Health Benefits Of Vitamin C ( Ascorbic Acid )
What is Vitamin C ( Ascorbic Acid )
Vitamin C, also known as L-ascorbic acid, ascorbic acid or L-ascorbate, is a vital nutrient for many animals, including humans.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, which is needed by the body to form collagen in bones, cartilage, muscle, and blood vessels.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant which protects the body against oxidative stress. As an antioxidant, vitamin C can inhibit the oxidation of other molecules.
A plethora of vital biochemical functions are performed by the vitamin C or ascorbic acid in the human body - these actions occur at the cellular level. This essential vitamin works as a co-enzyme playing an important role in the metabolism of amino acids. The ascorbic acid also facilitates the biochemical conversion of the B complex vitamin folic acid (folate) to the active form of folate called folinic acid - this conversion is required for the proper utilization of folate by the human body. Cell level respiration is also heavily influenced by the presence of the vitamin C. The formation of collagen and other fibrous tissues is by far primary role performed by vitamin C in the human body. The proteins found in the skin, the tendons, the bones, the teeth, the cartilaginous tissues and general connective tissues is composed of collagen - this protein plays a supportive functional role in the human body. The vitamin C is also required for the maintenance of proper structural and functional integrity in the capillary walls and larger blood vessels. The collagen acts as an intercellular matrix wherever any tissue is growing, is in the developing process or is repairing itself following injury - this base matrix of collagen serves a structural function and is the main framework on which most tissues are formed. The matrix may not be set down or formed properly if the levels of vitamin C in the body are not adequate, a deficiency of collaged may also leave the matrix formation incomplete or deformed. Similarly, tissue structures already constructed will start to deteriorate in the event of a prolonged deficiency of the vitamin C in the body. Therefore, it can be said that the proper growth, the correct development and the maintenance of just about all the tissues in the body depend on the presence of vitamin C in the right amounts at the cellular level.
The pathway of vitamin C absorption goes like this, almost all the vitamin C in the body is absorbed from the digested food in the small intestine, the nutrient is then circulated in the blood and stored in various tissues in the body. Compared to any other tissue, high amounts of the vitamin C are stored in the adrenal glands, in the pituitary gland, the thymus and in the corpus luteum of females. Higher than normal levels of the vitamin C is to be found in all metabolically active tissues due to the increased requirement of this nutrient in developing tissues and organ systems.
Many uses for vitamin C have been proposed, but evidence of benefit in scientific studies is lacking. In particular, research on asthma, cancer, and diabetes remains inconclusive, and a lack of benefit has been found for the prevention of cataracts or heart disease.
Severe deficiency of vitamin C causes scurvy. Although rare, scurvy results in severe symptoms and can cause death. People with scurvy are treated with vitamin C and should be under medical supervision.
Can Vitamin C ( Ascorbic Acid ) treat the common cold?
Several studies have failed to produce conclusive and compelling evidence demonstrating vitamin C's use in treating the common cold, except in some rare cases.
Some studies have shown that regular consumption of vitamin C supplements makes no difference to people's risk of catching a cold. Athletes who train for long periods in subarctic conditions may have some protection from catching cold.
A small study found common cold frequency was reduced with vitamin C supplementation, but made no difference to the duration of a cold once somebody got ill - the authors of the study warned that other larger studies did not have similar findings.10
It is important to stress that those with adequate vitamin C intake are likely to catch fewer colds than individuals with vitamin C deficiency. The lack of evidence is on whether taking extra vitamin C helps cure illnesses once they start.
Health Benefits Of Vitamin C ( Ascorbic Acid )
The anti-oxidant function of vitamin C is another beneficial role played by the vitamin in the body, as an antioxidant the vitamin helps protect the cells and the various tissues from the damaging effects of oxidation from free radicals released in the cells as part of normal metabolic reactions. As more research is being undertaken on oxidation by free radicals as the basis for many human disease states, the anti-oxidant role of vitamin C's is of extreme importance in the treatment of many well known diseases. The requirement of the vitamin C in the tissues is also raised by the stimulation of muscle tissues during physical activity, as exercised muscle increases the rate at which vitamin is utilized in the metabolism of the cells. The reason for generalized muscle weakness in cases of vitamin C deficiency could be the linked to this increased rate of vitamin C use in the muscles. Vitamin C also helps to repair wounds. It facilitates the growth of the connective tissues, which speeds up the process of healing wounds.
