Vitamin C : All You Need to Know About

Vitamin C is also known as ascorbic acid. It is a water-soluble vitamin and found in some foods such as citrus fruits, Indian gooseberry, and other sour fruits. In the body, it acts as an antioxidant and helps to protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are compounds formed when our bodies convert the food we eat into energy. Other factors also cause the formation of free radicals like cigarette smoke, air pollution, and ultraviolet light from the sun. Intake of Vitamin C helps to protect the cells.

Vitamin C is also needed to make collagen, a protein required to help wounds heal, improve the absorption of iron from plant-based foods, and for good immunity.

 Type of Vitamin: Water Soluble

Other names: L-ascorbic acid, Ascorbic acid and Ascorbate

Source: Food and supplement

The function of Vitamin C in Body

It is necessary for the synthesis of collagen.

Collagen is a protein present in our body. It is mainly typed 1 collagen. It is found in muscle, bones, skin, blood vessels, digestive system, and tendons. It gives strength to the skin. It helps in the elasticity of the skin and replaces dead skin cells. Collagen is very essential for wound healing.

It helps in the synthesis of L-carnitine and certain neurotransmitters.

L-carnitine is a compound that is necessary for metabolism in most mammals, plants, and some bacteria. In our body, it is necessary for metabolism and mitochondrial protection. It is an amino acid that has lysine and methionine. It is a fat burner as it is responsible for the transport of fats into cells to be used for energy in the body.

It helps in the absorption of iron and copper.

It acts as an antioxidant. It is helpful in the regeneration of other antioxidants in the body, like alpha-tocopherol (Vitamin E).

It has an important function in the immune system. It improves the absorption of non-heme iron (which is a form of iron present in plant-based foods).

It helps neutralize the effects of nitrites. Nitrites are preservatives found in some packaged foods which may cause cancer.

It prevents us from scurvy (it is a condition that has symptoms like fatigue, widespread connective tissue weakness, and weakening of capillary vessels).

High levels of vitamin C are seen in cells like white blood cells, eyes, adrenal glands, pituitary gland, and brain.

Low levels of Vitamin C are found in plasma, red blood cells and saliva.

Daily Requirement of Vitamin C

  • 0-6 months: for males-40 mg and for females- 40mg.
  • 7-12 months: 50mg
  • 1-3 years:  15 mg
  • 4-8 years: 25mg
  • 9-13 years:  45 mg
  • 14-18 years: for males- 75 mg and for females 65 mg.
  • In pregnancy (14-18 years): it is 80 mg and for women who are breastfeeding: 115mg.
  • Above 19 years for males: 90mg and for females- 75mg.
  • Pregnancy above 19 years- 85mg and during lactation: 120mg.

In smokers- Need 35mg/day more vitamin C than non-smokers.

Sources of Vitamin C

Fruits and vegetables are good sources of vitamin C. Fruits especially citrus fruits are very rich sources of Vitamin C. Besides this tomato, potatoes are a rich source of vitamin C.

Other sources

  • Broccoli
  • Guava
  • Kiwifruit
  • Red and green peppers
  • Sprouts
  • Strawberries

It should be kept in mind that vitamin C content of food may be reduced by prolonged storage and by cooking because ascorbic acid is water-soluble and is destroyed by heat. Streaming or microwaving may lessen cooking losses. 

Vitamin C present in various food items

  • Red peppers: 95mg.
  • Orange juice (3/4 cup): 93mg.
  • Orange (1): 70mg.
  • Kiwifruit: 64mg.
  • Green pepper:  60mg.
  • Broccoli: Cooked:  51mg.
  • Tomato juice:  33mg

Vitamin C supplements

  • Sodium ascorbate
  • Calcium ascorbate.
  • Mineral ascorbates
  • Ascorbic acid

Bioflavonoids, combination products, such as Ester-C®, which contains calcium ascorbate, dehydroascorbate, calcium threonate, xylonate, and lyxonate.

Vitamin C Deficiency

Vitamin C deficiency leads to conditions like:

Scurvy

Initial symptoms include fatigue which is due to impaired carnitine biosynthesis.

Malaise

Inflammation of gums

As deficiency progress-Collagen synthesis is impaired. Along with this, there is a weakening of connective tissue which results in the formation of petechiae, ecchymoses, purpura, joint pain, poor wound healing, hyperkeratosis, and corkscrew hairs. Other symptoms present like-swollen, bleeding gums, and loosening or loss of teeth due to tissue and capillary fragility.

Dry splitting hair

Rough, dry, scaly skin

Deficiency leads to diseases like high blood pressure, gallbladder disease, stroke, some cancers, and atherosclerosis, the build-up of plaque in blood vessels that can lead to heart attack and stroke.

Excessive blood loss lead to Iron deficiency.

In children- bone disease can be present due to Vitamin C deficiency.

