June 18, 2019

Why do we need Vitamin C?

Vitamin C or also known as L-ascorbic acid is essential for the formation of collagen, which is the primary protein that is necessary for our bones, cartilage and connective tissues. This vitamin is an antioxidant that protects our cells from free radicals where its accumulation generates oxidative stress that is harmful to our body. 

Ascorbic acid is considered as a water-soluble vitamin in which our bodies do not produce or store on its own so it is very important to replenish our supply and get our daily intake of vitamin C from the foods we eat or dietary supplements we take in order to promote optimal health.

Clinical trials suggest that eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis can provide you with an estimated 200mg of vitamin C, but if you are not able to obtain it from the foods that you eat, you can take supplements to make up the difference. 

Vitamin C plays an important role and is necessary for iron absorption, skin health, bone structure and immune function. Very low levels of vitamin C can lead to a disease called scurvy which can be fatal. Discover the amazing health benefits that you can get from consuming ascorbic acid and why it can guarantee stronger immunity.

 

Origin and History

The need for the treatment of scurvy among sailors during the early years have led to the discovery of vitamin C. It was estimated that scurvy has affected 2 million sailors. During the year 1928, Hungarian biochemist Albert Szent-Györgyi have isolated an organic reducing agent from plant juices and animal tissues in which he called ‘hexuronic acid’.

In 1932, British chemist Walter Norman Haworth renamed hexuronic acid to ascorbic acid and determines the molecular structure of it, a year after he led a team of scientist to make ascorbic acid synthetically. Györgyi has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery of vitamin C, and Haworth has been given the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his works in vitamin C. 

 

Fast Facts

  • Ascorbic acid is generally recognized as safe (GRAS), but there are still side effects from taking large doses such as stomach aches and diarrhoea.
  • Some researchers say that for optimal health, people need more vitamin C than they get from food, so supplements are recommended. 
  • Smokers need a higher intake of the vitamin compared to nonsmokers because smoking increases urinary excretion of the vitamin.
  • Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and also known as ascorbic acid. It was discovered as a treatment for scurvy. 
  • Primates such as humans and guinea pigs are the only mammals that cannot make vitamin C in their bodies. 

 

Vitamin C Deficiency

Deficiency in vitamin C may lead to the development of diseases such as scurvy which can be life threatening. Vitamin C deficiency can also be a cause of malnutrition or poor diet that lacks nutritious food sources such as fruits and vegetables. Here are the following signs and symptoms if you have low vitamin C levels:

- Connective tissue defects (internal bleeding, gingivitis)
- Corkscrew-shaped body hair
- Poor immune function
- Impaired wound healing
- Red patches on the skin
- Dry and rough skin
- Weakened bones
- Depression
- Fatigue
- Anemia

 

Health Benefits 

1. Boosts Immunity. Contains strong antioxidant properties that can boost your immunity and make your body's natural defences stronger. Having the right supply of vitamin C every day can protect your cells from free radicals as well as reducing your chances of having infections and chronic disease. 

2. Heart  Health.  When it comes to heart health vitamin C plays a major role in protecting your heart from coronary heart disease as well as other heart problems. Studies have shown that it is effective in lowering high blood pressure which prevents peripheral artery disease and stroke.

3. Respiratory Health. Researches prove that vitamin C protects the lungs and lowers the risk of developing respiratory diseases such as bronchitis, pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD. This vitamin is essential for you to have healthier lungs and proper respiratory function. 

4. Prevents Anemia.  Helps in the absorption of iron in your body as well as the formation of red blood cells which is helpful in preventing and treating signs and symptoms of iron deficiency anaemia. This vitamin captures iron from the foods that you eat and store it in a form that can be easily absorbed by your body. 

5. Promotes Brain Health. Since vitamin C is an effective antioxidant, it helps counteract stress and toxins that are related to mental decline. It is also proven to help in the removal of free radicals that can build up in the brain which is linked to dementia such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. 

6. Healthy Skin.  A lot of skincare products today contain vitamin C that gives long term effects by repairing and regenerating damaged skin from collagen loss and sun exposure. Studies show that it helps boost the production of collagen and prevents the early signs of ageing, making your skin smooth and glowing. 

7. Allergy Remedy. Studies show that ascorbic acid is a natural antihistamine which can reduce allergy symptoms and prevent the production of histamine which is responsible for allergic reactions. The right amount of vitamin C can also help keep your body safe from food and seasonal allergies. 

