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Home :: Vitamin C

Vitamin C - Benefits, Deficiency Symptoms And Food Sources

Alternative name :: Ascorbic Acid

What is Vitamin C ?

Vitamin C is the most widely taken supplement in America. And with good reason. It is responsible for the formation, maintenance, and repair of collagen, the substance that forms the foundation of skin, ligaments, cartilage, vertebral discs, joint linings, capillary walls, and the bones and teeth. Vitamin C stimulates adrenal function and the release of stress hormones, such as norepinephrine and epinephrine. It is the most important water-soluble antioxidant used by humans, meaning it helps prevent oxidation of water-soluble molecules that could otherwise create free radicals-which in turn may generate cellular injury and disease.

Despite its wide-ranging importance, vitamin C is a recent discovery. The vitamin was first isolated in 1928 by the Hungarian biochemist and Nobel prize winner Albert Szent-Gyorgyi. That's not to say the effects of vitamin C were unknown: Scurvy, the vitamin C-deficiency disease, has been present for thousands of years. It was first written about around 1500 BC as an illness characterized by lack of energy, gum inflammation, tooth decay, and bleeding problems. Yet it wasn't until the 1700s, when large numbers of sailors were dying of scurvy, that surgeon James Lind discovered that lemons and limes could prevent the deadly disease. British ships began carrying limes for the sailors-hence the origin of the nicknames "limey" and "lime-juicers".

Benefits of Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an antioxidant that is required for at least 300 metabolic functions in the body, including tissue growth and repair, adrenal gland function, and healthy gums. It also aids in the production of anti-stress hormones and interferon, an important immune-system protein, and is needed for the metabolism of folic acid, tyrosine, and phenylalanine. Studies have shown that taking vitamin C can reduce symptoms of asthma. It protects against the harmful effects of pollution, helps to prevent cancer, protects against infection, and enhances immunity. Vitamin C increases the absorption of iron. It can combine with toxic substances, such as certain heavy metals, and render them harmless so that they can be eliminated from the body. Even the venom of a black widow spider may be rendered harmless with the administration of very large doses of vitamin C. This vitamin also may reduce levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL, the so-called "bad cholesterol"), while increasing levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL, or "good cholesterol"), as well as lowering high blood pressure and helping to prevent atherosclerosis. Essential in the formation of collagen, vitamin C protects against abnormal blood clotting and bruising, may reduce the risk of cataracts, and promotes the healing of wounds and burns.

Vitamin C works synergistically with both vitamin E and beta-carotene-that is, when these vitamins work together they have an effect even greater than the sum of their individual effects, and taking them together may counter potential adverse effects of taking these vitamins alone. Vitamin E scavenges for dangerous free radicals in cell membranes, while vitamin C attacks free radicals in biologic fluids. These vitamins reinforce and extend each other's antioxidant activity.

Because the body cannot manufacture vitamin C, it must be obtained through the diet or in the form of supplements. Unfortunately, most of the vitamin C consumed in the diet is lost in the urine. If larger amounts of vitamin C are required due to serious illness, such as cancer, it is more effective to take vitamin C intravenously, under the advisement and supervision of a physician, than it is to take high doses orally.

Recommended Dosage of Vitamin C

The minimum Recommended Dosage Allowance of Vitamin C are :-

  • Adults - 60 mg.
  • Pregnant women - 70 mg.

Special Intake of Vitamin C

While a daily dose of 60 mg of vitamin C is recommended, the following individuals have increased needs for vitamin C :-

  • Smokers. Cigarette, cigar, and pipe smoking deplete the body of vitamin C
  • Individuals who drink more than two alcoholic drinks a day. Alcohol reduces levels of vitamin C in the body.
  • Individuals who eat only cooked fruits or processed fruits and vegetables. Canning, cooking, and freezing break down the vitamin C in foods.
  • Individuals who are on analgesics, anticoagulants, antidepressants, oral contraceptives, or steroids. These medications reduce vitamin C levels in the body.
  • Individuals who live in polluted environments or who are exposed to secondhand smoke. Pollution and secondhand smoke stress the immune system, depleting vitamin C levels in the body.
  • Depressed or stressed individuals. Both depression and stress have been shown to deplete vitamin C in the body.

Deficiency Symptoms of Vitamin C

Symptoms of Vitamin C deficiency includes :-

  • Bleeding gums.
  • Easy bruising.
  • Fatigue.
  • Joint pain.
  • Poor digestion.
  • Reduced resistance to cold, flu, and other infectious illnesses.
  • Slow-healing wounds or fractures.
  • Weight loss.

Rich Food Sources of Vitamin C

Vitamin C is found in berries, citrus fruits, and green vegetables. Good sources include asparagus, avocados, beet greens, black currants, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, collards, dandelion greens, dulse, grapefruit, kale, lemons, mangos, mustard greens, onions, oranges, papayas, green peas, sweet peppers, persimmons, pineapple, radishes, rose hips, spinach, strawberries, Swiss chard, tomatoes, turnip greens, and watercress.

Herbs that contain vitamin C include alfalfa, burdock root, cayenne, chickweed, eyebright, fennel seed, fenugreek, hops, horsetail, kelp, peppermint, mullein, nettle, oat straw, paprika, parsley, pine needle, plantain, raspberry leaf, red clover, rose hips, skullcap, violet leaves, yarrow, and yellow dock.

Some more information on Vitamin C

Diabetes medications such as chlorpropamide (Diabi­nese) and sulfa drugs may not be as effective if taken with vitamin C. Taking high doses of vitamin C may cause a false-negative reading in tests for blood in the stool.

For maximum effectiveness, supplemental vitamin C should be taken in divided doses, twice daily. Esterified vitamin C (Ester-C) is a remarkably effective form of vitamin C, especially for those suffering from chronic illnesses such as cancer and AIDS. It is created by having the vitamin C react with a necessary mineral, such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, or zinc. This results in a form of the vitamin that is non acidic and that contains vitamin C metabolites identical to those produced by the body. Esterified vitamin C enters the bloodstream and tissues four times faster than standard forms of vitamin C because it moves into the blood cells more efficiently and also stays in the body tissues longer.

The levels of vitamin C in white blood cells achieved by taking esterified vitamin C are four times higher than those achieved with standard vitamin C. Further, only one-third as much is lost through excretion in the urine. A variety of manufacturers produce supplements containing Ester-C, either by itself or in combination with other valuable nutrients, including the antioxidants Pycnogenol and proanthocyanidins, and the herbs echinacea and garlic.


If aspirin and standard vitamin C (ascorbic acid) are taken together in large doses, stomach irritation can occur, possibly leading to ulcers. If you take aspirin regularly, use an esterified form of vitamin C, and take it separately from the aspirin.

If you are pregnant, do not take more than 5,000 milligrams of vitamin C daily. A developing infant may become dependent on this supplement and develop scurvy when deprived of the accustomed mega doses after birth. Avoid using chewable vitamin C supplements, as these can damage tooth enamel.

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