Historically, vitamin C was used for preventing and treating scurvy. Scurvy is now relatively rare, but it was once common among sailors, pirates, and others who spent long periods of time onboard ships. When the voyages lasted longer than the supply of fruits and vegetables, the sailors began to suffer from vitamin C deficiency, which led to scurvy.
These days, vitamin C is used most often for preventing and treating the common cold. Some people use it for other infections including gum disease, acne and other skin infections, bronchitis, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) disease, stomach ulcers caused by bacteria called Helicobacter pylori, tuberculosis, dysentery (an infection of the lower intestine), and skin infections that produce boils (furunculosis). It is also used for infections of the bladder and prostate.
Some people use vitamin C for depression, thinking problems, dementia, Alzheimer's disease, physical and mental stress, fatigue, and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Vitamin C also helps in reducing the risk of stroke, a type of cardiovascular disease. A diet full of vegetables and fruits supplies a good quantity of vitamin C, which maintains the appropriate blood pressure level. It also protects the body from free radicals which could be the reason for the stroke.
Other uses include increasing the absorption of iron from foods and correcting a protein imbalance in certain newborns (tyrosinemia).
There is some thought that vitamin C might help the heart and blood vessels. It is used for hardening of the arteries, preventing clots in veins and arteries, heart attack, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
Vitamin C is also used for glaucoma, preventing cataracts, preventing gallbladder disease, dental cavities (caries), constipation, Lyme disease, boosting the immune system, heat stroke, hay fever, asthma, bronchitis, cystic fibrosis, infertility, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), autism, collagen disorders, arthritis and bursitis, back pain and disc swelling and osteoporosis.
Additional uses include improving physical endurance and slowing aging, as well as counteracting the side effects of cortisone and related drugs, and aiding drug withdrawal in addiction.
Vitamin C supplements can reduce the blood lead level. Lead Toxicity is a severe health problem found mostly in children, especially in urban areas. Abnormal development and growth has been found in some children who are exposed to lead. They develop behavioral problems, learning disabilities and also tend to have a low IQ. It may damage the kidneys and increase blood pressure in adults.
Sometimes, people put vitamin C on their skin to protect it against the sun, pollutants, and other environmental hazards. Vitamin C is also applied to the skin to help with damage from radiation therapy.
Researchers have found that a high consumption of fresh vegetables and fruits have a link to a minimized risk for various types of cancer. Studies have also shown that increased consumption of vitamin C is connected with a decreased possibility of cancers of the lungs, mouth, vocal chords, throat, colon, rectum, stomach, and esophagus.
How much Vitamin C ( Ascorbic Acid ) do we need?
Men should consume 90 mg of vitamin C per day and females should consume 75 mg per day, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Experts continue to disagree what the best daily dose is for optimal health. Most health care professionals, dietitians and nutritionists agree that a well-balanced diet with lots of fruit and vegetables contains enough vitamin C for good health, with no need for supplements. Regular smokers, pregnant others and some people under stress may need more.
If you have too much vitamin C there is a risk of developing diarrhea.
Health authorities around the world have varying recommended daily intake rates:
Food.gov.uk - 40 milligrams per day for adults, 50 mg for pregnant women, and 70mg/day during lactation
Dietitians of Canada - 75 mg/day day for females and 90 mg/day for males
A 25-year-old man should never have more than 2,000 milligrams (2 grams) per day, according to the Institute of Medicine, USA.
