Benefits of Vitamin C

Vitamin C, a water-soluble vitamin, also known as L-ascorbic acid, is an essential nutrient that acts as an antioxidant. Ascorbate is required for a wide range of essential metabolic reactions. A deficiency of Vitamin C can lead to a serious, life-threatening disease known as scurvy, as well as many other health problems. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recognized and accepted Vitamin C as one of the four dietary antioxidants.

Vitamin C Deficiency

A Vitamin C deficiency is often caused by poor diet, and smoking can also lead to a Vitamin C deficiency. Symptoms may include any, or all of the following:

•    Fatigue
•    Irritability
•    Respiratory problems
•    Weak immune system
•    Slow wound healing
•    Bleeding gums
•    Tooth loss
•    Frequent colds or infections
•    Anemia
•    Mood swings
•    Depression
•    Hair loss
•    Swelling
•    Pain in the joints
•    Poor appetite
•    Weight loss
•    Weakening in capillaries
•    Muscle fatigue
•    Premature aging
•    Thyroid problems
•    Bone problems

A severe deficiency can lead to a serious disease known as scurvy, which is characterized by swelling in the body, joint pain, a loss of appetite, lethargy, anemia, shortness of breath, bruising, hair loss, bleeding gums, tooth loss, and pain in the arms and legs.  Scurvy, if left untreated, can quickly lead to death. In later stages, jaundice, neuropathy, fever, hypotension, convulsions and hemorrhage are common.  While scurvy is fairly uncommon in today’s world, it still occurs in people whose diets are lacking in Vitamin C.

Blood tests are commonly used to diagnose a Vitamin C deficiency, and, in children, bone x-rays are often taken.

Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA)

Infants:     40 mg/day
Children, 1-3:     15 mg/day
Children, 4-8:     25 mg/day
Children, 9-13:     45 mg/day
Teens, 14-18:     Males – 75 mg/day, females – 65 mg/day
Adults:     Males – 90 mg/day, females – 75 mg/day (pregnant women – 85 mg/day)

Of course, there are some people who actually require more Vitamin C than the RDA, such as smokers and those with weakened immune systems. It is recommended by the Institute of Medicine that smokers consume an extra 35 mg/day.  Also, there are many medicines that lower Vitamin C levels, including aspirin.

The Recommended Daily Allowance set by the Food and Nutrition Board is thought by many to be the minimum amount of Vitamin C, recommended for the prevention of scurvy.   Many studies have been done suggesting that a much higher intake is needed in order to reap the many health benefits of Vitamin C.  The Food and Nutrition Board sets the UL (tolerable upper intake levels) of Vitamin C for adults at 2000 mg/day.

The majority of people experience no problems taking the UL, but there are a small minority of people, with specific genetic diseases, who should avoid higher doses of Vitamin C. (5) Also, one study showed that men who consumed over 1000 mg of Vitamin C daily had a 41% higher risk of developing kidney stones than those men who took the RDA of 90 mg.  Large doses of Vitamin C did not increase the risk of kidney stones in women.

Excellent Sources of Vitamin C

Citrus fruits, such as oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, lemons and limes are good sources of Vitamin C. Other foods with high levels of Vitamin C include:

√  Strawberries
√    Mangoes
√    Kiwi
√    Honeydew
√    Cantaloupe
√    Watermelon
√    Pineapple
√    Asparagus
√    Guava
√    Avocado
√    Raspberries
√    Black Currant
√    Sweet potatoes
√    Papaya
√    Red peppers
√    Green peppers
√    Cauliflower
√    Kale
√    Broccoli
√    Spinach
√    Brussels sprouts
√    Tomatoes
√    Cabbage
√    Many breakfast cereals

Juices, such as orange and grapefruit, are also excellent sources of Vitamin C.

The Many Benefits of Vitamin C

1.    Vitamin C is an antioxidant, which helps protect the body from free radicals, and may possibly reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. These include mouth, throat, colon, rectum, breast, esophagus, stomach, prostate, liver, basal carcinoma and melanoma skin cancer.
2.    Vitamin C is essential for healthy, strong bones and teeth.
3.    Vitamin C is necessary for iron absorption.
4.    Vitamin C plays an important role in the production of collagen.
5.    Strong blood vessels depend on Vitamin C.
6.    Adequate levels of Vitamin C keep joints healthy.
7.    Sufficient levels of Vitamin C minimize bruising.
8.    Vitamin C builds a strong immune system, making us less susceptible to infections and colds.
9.    Vitamin C, when taken in large doses, can help shorten the length and severity of a cold.
10.    Vitamin C prevents premature aging of cells.
11.    Moderately high levels of Vitamin C have been found to reduce the risk of heart disease.
12.    Vitamin C is essential for wound healing.
13.    A clinical trial found that high doses of ascorbic acid led to an increased frequency of sexual intercourse.
14.    In a study conducted by Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital, Vitamin C was found to elevate the mood of acutely hospitalized patients.
15.    Vitamin C may be helpful in preventing cataracts and macular degeneration.
16.    Vitamin C has been found to lower the risk of developing gout.
17.    Vitamin C is a natural antihistamine. In a 1992 study, adults who took 2 grams of Vitamin C daily for one week lowered their blood histamine levels by 38%.
18.    In those with lead toxicity, larger doses of Vitamin C have shown to lower blood lead levels.

Clearly, Vitamin C does much more than simply speed up recovery from the common cold.  It is a very essential nutrient, and without adequate levels, serious health problems can occur.  And, when consuming Vitamin C in larger quantities, it can reduce the risk of many serious health conditions, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Vitamin C can react with some medications, however, so check with your doctor if you are taking medication.  If you are a male who is prone to the development of kidney stones, large doses of Vitamin C are not recommended, as it can increase the chance of kidney stones.  Also, remember Vitamin C in large doses can cause problems in a small minority of individuals suffering from certain genetic diseases.

The majority of people will benefit from a higher consumption of Vitamin C than the recommended daily allowance.  Many studies suggest consuming between 400 and 2000 mg daily, and the Food and Nutrition Board set the UL at 2000 mg daily, meaning that the majority of adults, when consuming this high level of Vitamin C on a daily basis, experience no side effects.

Here’s your chance to improve your health and possibly add years to your life. Look over the benefits of Vitamin C as well as the sources above and make your shopping list.  With so many foods high in Vitamin C, you will probably find at least a few you like. For those who hate fruits and vegetables, it’s important to take a daily supplement to stay in optimum health.


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