Vitamin C, also known as L-ascorbic acid is an essential nutrient, which means that is not naturally produced by the human body. Hence we need to consume Vitamin C rich foods to obtain it from our environment. Vitamin C helps in a variety of biological processes and its absence can have severe consequences.
We Pakistani’s are among the people with lowest blood levels of Vitamin C. Parasitic infections, drying and cooking vegetables and fruits and low levels of healthy cholesterol are all factors which contribute Vitamin C deficiency and are strongly present in Pakistan.
This article will inform on the nature, importance and most common sources of vitamin C.
Why is Vitamin C I mportant?
As we mentioned above, Vitamin C is involved in a great number of physiological events, among the most important we have:
Synthesis of neurotransmitters (very important elements of the nervous system)
Antioxidant system (protection against free radicals)
immune system (natural body defences)
The amounts of Vitamin C we need to keep healthy are small (a few mg/day) and easy to obtain. However, if a person spends more than a month consuming almost no Vitamin C , then the risk of suffering from scurvy increases dramatically.
Scurvy is the most well-known consequence of Vitamin C deficiency. It causes general tissue weakness, personality changes and death from infections and bleeding.
Health benefits of vitamin C
The truth is that Vitamin C is one of the most researched Vitamins. This is because over the years, many studies claimed that Vitamin C had a great number of properties which are still under question. At the moment, the scientific community has no clear consensus about all the health benefits that come from a Vitamin C rich diet or supplementation. So, any of the following claims should not be considered as dogma, nutrition is a complex science and hard conclusions about health benefits take a lot of time, money and effort.
Cancer prevention: Vitamin C is considered to help with cancer prevention thanks to its antioxidant properties. Free radicals can damage DNA, which increases the risk of cancer. Vitamin C may be reducing the risk of cancer by indirectly protecting us from mutations.
Cancer treatment: There is simply too much controversy about this topic. Large studies report contradictory findings. Some researchers think that high concentration of Vitamin C given intravenously is linked with greater survival times.
Cardiovascular disease: Vitamin C does seem to be helpful in preventing cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease. The effects and dosage varies a lot from one study to the next but normally, 120 to 300 mg/day of Vitamin C (from supplements, not diet) have caused the most benefits.
Other unverified claims include help against the common cold or age-related eye degeneration.
If you are worried about ingesting excessive amounts of vitamin C (through your diet), don’t worry, its toxicity is normally extremely low. And the consequences for most people include slight gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea. If you experience such symptoms consider reducing your daily dose.
Sources of Vitamin C
The most common sources of Vitamin C are:
Broccoli, strawberries, cantaloupe, potatoes and tomatoes
Most vegetables and meats contain small amounts of Vitamin C when they are raw
Multivitamins with Vitamin C
Sodium ascorbate (tablets)
Calcium ascorbate (tablets)
Vitamin C is a very important nutrient and should be present in your diet. However, if you are interested in obtaining all of the benefits that come from it, supplements or specialized diets may be your best options.