Good food sources of Vitamin B6 ( Pyridoxine )
A wide range of doses types are available for supplemental vitamin C, these doses range from a few milligrams per dose to doses that can be in excess of 1000 mg (or a gram). One should make sure to carefully examine all the vitamin C tablets before purchase for dosage and other requirements, particularly products advertised as natural or rose hips or acerola must be checked for product information. The usual mode by which these supplemental forms of the vitamin C are made involves using some synthetic vitamin C and adding small quantities of acerola berry or rose hips to mask the synthetic nature of the product. Vitamin C which is "synthetic" is similar in all respects with the naturally occurring vitamin C in plant and animal sources. The synthetic form is produced by fermenting glucose, a process that is essentially similar to the way in which vitamin C is produced in natural sources. The cost is the deciding factors as the so called natural vitamin C tablets may be sold by clever marketers for a much higher price than the same dose type of tablet which has been plainly labeled "ascorbic acid"- this is just a marketing gimmick and natural sources of vitamin C are in no way better than synthesized forms of the same vitamin. The sodium ascorbate compound form of the supplemental vitamin C is also available in many drug stores. The powdered form of vitamin C is also available in many drug stores; this supplemental form of the vitamin is the cheapest way to supplement the vitamin.
Vitamin C is found in very high amounts in plant foods such as all citrus fruits and their juices, in fruits like strawberries, in cantaloupes, in all raw vegetables such as peppers, herbs like parsley, broccoli and cauliflower, in kale, in Brussels sprouts and turnip greens, in vegetables like cabbage, tomatoes and potatoes and bean sprouts among others. The method employed in growing, storing and preparing these vegetables decides about the level of vitamin C found in these plant foods. The vitamin C content of any plant food is determined by the amount of sunlight the plant receives, the greater the amount of incident sunlight, the more vitamins produced in the plant. Additionally, the vitamin C is chemically susceptible to the damaging actitsons of oxidation - a significant amount of the vitamin can be lost by exposing the vitamin C to ambient air. Severe losses of the vitamin from food can ensue if the food is steamed for long periods of time, if it is washed again and again, or if it is soaked or canned in liquids - the reason is that vitamin C is soluble in water. A complete loss of the vitamin C content of citrus juice may result when the product is stored at warm temperatures for a long period of time.
Food Sources Vitamin C ( Ascorbic Acid )
Vitamin C ( Ascorbic Acid ) Deficiency
Vitamin C deficiency is not common. Populations subject to vitamin C deficiency are alcoholics, people who consume a diet devoid of fruits and vegetables, elderly individuals on a limited diet, severely ill individuals under chronic stress, and infants fed exclusively cow's milk.
The highest concentrations of the vitamin C can be found in the adrenal glands among all storage sites for this vitamin in the human body. Vitamin C mobilization in the adrenal glands peaks whenever the organism is stressed by any factor, this mobilization of vitamin C occurs from all other tissues as well and large amounts of the vitamin C start to appear in the urine of the animal. The importance of the vitamin C in promoting the ability of the body to withstand stress is indicated by the rapid mobilization of vitamin C during times of stress. The ability to synthesize vitamin C is also rapidly loss by a deficiency of the vitamin A, at least in laboratory rats, the adrenal glands of such rats also starts to dysfunction due to this factor. Normal functioning in the adrenal glands is restored by supplements of vitamin C in such cases. Vitamin C deficiency symptoms in many humans - symptomatic deficiency disorders such as scurvy - can be similar to the symptoms seen in cases of adrenal insufficiency including generalized and persistent fatigue, generalized muscle weakness, the presence of digestive disorders and a greatly reduced capability to tolerate stress.
An increased requirement for the vitamin C or a vitamin C deficiency in the body can be brought about by many different factors. Individuals who do not like eating acidic foods for example, tend to be affected by vitamin C deficiency at some stage in their life - symptoms seen in these individuals tends to be minor. Compared to people who do not smoke, all smokers in general, tend to have lower tissue levels of the vitamin C. The vitamin C levels in the body are known to be directly depleted by smoking. One factor contributing to the higher then average death rate from cancer and heart disease of smokers could be this depletion of vitamin C stores in the body.
People affected by liver disease have lower vitamin C levels then healthy people do, this deficiency or low level of the vitamin C can be directly attributed to the sudden increase in the toxic effects of the different medications used in the treatment of the liver disorder. Low tissue levels of the vitamin C also tends to be evident in patients suffering from hyperthyroid problems.
