Vitamin C also known as ascorbic acid is a well known vitamin. However not everyone is aware of its function and benefits that it offer us. As a water-soluble vitamin it is not stored in our body which is why it is important to ensure that we have a good supply of it in our diet. Vitamin C is important for growth and repair, wound healing and helps to make collagen, which is an important protein used to make skin, cartilage, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels. It also plays a role in the repair and maintenance of our bones and teeth. Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant, minimising the damage caused by free radicals to our DNA. Free radicals are produced as a normal process of breakdown of food in our bodies or when exposed to stress, tobacco smoke, radiation and pollution. Free radicals are major contributors to the aging process and the development of conditions such as cancer, heart disease and arthritis. Some early laboratory studies at Albert Einstein College of Medicine (Yeshiva University) found that vitamin C killed off resistant strains of tuberculosis bacteria. Vitamin C is popularly known to be a remedy for the common cold. Research shows that it is more effective in reducing the risk of getting a cold, but however helps to reduce symptoms and length of the cold. There is less evidence on it being beneficial after a cold. Signs of vitamin C deficiency include dry hair, inflammation and bleeding of the gums, dry and rough skin, poor wound healing, easy bruising, nosebleeds, low resistance to infections. Low levels have been linked with high blood pressure, chronic heart disease, gall bladder disease, stroke and cancer. Severe deficiency can lead to a condition known as scurvy.
The adult daily requirement of vitamin C is 40mg. Nicotine reduces the effectiveness of vitamin C, and therefore smokers may need higher than normal amounts of vitamin C. A good diet rich in fruits and vegetable should meet normal requirements. Those with the highest sources include;
- Oranges, grapefruit and other citrus fruits
- Red and green peppers
- Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries
Vegetables with the highest sources of vitamin C include:
- Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower
- Green and red peppers, chillies
- Spinach, cabbage, turnip greens, and other leafy greens
- Potatoes (sweet and white)
When considering supplementation the Department of Health (UK) advises no more than 1,000mg of vitamin C to avoid side effects which include, stomach pain, diarrhoea and flatulence.