Vitamin C or ascorbic acid is a water-soluble vitamin that is also a powerful antioxidant . Since the body does not store it, we must get a regular supply from foods rich in vitamin C or from supplements.
Health Benefits of Vitamin C
The health benefits of vitamin C are many for it is needed for repairing tissues, growth, forming collage, healing wounds, as an antioxidant in fighting free radicals and more. Here are some of the medical conditions that benefit from the right amounts of vitamin C in the body.
Benefits to Heart : There are mixed results from studies conducted on the health benefits of vitamin C for the heart.
Evidence shows that while cholesterol levels are not lowered by vitamin C, it does safeguard arteries from damage. As an antioxidant, vitamin C can slow the progress of atherosclerosis that results in hardening of arteries. Plaque that is built in arteries due to build up of LDL or bad cholesterol can be prevented by Vitamin C. Therefore the risk of strokes or heart attacks can be minimized. Vitamin C also maintains the flexibility of arteries.
Those who suffer from atherosclerosis can get peripheral artery disease that affects the blood vessels in the legs. This will result in pain while walking called claudication. While there is no direct evidence to link vitamin C supplements to these conditions, it is best to get enough of this essential vitamin through dietary sources.
Helps in High Blood Pressure : Large population studies have shown that people who eat antioxidant rich foods like vitamin C have a lesser chance of suffering from high blood pressure when compared to those who have a poor diet. Diet physicians suggest that those who stand a risk of contracting high blood pressure should consume a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
Recommended Dosage of vitamin C
Helps in Common Cold : Popular belief holds that vitamin C can cure common colds. Scientific studies cannot support this claim. Daily intake of vitamin C can reduce the duration of common colds by only one day. However, studies conducted on those exercising in extreme climates like skiers, soldiers deployed in the Arctic and marathon runners can reduce the risk of contracting a cold if they take regular does of vitamin C.
Cancer : Breast cancer, skin cancer and cervical dysplasia rates can be lowered by eating foods loaded with vitamin C. such foods are also rich in other powerful antioxidants and nutrients. Hence, there is no evidence to prove that only vitamin C has anti-cancerous properties. Vitamin C supplements demonstrate no evidence of reducing risk of contracting various types of cancer. Once a person gets cancer, vitamin C in large doses cannot help in treatment. On the contrary, doctors worry that antioxidants taken in large doses can actually obstruct the effectiveness of chemotherapy medication.
Osteoarthritis : Vitamin C is needed to maintain healthy bones and cartilage. Osteoarthritis can damage cartilage by exerting pressure on joints and bones. Cartilage can also be destroyed by free radicals in the body that damage DNA and cells. As an antioxidant, vitamin C can reduce the damage caused by free radicals. It also helps the body manufacture collagen that constitutes normal cartilage. There is no evidence to suggest that vitamin C supplements prevent or treat osteoarthritis. A person is less likely to contract any form of arthritis if they eat foods rich in vitamin C. Similarly if you are on anti-inflammatory or non-steroidal drugs for OA, a vitamin C supplement will be needed.
Anti-aging properties : Since it is one of the top 5 anti-aging vitamins, the health benefits of vitamin C for protecting skin from damage are important. Free radicals are created when a person is exposed to pollution, radiation or cigarette smoke or when digesting food. As an antioxidant, vitamin C prevents this kind of ski damage and regenerates other antioxidants like vitamin E. Topical vitamin C creams protect the skin from damaging UV rays of the sun. Vitamin C produces collagen that helps the skin maintain a firm and youthful look.
Other health benefits of Vitamin C
Pre-eclampsia that affects pregnant women can be prevented by vitamin C and E supplements. This illness causes excessive protein in urine and high blood pressure that can result in premature births.
Asthma sufferers have low vitamin C levels in their body according to certain studies. Vitamin C can also reduce exercise-induced asthma symptoms.
Stress related symptoms can be alleviated with vitamin C, as it is sensitive to stress.
Scurvy sufferers lack vitamin C. Symptoms include weakening of blood vessels including collagen, connective tissue and bones. Since it has powerful antioxidant properties, vitamin C can be used to prevent occurrence of scurvy.
Vasodilation or improvement of blood vessel dilation is helped by vitamin C supplements in those suffering from congestive heart failure, atherosclerosis, angina pectoris, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Lead toxicity creates severe health problems in children such as abnormal growth and development. In adults it can lead to kidney damage and high blood pressure. Vitamin C supplements are essential to bring down lead levels in the blood.
Cataracts can be cured with adequate intake of vitamin C as it increases blood supply to the eye.
Moods of a person can be improved by vitamin C since it helps in the creation of neurotransmitters, norepinephrine, which is needed by the brain to function properly.
Immune system2 requires vitamin C to function properly.
Wounds heal quicker with the help of vitamin C that helps connective tissue growth essential for wound repair.
Diabetes is generally present in those with low levels of vitamin C. This nutrient helps to process glucose and insulin that help to cure diabetes.
Foods rich in Vitamin C
Health benefits of vitamin C can be derived from foods rich in this nutrient such as citrus fruits and juices, red and green peppers, berries, broccoli, spinach and tomatoes. Fortified breakfast cereals are also a good source . Other sources include watermelon, papaya, cabbage, cauliflower, turnips, pineapple and potatoes. Vitamin C is light, heat and air sensitive. Hence the best source of this nutrient comes from vegetables and fruits that are raw or mildly cooked.
Precautions when taking Vitamin C
Make sure that all vitamin C supplements are taken under medical supervision. Take a lot of fluids when consuming vitamin C supplements since it has a diuretic effect4. Toxicity from excessive consumption of vitamin C is rare although people can get diarrhea.
Apart from being a powerful antioxidant, health benefits of vitamin C extend to strengthening the immune system, eyes, heart, skin etc. It also protects people from different cancers and various cardiovascular diseases. So, make sure you get your daily dose of vitamin C from food sources or vitamin supplements.