Table of Contents
What is vitamin C?
Vitamin C is probably the most recognizable vitamin and, also, the most promoted. Everything contains it, from sodas to vegetables and fruits and it is on everyone’s lips all the time. It is partly because it is present in a lot of food sources, but also because of its important role in our health. Also known as ascorbic acid or ascorbate, vitamin C is usually a byproduct of the natural internal processes of the body.
There are only a few species that do not synthesize it naturally and humans are included in the category. Other animals include bats, capybaras, guinea pigs, as well as many species of birds, fishes, and monkeys and apes. In that case, the ascorbic acid needs to be extracted from food sources, otherwise, there is the risk of developing health problems. In humans, the deficiency will lead to scurvy, a disease that was encountered mostly among sailors prior to the 18th century, when the food was scarce during the trips and the vegetables and fruits were lacking from their diets completely.
Vitamin C Benefits
Weird as it may seem, vitamin C is still under debate regarding its benefits. Aside from the fact that it prevents deficiency, the rest of the benefits are marked as potential, not proven as undisputed facts. The most important ones are:
- Prevents vitamin C deficiency
When the deficiency occurs, the body will be rendered unable to synthesize collagen, which will lead to scurvy. The symptoms include brown spots on the skin, bleeding from the gums and all the other mucous membranes, a pale skin, depression, lack of physical energy, suppurating wounds, teeth loss and death in the more aggravated cases.
- Treats cold in some measure
Contrary to popular belief, though, ascorbic acid has been proven ineffective in preventing cold or flu. However, it seems to be effective in reducing the duration of the cold by up to 2 days when taken regularly.
- Cancer prevention
Although nothing is certain yet, vitamin C has been suggested to reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancers, but only when talking about taking the nutrient from fruits and vegetables. The supplements have no effect in this regard.
- Cardiovascular disease
Recent studies have linked ascorbate consumption to a reduced risk of myocardial infarction, as well as with a reduced mortality rate due to cardiovascular diseases and stroke.
- The role in the functioning of the immune system
Vitamin C is found in the composition of the immune cells and the interesting fact is that it is quickly consumed whenever an infection occurs. This has led the scientists to believe that it is involved in the production and development of cytokines and lymphocytes, allowing the immune system to have a faster reaction time.
- Iron absorption
It allows for a better iron absorption and it will allow the body to extract more from the regular food sources, in case that the organism requires a higher quantity.
Vitamin C Side-effects
The deficiency leads to scurvy, which can be proven fatal in extreme cases. The higher-than-normal intake could cause indigestion, with a plus in the case that it is consumed on an empty stomach. Diarrhea is one common symptom, suggesting that the recommended vitamin C dose has been exceeded, but there are other symptoms as well. When the dose is greatly increased, the subjects will even experience toxic manifestations, like vomiting, nausea, constant fatigue, skin rashes and even problems with sleep.
Vitamin C Sources
Contrary to what you may have known, the most vitamin C-rich sources are the Kakadu plum and the camu camu fruit. But other than that, there are countless food sources to get it from, including the liver, red peppers, guavas, lemons and so on.
How much should you take?
For adults, the recommended dose would be around 90 mg for men and 75 mg for women, but the values may differ. Smokers need additional 35 mg per day, those suffering from scurvy need between 100 and 250 mg per day, for treating cold 1-3 grams per day and so on.