Here is the most useful vitamin C information you wish you’d known sooner.
Vitamin C is one of the most well-known vitamins, especially for the benefits it brings to the body by supporting collagen production through antioxidant protection, but, above all, by the role it plays in increasing the body’s resistance to pathogens, such as bacteria and viruses. The main source of vitamin C is represented by fruits and vegetables, especially fresh ones, and it is important to ensure that our diet is rich in this nutrient since it is one of the substances that cannot be synthesized by our body.
What is vitamin C (ascorbic acid or L-300)
When Vasco da Gama embarked on the expedition sailing to India in 1497, he did not know that, in addition to geographical discoveries, that voyage would represent a turning point in the history of medicine.
During that expedition, many of the sailors were affected by scurvy, a disease that affected many of the sailors going on expeditions at that time. When arriving on the coast of Africa, the sailors began to consume fresh fruits – especially oranges – offered by the natives, and the symptoms of the disease began to improve.
Their recovery was very quick, requiring only six days for the sailors to consume the fresh oranges before they could return to their normal daily activities.
Scurvy is a condition that manifests itself mainly through: chronic fatigue, general weakness, irritability, muscle cramps, and bleeding in the gums or in the skin.
In 1747, the Scottish doctor James Lind carried out a study on scurvy patients, practically proving that by consuming two oranges and a lemon every day, all the symptoms of scurvy could be alleviated within six days, thus supporting the results achieved by Vasco da Gama’s sailors.
Oranges, lemons and especially all citrus fruits have a high content of vitamin C. Attempts to isolate and synthesize vitamin C began in 1928, with the efforts of Albert Szent-Györgyi, who isolated the substance he called hexuronic acid, for Norman Haworth to discover the chemical structure of vitamin C in 1933.
Vitamin C, ascorbic acid or L-300, as it is also known, is a water-soluble vitamin that our body needs in order to develop optimally and maintain its health. The human body cannot synthesize this vitamin. Therefore it relies on the external supply of this substance, both through food and food supplements.
Once in the body, it is used to carry out various functions, such as antioxidant defence, tissue repair, and the immune system, and the surplus of this nutrient is eliminated from the body through urine.
The role of vitamin C in the body
Vitamin C is primarily known for its antioxidant role, as it contributes to the protection of cells against oxidative stress, but its role does not stop there: vitamin C is also necessary for the synthesis of collagen, a protein that is part of the structure of organs, of muscles, skin and other tissues.
Moreover, vitamin C is also involved in protein metabolism, in the regeneration of other antioxidants in the body, such as vitamin E, and in the absorption of other nutrients (iron), but it is also important for maintaining a strong immune system.
The benefits of vitamin C
Scientists believe that vitamin C is one of the most important nutrients that we should provide to the body, especially because of the benefits it brings.
The benefits of vitamin C for the body
Vitamin C is used to treat colds and is useful in supporting the immune system.
Protection against free radicals
Perhaps the most important benefit of vitamin C is given by its antioxidant role. Even in small doses, vitamin C can provide antioxidant protection to molecules in the body, such as proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates:
- As a water-soluble molecule (that dissolves in water), vitamin C helps to neutralize free radicals and prevent the damage they could cause to cells.
- can prevent the uncontrolled formation of free radicals in the body
- participates in the reduction of oxidative stress in the body
Free radicals appear either as a result of metabolic processes in the body or through exposure to environmental factors, such as air pollutants, smoking, and exposure to chemical substances. The formation of free radicals is continuous, and the constant supply of vitamin C contributes to the reduction of their formation and, implicitly, to the reduction of oxidative stress.
It strengthens the immune system.
A number of studies have shown that there is a close connection between the administration of vitamin C and the proper functioning of the immune system. Vitamin C stimulates both the production of leukocytes (white blood cells which are key elements of the immune system) and their functionality, contributing to a more effective response of the body to the action of pathogens.
Vitamin C and colds
Colds are one of the most common ailments, especially at the change of seasons, both among adults and children, and taking vitamin C in such situations can help boost the immune system and make a recovery easier.
Scientists have studied the link between vitamin C and colds and found that taken at the first sign of a cold, vitamin C can help reduce the severity of cold symptoms and shorten the duration of the illness by up to 8% in adults and 14% in Children.