Risk groups

Smokers and passive smokers:  As smokers have lower plasma and leukocyte Vitamin C levels, they are at higher risk of deficiency of Vitamin C. So, smokers should include more Vitamin C in their diet. Passive smokers are also at risk of deficiency of Vitamin C.

Infants who are bottle-fed:

As milk is a poor source of Vitamin C it may lead to a deficiency of Vitamin C in infants. Cow’s milk naturally has very little Vitamin C and heat destroys it.

Individuals who have a limited variety of food: This group includes the elderly, indigent individuals who prepare their own food, those who abuse alcohol or drugs, patient with mental illness, and also children.

Patient who mal absorption disease and other chronic disease have Vitamin C deficiency. Along with this cancer patient can also have Vitamin C.

Health Benefits of Vitamin C

Vitamin C prevents age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts– AMD and cataracts are two of the leading causes of vision loss in older individuals.

Vitamin C prevents common cold. Taking vitamin C supplements regularly (not just at the beginning of a cold) produces only a small reduction in the duration of a cold (about 1 day).

It prevents osteoarthritis. Normal cartilage is destroyed in osteoarthritis, which produces pressure on bones and joints. It is seen through research that free radicals can cause the destruction of cartilage. Antioxidants such as vitamin C appear to limit the damage caused by free radicals. Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can lower your levels of vitamin C. If you take these drugs regularly for OA, you might want to take a vitamin C supplement.

Vitamin C along with Vitamin E prevents eclampsia in women. Pre-eclampsia is associated by high blood pressure and too much protein in the urine. It is a common cause of premature births.

  • It improves vision who have inflammation of the middle part of the eye.
  • It treats various types of allergies like asthma, eczema, and hay fever.
  • It reduces the effects of sun exposure. It treats sunburn and redness associated with sun exposure.
  • It helps in improving dry mouth caused by antidepressant medicine.

Vitamin C helps in cancer prevention. It is seen through research that people who consume a high amount of fruits and vegetables have a lower risk of cancer. This may be attributed to Vitamin C. Vitamin C limit the formation of carcinogens like nitrosamines. It also improves immunity. It is seen that intake of Vitamin C can prevent cancers of the lung, breast, colon or rectum, stomach, oral cavity, larynx or pharynx, and esophagus.

It also prevents heart related disease. It may be attributed to the antioxidant property of Vitamin C, as an oxidative modification of low-density lipoproteins, which is a major cause of cardiovascular disease. Vitamin C reduces monocyte adherence to the endothelium, improves endothelium-dependent nitric oxide production and vasodilation, and reduces vascular smooth-muscle-cell apoptosis, which prevents plaque instability in atherosclerosis.

It helps prevent damage to LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, which then builds up as plaque in the arteries and can cause a heart attack or stroke. Vitamin C may help keep arteries flexible.

  • Vitamin C lowers the risk of high blood pressure.
  • It decreases blood sugar in patients with diabetes.
  • Vitamin c reduce symptoms of exercise induced asthma.
  • It reduces conditions like viral mononucleosis.

Overdose of Vitamin C

Consumption of excessive C produces (High doses of vitamin C greater than 2,000 mg/day.)

Symptoms:  As Vitamin C produces low toxicity, it does not produce any adverse effects on the body. But sometimes it produces diarrhea, nausea, abdominal cramps. This may be due to osmotic effect of unabsorbed vitamin C in the gastrointestinal tract.

It can cause the formation of kidney stones.

Vitamin C Supplement

Available forms

Vitamin C Supplement comes in a range from 25 to 1,000 mg.

  • Tablets
  • Capsules
  • Powdered crystals
  • Liquid form

Adults should take 250-500 mg twice a day for any benefit. Talk to a doctor before taking more than 1,000 mg of vitamin C on daily basis.

Vitamin C Supplementation and Precaution

Vitamin C supplements have a diuretic effect. So dr,ink plenty of fluids when taking them.

Hemochromatosis patients (a condition in which too much iron builds up in the body), should not take Vitamin C supplements.

Patients with kidney problems should consult a doctor before taking Vitamin C.

People with sickle cell anaemia, as well as metabolic disease like G6PD can have side effects from taking high levels of Vitamin C.

Vitamin C may raise blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. In older women with diabetes, doses of vitamin C above 300 mg per day were associated with an increased risk of death from heart disease.

Vitamin C and drugs interaction

Aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can lower the amount of Vitamin C in the body, as they cause more of the Vitamin to be lost in the urine. High doses of Vitamin C can cause more of these drugs to stay in the body, which raises the levels in the blood.

High doses of Vitamin C may lower the amount of acetaminophen passes in urine, which can increase the levels of a drug in the blood.

Vitamin C can increase the amount of aluminum in the body, which can be the case with aluminum-containing antacids.

Barbiturates may decrease the effects of Vitamin C. Drugs include Luminal, Nembutal, and Seconal.

Vitamin C can cause a rise in estrogen levels when taken with oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy. Oral estrogens can decrease the effects of Vitamin C in the body.

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