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Role of Vitamin C in Health

Updated on January 27, 2014

Vitamin C is also known as ascorbic acid. It is an antioxidant that helps prevent free radical damage. It helps keep other vitamins (such as vitamin A and E) strong by preventing them from being oxidized.

Vitamin C plays a beneficial role in the immune system. Since vitamin C levels naturally decreases with age, supplementation can enhance immunity in the elderly. Test-tube studies shows that vitamin C can disable a variety of bacteria and virus.

Contrary to a common misconception, vitamin C may help, but it does not "cure" the common cold -- nothing really does except time. To prevent catching a cold, wash hands instead.

Vitamin C helps the body be better able to cope with stress -- both physical and mental stress. Vitamin C supplementation accelerates the body's repair and recovery from injury or surgery. The adrenal glands uses vitamin C to synthesize hormones. The glands' vitamin C levels can become depleted in high stress situations. Vitamin C is also used by the liver to detoxify drugs.

Vitamin C is good for eye health. Those with high levels of vitamin C have decreased risk of cataracts. Vitamin C in combination with vitamin E, beta carotene, and zinc reduces the likelihood of progression of age-related macula degeneration.

Vitamin C is good for heart health. It appears to help repair damaged arterial walls. Damaged arterial walls is a risk to having cholesterol deposits forming. Increased vitamin C levels is linked to decreased cholesterol levels and decrease deposition of lipoprotein in the vascular walls. Vitamin C helps prevent the oxidation of LDL (the bad cholesterol).

There are some studies indicating that vitamin C may be anti-carcinogenic. Smokers should especially consider taking vitamin C supplements. Topical application of vitamin C can help prevent free radical damage due to the sun's UV rays. That is why some high-end sunscreens and skin products may contain vitamin C. Vitamin C can help prevent skin aging.

When vitamin C is consumed along with iron (as in foods), it helps with the absorption of iron. Note that we do not recommend taking iron supplements unless you are specifically tested to be deficient in iron and prescribed by your physician.

Vitamin C helps builds collagen needed by the skin. If you have bruise or bruise easily, vitamin C can be helpful.

Dr. Andrew Weil wrote ...

"Vitamin C is essential for synthesis of collagen and other compounds that affect the skin's and blood vessel's ability to withstand the impacts that lead to bruises."

Vitamin C with BioFlavonoids for better absorbption

Food sources of Vitamin C

Vitamin C and ascorbic acid are found in many foods, including...

  • broccoli, Brussels sprouts,
  • kale, spinach, collards, mustard greens
  • sweet peppers,
  • black currants, strawberries,
  • papaya, melons,
  • okra, asparagus
  • potatoes
  • tangerines, grapefruits, lime, oranges

Although there are many foods that have higher ascorbic acid content than citrus fruits, citrus fruits have bioflavonoids in their skins that increases the amount of vitamin C that is absorbed.

Ascorbic acid starts to degrade when exposed to oxygen, light, and heat. That is why food starts to loose vitamin C as soon as they are cut and loose more when they are cooked.

Even freshly squeeze orange juice begins to lose vitamin C very quickly. Ready-to-drink juice can lose all of their vitamin C within one week of opening.

RDI value of Vitamin C

The current RDI (recommended daily intake) of vitamin C is around 75 to 90 milligrams per day.[reference]

According to the authors of "The Real Vitamin and Mineral Book", a more optimal level of vitamin C may be 1000 milligrams. After taking into account body weight, primates and guinea pigs consume the equivalent of 2000 milligram of vitamin C per day in the wild. Animal feed for guinea pigs and monkeys must provide the equivalent of over 1000 milligrams of vitamin C daily.

There are no toxicity for vitamin C, since being a water soluble vitamin it is readily secreted by the body and is not stored. But in general do not take more than 2000 mg per day. Extremely high doses (>5000mg) may cause intestinal gas and loose stools. But this can be reversed by cutting back and is not a dangerous condition.

WebMd article says that "Vitamin C is one of the safest and most effective nutrients".

Vitamin C Supplements

The authors of the book "The Real Vitamin and Mineral Book" gives the following tips for purchasing vitamin C supplements ...

  • Buy ascorbic acid with bioflavonoids since the latter helps with the absorption of the former
  • Mineral ascorbates are gentler on the stomach since these are the "buffered form"
  • Chewable or powered form may be more damaging to tooth enamel.
  • Best to split dosage over the course of the day

But if you have a medical condition, consult with doctor before taking supplements.

Julia Ross in her book The Mood Cure mentions NOW Foods' Ascorbate Mineral C as an example of a C-complex and to "make sure the bioflavonoid total 300 milligrams or more per 1,000 milligrams of C."

However, some people may not want the calcium that is in the complex. See Should We Be Taking Calcium Supplements?

More About Vitamin C

Dr. Mercola has article and below YouTube video about the importance of vitamin C. He believe in avoiding vitamin C supplements with soy-based emulsifier. And he recommends Liposomal Vitamin C.

Article in writes that l-ascorbate is the best form of vitamin C. The body can not use the d-ascorbate form. The dl-ascorbate is half-half of each.


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      Kim Kennedy 4 years ago from uk

      I'll be visiting the health food store after reading this, and will bear in mind the pointers for choosing the best vitamin C supplements. Thanks for an in-depth look at the benefits of this vitamin.