Benefits of Vitamin C: The Protective Vitamin!
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, so if you consume excess, the body is unable to store it. This means any excess is excreted in our urine. The human body cannot produce Vitamin C, so to ensure that our body gets the correct amount each day, we need to eat enough within our diet or top it up with a supplement.
Vitamin C is present in many fruits and vegetables such as oranges, black currants, guava, papaya, kale, strawberries, kiwi, bell peppers and broccoli so it is unlikely that you will be deficient, but it is possible if you eat a very restrictive diet. On the other hand, many of these fruits and vegetables are imported from other countries, picked unripe and stored for a long time, all of which reduce Vitamin C content. Cooking can reduce the content even further. Deficiency (extremely low levels) can lead to scurvy, coiled hair, fatigue, rash, muscle weakness and even bleeding gums. Although, taking too much can lead to diarrhoea, nausea, stomach cramps and can encourage the body to store more iron, which can damage tissues within the body.
Men and women are recommended to aim for 90mg (males) and 75mg (females) intake per day. L-ascorbic acid is the best form of Vitamin C however, many supplements are in the form of D-ascorbic acid because it is cheaper and easier to make. The protective effects of Vitamin C include:
Supporting the Immune System
It contributes to the normal function of the immune system and has a role in the production of Glutathione, a strong antioxidant and immune system booster. It is thought that supplementation may alleviate infections and reduce the duration of cold and flu, almost halving the duration, compared to those individuals who have a lower intake of Vitamin C. It also contributes to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue, a common symptom of cold and flu which may make the difference between you staying in bed or going to work.
As it is an antioxidant, it protects the cells from damage caused by free radicals (toxic substances produced by our cells in response to processed food and drink products, smoking, air pollution and many more factors). The build-up of free radicals within the body is one of the main risk factors for many diseases. Furthermore, it inhibits the oxidation of low-density lipoproteins (LDL), which is considered “bad cholesterol”. This prevents the build-up of cholesterol within the blood vessels, another main risk factor for many diseases. In turn, this could reduce the risk or slow the onset of diseases such as angina, hypertension, heart attack, heart failure, stroke and many more.
Inflammation is caused by the build-up of free radicals within the body, using a strong antioxidant can reduce free radical damage. Symptoms associated with conditions characterised by inflammation, such as gout, may become more manageable. There is evidence to support the idea that our uric acid levels decrease (as gout is caused by elevated uric acid levels) when increasing our intake of Vitamin C.
It contributes to collagen synthesis which plays a part in the normal function of blood vessels and skin. Many skin products have been fortified with Vitamin C and are used for anti-aging, dark circles and wound healing (scar tissue etc.). As we age, collagen production in the body slows down, which effects the elasticity of our skin, causing wrinkles so ensuring the body has enough collagen is essential for skin health.
Collagen also contributes to the normal function of cartilage, bones and teeth. This is because collagen is considered the building block for the bones and joints by providing structural support and flexibility to the joints.
Enhance Cancer Treatment
There have been many studies investigating the effects of Vitamin C supplementation being used alongside cancer treatment as it may help protect “healthy” cells from damage, while allowing damage to “unhealthy” cancerous cells during chemotherapy. But it has not been proven that supplementation can prevent the onset or reduce the risk of developing cancer.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) and Cataracts
A higher dietary intake has been linked to a significant reduction in the risk of developing cataracts. This is due to the high Vitamin C fluid content in the eye, which can decrease with age. If we replenish this instead of waiting for deficiency, it may keep the eyes healthier for a longer period of time.
Improve Iron Absorption
It increases iron absorption which may help manage signs of anaemia. This is because it captures non-heme iron and stores it in the body, in a form that is easily absorbed, which increases the rate of absorption. Iron also contributes to the normal function of the immune system, further supporting the idea that Vitamin C is beneficial for the immune system.