000 of a gram
* Indicates AI figures based on Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) figures
Vitamin C Overdose Symptoms, Toxicity Level & Side Effects
Toxicity is very rare as the body does not store it. However, avoid doses higher than 2000 mg daily, as too much vitamin C can cause nausea or an upset stomach.
Prolonged vitamin C overdose can also cause gastritis, or kidney failure or stones in those with kidney disease.
In its guidelines, the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine set the Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (ULs) for vitamin C as listed below. These are the highest average daily intake levels above which there is risk of vitamin C overdose.
|Life Stage||Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (UL) per Day|
|0 to 12 months||*ND|
|1 to 3 years||400 mg|
|4 to 8 years||650 mg|
|9 to 13 years||1,200 mg|
|14 to 18 years**||1,800 mg|
|19 years & above**||2,000 mg|
*ND : Not determinable. Intake should be from food/milk only.
**Includes pregnant and breastfeeding women.
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|1.||Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary reference intakes for vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, and carotenoids. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 2000.|
|2.||U.S. National Libary of Medicine [NLM] & National Institutes of Health [NIH]: MedlinePlus. NLM-NIH home page. <http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus>. Use the built-in search function to find specific data. Accessed 2009 March – June.|
|3.||The George Mateljan Foundation: The world’s healthiest foods [WHFoods]. WHFoods home page. <http://www.whfoods.com>. Accessed 2009 March – June.|
|4.||Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Mayo Clinic book of alternative medicine: The new approach to using the best of natural therapies and conventional medicine. New York, NY: Time Inc; 2007. p 67-75.|
|5.||Balch JF, Balch PA. Prescription for nutritional healing: A practical A-Z reference to drug-free remedies using vitamins, minerals, herbs & food supplements. Garden City Park, New York: Avery Publishing; 1990.|
|6.||Ulene A. Dr. Art Ulene’s complete guide to vitamins, minerals and herbs. New York, NY: Avery Publishing; 2000.|