Atherosclerosis is a disease that is often associated with old age, but it can also affect other age groups. People with this condition have narrowed arteries due to plaque buildup, and blood flow, which carries oxygen and nutrients from the heart to cells and organs, is restricted. Vitamin C can help strengthen artery walls through its role in collagen synthesis, but it can also help prevent white cell deposits on damaged artery walls.
Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects an increasing number of people, and specialists estimate that by 2030, approximately 4.4% of the world’s population will be affected by this disease. Diabetes is associated with a series of complications, such as diabetic neuropathy (complication at the microvascular level), retinopathy (eye damage), and kidney function impairment, which have a significant impact on the patient’s quality of life.
Vitamin C has proven its effectiveness in retinopathy by reducing and preventing oxidative stress in the retina, thus reducing the risk of cellular damage.
Vitamin C has also proven its effectiveness in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s or schizophrenia. Administration of vitamin C, in these cases, decreases the number of free radicals and oxidative stress and helps protect cells from damage produced by free radicals (especially nerve cells in the brain).
Vitamin C and vision
Vitamin C contributes to maintaining the health and flexibility of blood vessels, including capillaries in the retina. In addition, vitamin C contributes to the maintenance of eye health through the antioxidant protection offered to cells.
Administering vitamin C to patients suffering from cataracts can reduce the risk of disease progression through its antioxidant role. It’s the same with macular degeneration: taking vitamin C, along with other supplements, such as lutein, vitamin C and zinc, can reduce the risk of the onset and progression of this degenerative disease.
Vitamin C and fertility
Couples who want to become parents can also benefit from vitamin C, which is known for its role in increasing progesterone levels in women experiencing infertility caused by a luteal phase defect (low progesterone ). Vitamin C or ascorbic acid also contributes to improving male fertility by increasing sperm quality.
Vitamin C and iron
Iron is an essential element that our body needs for blood production. Blood carries oxygen and nutrients to the organs and cells in the body and contributes to their proper functioning. Iron is found in two forms, heme (which comes from animal sources such as meat and fish) and non-heme (which comes from grains, fruits, and vegetables).
Vitamin C increases the absorption rate of non-heme iron and helps its assimilation into the body.
Promotes collagen production
Collagen is a protein that is found in abundance in our body: approximately one-third of the protein in the body is represented by collagen. It is the main protein in:
- blood vessels
Maintaining an optimal level of collagen in the tissues is essential both for their normal development and for their proper functioning. This aspect is even more important in the case of ageing because the level of collagen in the body decreases with age.
It helps burn fat
Maintaining an optimal intake of vitamin C in the body is also beneficial for people trying to lose or maintain their body weight.
On the one hand, vitamin C contributes to the reduction of oxidative stress and stress in general and thus reduces the amount of cortisol released into the blood. Cortisol is the hormone that stores lipids in the fat layer, especially in the fat layer in the abdomen. Our body associates stress with a possible lack of food, and in a situation where the stress level is high, it tends to react by storing lipids to create an energy reserve.
On the other hand, vitamin C is involved in the mechanism of L-carnitine synthesis, an amino acid involved in the transport of lipids from adipose tissue to the liver, where they are transformed into glycogen (energy), helping to reduce the fat layer.
Foods rich in vitamin C
Another vitamin C information is that ascorbic acid is found in many of the fruits and vegetables that enter our daily diet, most of them fresh, but also fermented foods can be a good source of vitamin C.
Fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C:
- Acerola cherries
Fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, are another source of natural vitamin C. The advantage of consuming fermented foods is that they are also rich in probiotic microorganisms and enzymes that contribute to maintaining optimal digestion.
Sources of vitamin C
Citrus fruits, sea buckthorn fruits, black currants, kiwis, and greens – are very good sources of vitamin C
Vitamin C – recommended daily dose.
The need for vitamin C differs from person to person, depending on age, gender, and the body’s needs. Stress, exhaustion or fatigue, and demanding physical activities can put pressure on our body and require an increased intake of nutrients, including vitamin C.
Dose of vitamin C in women
Being a powerful antioxidant, vitamin C contributes to reducing stress and protects the body from the harmful action of free radicals, but it is also involved in other functions that regulate the menstrual cycle of women, which can affect the level of progesterone in the body.
An optimal level of progesterone helps reduce premenstrual symptoms, especially pain, and in women who want to get pregnant, this hormone can support ovulation. Specialists believe that the daily requirement of vitamin C recommended for women is 75 mg, but depending on the type of activity carried out, and the needs of the body, this requirement can increase.