A deficiency of the vitamin C can also be induced in the human body by the long term use of several types of medications and certain classes of drugs. These medications include compounds like the adrenal corticosteroids - these can in fact produce scurvy like symptoms in the person. A vitamin C deficiency is also induced by long term use of estrogen bearing medications like different oral contraceptives and all menopausal drugs used by women. Drugs like the barbiturates and antibiotics like the compound tetracycline can also induce deficiency states. The urinary rate of excretion of the vitamin C is increased by a factor of three through the use of aspirin.
The presence of any kind of disorder that results in an increase in the total blood levels of the trace mineral copper also increases the requirement for vitamin C in the body. Significant amounts of the trace mineral copper can and does enter the human body through the water that is piped through plumbing pipes made from copper - this is one way in which copper comes into the diet. The detoxification of excess levels of copper in the body is apparently influenced by vitamin C in some way.
Smoking acts as an antagonist to vitamin C. Less vitamin C is available in smokers for utilization and storage, and smokers need twice the amount of vitamin C as the nonsmoker to show a comparable blood level.
Vitamin C ( Ascorbic Acid ) Side effects and cautions
Vitamin C is generally regarded as safe in amounts normally obtained from foods. Vitamin C supplements are also generally regarded as safe in most individuals in recommended amounts.
Vitamin C may cause abdominal cramps or pain, chest pain, dental erosion, dizziness, diarrhea, faintness, fatigue, flushing, gut blockage, headache, heartburn, increased risk of lung cancer, increased risk of Parkinson's disease, inflamed esophagus, injection site discomfort, nausea, red blood cell complications, skin tingling or irritation, slowing of endurance training, thickening of blood vessels close to the heart, urinary complications, and vomiting.
High doses of vitamin C have been associated with multiple adverse effects. These include blood clotting, death (heart-related), kidney stones, pro-oxidant effects, problems with the digestive system, and red blood cell destruction. In cases of toxicity due to massive ingestions of vitamin C, forced fluids, and diuresis may be beneficial.
Use cautiously in chronic, large doses. Healthy adults who take chronic large doses of vitamin C may experience low blood levels of vitamin C when they stop taking the high doses and resume normal intake.
Vitamin C in high doses appears to interfere with the blood-thinning effects of anticoagulants such as warfarin. Caution is advised in people with bleeding disorders or those taking drugs that affect bleeding. Dosing adjustments may be necessary.
Vitamin C may affect blood sugar levels. Caution is advised in people with diabetes or hypoglycemia, and in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may need to be monitored by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist. Medication adjustments may be necessary.
Vitamin C may increase blood pressure. Caution is advised in people with high blood pressure.
Cancerous cells collect high concentrations of vitamin C. Until more is known, only use high doses of vitamin C under the direction of your oncologist.
Use cautiously in people with cancer (e.g. lung), cataracts, glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency, anemia and related conditions, disorders of the gut, kidney stones, or sickle cell disease.
Use cautiously in people after angioplasty and in pregnant women at risk of high blood pressure during pregnancy.
Use cautiously in greater than recommended doses in breastfeeding women.
Use cautiously in people taking antibiotics, anticancer agents, HIV medications, barbiturates, estrogens, fluphenazine, or iron supplements.
Smoking and chewing tobacco lowers vitamin C levels. Vitamin C intake in the diet should be increased in people who smoke or chew tobacco.
Use injected vitamin C cautiously, especially in high doses, as it may lead to kidney function problems.
Use vitamin C tablets cautiously, as dental erosion may occur from chewing vitamin C tablets often.
Avoid in people with known allergy or sensitivity to any ingredients in Vitamin C products.
Avoid high doses of vitamin C in people with conditions aggravated by increased acid, such as advanced liver disease, gout, a disease where kidneys fail to remove extra acid from the body, or a disease with early breakdown of red blood cells.
Avoid high doses of vitamin C in people with kidney failure or in those taking agents that may damage the kidneys.
Use vitamin C cautiously in those at risk of high blood pressure during pregnancy.