Vitamins are essential and indispensable for the human body because without them people will suffer ill health and even death due to severe deficiency. Nutritionists will vouch that Vitamin C stands at the fulcrum of all vitamins though all vitamins are equally important.
Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin and is labeled as a micronutrient. It is essential that your daily diet contain foods that are a good source of this vitamin because our body does not make it and does not store enough of it. Therefore, you have to see that you supplement your body with enough vitamin C foods to meet the daily requirement.
You can do this by getting five to nine helpings of fruits and vegetables every day. You won’t have to take supplements then. Any extra you take on a particular day is excreted through the urine.
The benefits of vitamin C on our body span many body systems. Among its most notable functions is giving a boost to your immune system. This is due to its strong antioxidant properties, which neutralize harmful free radicals. This helps prevent health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, and other diseases of aging.
This article tells you about why we need this vitamin, how much of it we need, and how to get it.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)
- For adults 19 years and older: 90 mg daily for men and 75 mg for women.
- For pregnancy and lactation, the requirement increases to 85 mg and 120 mg daily, respectively.
- For smokers, an additional 35 mg beyond the RDA is recommended because smoking can reduce vitamin C levels in the body.
The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL)
The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) is the maximum amount you can take daily that is unlikely to cause harmful effects on health.
The UL for vitamin C is 2000 mg daily. Taking beyond this amount may cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, and flatulence
Vitamin C properties and functions
Our body needs vitamin C because of the various functions it performs. They include:
- It helps the body produce collagen and L-carnitine. L-carnitine is an amino acid derivative that is made in the human brain, liver, and kidneys. It helps the body convert fat into energy. Collagen is the main component of connective tissue and makes up 1–2% of muscle tissue. It gives strength to the bone and its connecting ligaments and tendons. It is also a vital component in fibrous tissues.
- It helps in the synthesis and release of adrenaline, noradrenaline, and some neurotransmitters in the brain. These are all vital for proper brain function.
- Its antioxidant properties help neutralize unwanted free radicals that are formed during the process of cellular oxidation. This helps reduce inflammation and consequently lowers the risk of developing various conditions, such as some cancers.
- It helps in the absorption of iron by the body.
- It boosts the immune system.
- It promotes the healing of wounds.
Benefits of Vitamin C
The benefits of vitamin C may include the following.
By its property to produce collagen that is present in skin, muscle, and other tissues, vitamin C promotes wound healing. People with a deficiency of this vitamin experience slower wound healing.
To promote recovery, therefore, healthcare professionals often prescribed supplements.
Studies indicate that Vitamin C promotes cardiovascular health. This helps protect against heart disease and high blood pressure.
It does this due to its following properties: It
- has antioxidant properties
- helps to dilate the blood vessels and thereby improves circulation
improves nitric oxide production
- helps reduce plaque instability in atherosclerosis, thereby preventing it from being dislodged
Cataracts and age-related macular degeneration
It is believed that vitamin C reduces the risk of cataracts and slows down the progression of macular degeneration in older people.
Since oxidative stress is responsible for both these conditions, this benefit accrues due to its antioxidant activity.
In a study, after taking supplements for 4 months, the participants’ glucose levels and blood pressure improved, compared with taking a placebo. This suggests that vitamin C could be a part of diabetes treatment.
Vitamin C promotes the absorption of iron, and therefore its supplements are often prescribed with iron tablets to improve absorption in people who are deficient in iron and suffer from anemia.
Air pollution is responsible for many lung problems that negatively impact your health.
Allergy is caused by the antigen-antibody reaction triggered by the immune system. This results in an inflammatory response that leads to symptoms such as swelling and hives. During this process, the body produces free radicals, which can lead to oxidative stress.
Studies have shown that taking high doses of vitamin C may help reduce allergy reactions. There is also evidence to suggest that low levels are common in people with allergies.
Vitamin C strengthens our immunity by promoting the production of immune cells and protecting them from oxidative damage. It does this through its antioxidant properties.
This helps our body to fight infections caused by bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. Having enough vitamin C in our body also prevents infections. Its vital role in treating even a common cold is most widely accepted.
A health study found that taking vitamin C supplements of 500 mg daily for up to 10 years reduced the risk of gout. Other trials have found that vitamin C may lower blood levels of uric acid, whose high levels are responsible for the development of gout.
Who is at risk of deficiency?
Those at risk of vitamin C deficiency include:
- people who smoke or have exposure to secondhand smoke
- infants who are fed only boiled milk
- people who do not consume a wholesome diet
- people with certain gastrointestinal conditions, such as malabsorption syndrome and Celiac disease
- Those who heavily consume alcohol
- Patients on hemodialysis
Signs of vitamin C deficiency
Vitamin C deficiency is rare in developed countries but may occur with a limited diet that provides less than 10 mg daily for one month or longer. In developed countries, situations at greatest risk for deficiency include eating a diet restricted in fruits and vegetables, smoking or long-term exposure to secondhand smoke, and drug and alcohol abuse. The following are the most common signs of a deficiency.
- Skin spots caused by bleeding from broken blood vessels below the skin
- Swelling or bleeding of gums
- Loss of teeth
- Hair loss
- Delayed healing of wounds
- Iron-deficiency anemia
Side effects of taking too much vitamin C
Side effects develop due to taking too much vitamin C supplements. They cannot occur from the consumption of foods rich in it.
Long-term use of oral vitamin C supplements over 2,000 milligrams a day increases the risk of side effects. Taking less than 1,000mg of this vitamin a day is unlikely to cause any harm.
Side effects include:
- Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
- Stomach pain
- Skin flushing
- In some people, oral vitamin C supplements can cause kidney stones.
Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of this vitamin. They include:
- Citrus (oranges, kiwi, lemon, grapefruit)
- Bell peppers
- Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower)
- White potatoes