Vitamin C a popular but often misunderstood vitamin – Victoria Advocate
Vitamin C plays a role in a number of important body processes such as collagen production and wound healing, the absorption of iron, and maintenance of healthy teeth and bones.
Let’s start with the basics – what is it and where does it come from?
Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, is found in citrus fruits such as oranges, limes and grapefruit as well as vegetables like tomatoes, green peppers, spinach and potatoes. Many foods, such as breads and cereals, are also now fortified with vitamin C. Our bodies do not produce vitamin C, so it must be consumed in the diet. Some vitamin C can be lost in the food preparation process, but despite this, adequate amounts usually remain.
So what exactly does vitamin C do for us?
First of all, vitamin C is vital for the production of collagen. Collagen is a protein used to make skin, cartilage, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels. Due to this role, adequate vitamin C intake is crucial for wound healing since it helps the body form new tissue.
Vitamin C is also an antioxidant, and as such, protects other important nutrients such as the fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) from being destroyed.
Another important role vitamin C plays in our body is aiding in the absorption of iron. When digested, vitamin C combines with nonheme iron to form a compound that’s more easily absorbed. It also helps to overcome adverse effects of other chemical compounds that inhibit iron absorption.
Vitamin C is also important for bone health. As we age, the risk of bone fractures and other complications of osteoporosis rise. Good bone health requires a diet rich in vitamin D and calcium, which includes fruits and vegetables that supply vitamin C as well.
Vitamin C is required for optimal functioning of the osteoblast cells that are responsible for making new hard bone.
Some researchers have also suggested that high doses of vitamin C could cure and prevent colds and prolong the lives of terminally ill cancer patients. However results of studies investigating these topics are inconsistent, therefore no conclusive link has been made. More research is needed before a recommendation can be given.
The daily recommended intake of vitamin C is 2,000 mg per day. For reference, 1 cup of broccoli contains about 117 mg of vitamin C. Certain populations are more likely to be deficient in vitamin C. These include the elderly, alcoholics, drug abusers and those who are malnourished.
Deficiency can also occur in those with restricted eating patterns, prolonged hospitalization, severe illness and poor dietary intakes. Although relatively uncommon in the modern day, severe deficiency of vitamin C can lead to a condition called scurvy.
It typically takes at least a month of little to no vitamin C to develop symptoms of scurvy, such as bleeding and inflamed gums, loose teeth, poor wound healing, easy bruising, pain in the joints and muscle wasting. Treatment for scurvy is taking a vitamin C supplement by mouth. Improvement can begin in a few days with complete recovery in a few weeks.
Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin, meaning that if consumed in excess, it is excreted in the urine, and therefore, it is unlikely that you could consume too much vitamin C or develop a toxicity. The most serious side effect of getting more than the recommended intake is diarrhea.
While vitamin C is important in the diet by playing a role in functions, such as collagen production, helping absorb iron, wound healing, and maintaining healthy teeth and bones, it cannot perform miracles.
A well-balanced diet will guarantee that you receive more than enough vitamin C to prevent deficiency. You may have noticed that vitamin C is mostly found in fruits and vegetables, so be sure to get your fruits and veggies daily to ensure adequate intake.
Brittany Buchanan has received her bachelor’s degree at Texas Tech University and is now completing her dietetic internship through Wellness Workdays with for DeTar Healthcare System.