8. Enhances Mood.  Research shows that vitamin C enhances mood because people who have low levels of it often feel tired or depressed. Also, prevent mood swings for it is essential in the production of serotonin or the happy chemical which is involved in controlling your mood and prevents irritability. 

9. Eye Health. It can help promote eye health and reduce the risk of developing cataracts,  glaucoma as well as age-related macular degeneration because of its effective antioxidant properties. Vitamin C also supports healthy blood vessels including the capillaries in the retina. 

10. Bone Health. Ascorbic acid promotes anti-inflammatory activity in your body through its antioxidant properties where it increases bone density and helps reduce muscle soreness and fractures from exercising. It can also reduce your risk of having arthritis such as gout and rheumatoid arthritis. 

 

Dietary Sources

When it comes to dietary sources, we know that ascorbic acid can be obtained from eating vegetables and fruits, especially citrus fruits. There are a lot of common foods that are available on the market today that offers high vitamin C content. 

Also remember that vitamin C is sensitive to light, air, and heat so consuming vegetables that are raw or minimally cooked, increases their vitamin C content. Here are the following foods that are rich in ascorbic acid and can provide you for your daily supply of the vitamin:

- Vegetables (peppers, broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, snow peas, cauliflower)
- Fruits (guava, papaya, watermelon, kiwi, orange, lychee, strawberries, pineapple) 
- Juice (orange juice, grapefruit juice, tomato juice, lemon juice) 
- Herbs (cilantro, chives, basil, parsley, thyme)

 

Vitamin C Supplements

Always remember that before taking any kind of dietary supplements you need to consult first your healthcare professional even if it is approved as GRAS or generally recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration for it may cause adverse effects and affect your health. 

When it comes to supplements, vitamin C is one of the most common dietary supplements that people consume, it is because this vitamin offers a lot of health benefits including high antioxidant effects which protect our cells from free radicals that can harm our body and promote oxidative stress. Vitamin C is available in many forms which include powder, liquid, chewables, injections, tablets and capsules. Here are the different types of ascorbic acid:

  • Natural and Synthetic

Ascorbic acid can be in their natural or synthetic form where studies suggest that they are both chemically identical in their bioactivity and bioavailability. However, consumption of high dosage can lead to stomach irritation. 

  • Vitamin C with Bioflavonoids

Bioflavonoids are plant-derived compounds that also function as antioxidants. There are researches that say bioflavonoids can increase the bioavailability of ascorbic acid. 

  • Buffered Vitamin C 

This kind of ascorbic acid supplements is less acidic and contains fewer mineral salts of vitamin C and is often recommended to individuals who experience stomach problems like upset stomach and diarrhoea. 

 

Dosage and Duration 

The amount of vitamin C that people need each day depends on their age and needs. To know the right dosage of ascorbic acid that you need, we suggest that you should consult your healthcare provider. Here is the list for the recommended dietary intake (RDI) for vitamin C depending on age and gender:

Age

Recommended Amount

Birth to 6 months

40 mg

Infants 7 to 12 months

50 mg

Children 1 to 3 years

15 mg

Children 4 to 8 years

25 mg

Children 9 to 13 years

45 mg

Teens 14 to 18 years (boys)

75 mg

Teens 14 to 18 years (girls)

65 mg

Adults (men)

90 mg

Adults (women)

75 mg

Pregnant teens

80 mg

Pregnant women

85 mg

Breastfeeding teens

115 mg

Breastfeeding women

120 mg

Precautions and Side Effects

Children and Pregnant Women. Vitamin C is likely safe for children and pregnant women. However, proper medical consultation is needed for the right dosage. Taking too much vitamin C during pregnancy can affect and cause problems for the baby.  Keep out of reach of children. If not properly administered, it can lead to adverse side effects.

Diabetics. Studies show that vitamin C may increase blood sugar levels. It is recommended that people with type 2 diabetes should consult their healthcare professional for their supplementation and medication. Large intake of vitamin C might increase the risk of heart diseases. 

Kidney Problems. People who have kidney problems should avoid taking high doses of vitamin C for it can affect their health. It has been shown that vitamin C can increase the levels of oxalate in the urine, where too much oxalate can increase the risk of kidney failure among people with kidney disease. 

Anticoagulants. Avoid taking high doses of vitamin C for it might reduce the effectiveness of anticoagulant or blood-thinning medications such as warfarin or heparin. 

Overdose. Consumption of high amounts of vitamin C or overdose may lead to adverse effects which include kidney stones and digestive problems.  

References:

Science Learning Hub
Natural Food Series
Verywellhealth
Organic Facts
Mayo Clinic
Healthline
WebMD
Dr. Axe

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