Dose of vitamin C in pregnant women
The body of a pregnant woman goes through several transformations, and the need for nutrients increases as the pregnancy progresses and the fetus grows. Specialists recommend increasing the intake of vitamin C during pregnancy, a level of 80 – 85 mg of vitamin C for women who are in the third trimester of pregnancy.
It is preferable that, during this period, the intake of vitamin C is made from food sources, and the administration of food supplements must be done only on the recommendation of the doctor.
Dose of vitamin C in lactating women
And during the breastfeeding period, the need for nutrients is high. Experts believe that they are even higher than those during pregnancy. Breast milk is the best source of food for the baby, being rich in essential nutrients for the harmonious growth and development of the little one. During breastfeeding, a balanced lifestyle, a varied diet and high consumption of liquids are recommended. The daily requirement of vitamin C during breastfeeding is 115 – 120 mg.
Dose of vitamin C in men
Men’s daily nutrient requirements are higher than women’s, and the recommended daily intake of vitamin C for men over 19 years of age is 90 mg.
Vitamin C dosage for children
- Young children from 0 to 6 months: 40 mg/day
- Young children between 7 and 12 months: 50 mg/day
- Young children between 1 and 3 years: 15 mg/day
- Children between 4 and 8 years: 25 mg/day
- Children between 9 and 13 years: 45 mg/day
- Boys 14 to 18 years: 75 mg/day
- Girls from 14 to 18 years: 65 mg/day
Vitamin C deficiency
Decreased vitamin C intake is primarily associated with scurvy, but this is not the only way vitamin C deficiency manifests itself.
Among the signs that can show a decrease in the level of vitamin C in the body, there are:
difficult healing of injuries and wounds: in the absence of vitamin C, it is difficult for the body to efficiently and optimally synthesize the collagen necessary to repair damaged tissues
bleeding gums, nosebleeds and bruising
- dry skin
- a weakened immune system
- vision problems
Vitamin C deficiency can also be manifested by nausea and a low appetite, and if the intake of vitamin C is 7 mg/day for more than four weeks, there is a risk of scurvy.
The main reason why vitamin C deficiency occurs is the lack of consumption of fresh foods rich in this nutrient. Vitamin C is found more in raw foods, and cooking them decreases the amount of ascorbic acid in the food.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding require a high intake of vitamin C, and if this is not met, there is a risk of ascorbic acid deficiency.
Other situations in which the need for ascorbic acid is high:
- conditions manifested by fever and inflammation
- thyroid gland problems
- smoking (increases the need for vitamin C by 30%)
The risks of high vitamin C consumption
Excess vitamin C consumption is generally not toxic to healthy adults. In certain situations, in case of excess vitamin C, symptoms such as nausea, intestinal discomfort (diarrhoea) and the imbalance of antioxidant activity in the body may appear.
It is desirable to administer vitamin C, especially in the form of food supplements, after the doctor’s recommendation to be sure that we fully benefit from the effects of this nutrient.
Vitamin C in cosmetics
Vitamin C is also useful in topical applications, being a powerful anti-ageing agent with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Incorporated into skin creams, serums or lotions, vitamin C benefits the skin by delaying skin ageing and wrinkles and brightening the skin. Vitamin C is a good skin repair agent, being used successfully in regenerative dermato-cosmetic treatments and in treatments to reduce the effects produced by exposure to the sun.
Vitamin C – contraindications
Although this vitamin stands out for its many benefits, there are also situations in which the administration of vitamin C (especially in the form of food supplements) is contraindicated; therefore, medical consultation is essential before its administration, especially in the case of people facing:
- vitamin C allergy
- kidney stones
- kidney problems (impaired kidney function)
- an increased level of oxalic acid in the urine
- sickle cell anaemia – a condition that involves the production of an abnormal type of haemoglobin – haemoglobin S
- iron metabolism problems
Vitamin C is one of the most important nutrients for our body and is an essential factor for the proper functioning of all cells and tissues in the body. Vitamin C is essential both for maintaining a strong immune system and for the antioxidant protection it provides, effectively fighting the free radicals responsible for premature ageing and cellular degradation.
It is important to have a constant intake of vitamin C in the body in the form of fresh fruits and vegetables, and if this is not enough, we can turn to vitamin C food supplements, on the advice of the doctor.
Now you have all of the vitamin C information you will ever need.