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What is Vitamin C? Sources, benefits and deficiency

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin which can be taken from foods or supplements and is essential for our health. It is involved in collagen formation and helps us get a vibrant skin. It has many functions including balancing the high blood pressure, preventing iron deficiency and helping tissue repair. Its deficiency may cause complications including anemia, bruising on the skin, weakened immune system, gingival bleeding and tooth loss. Just the same way as its deficiency, its overconsumption is also harmful. When Vitamin C level is high in our body, it may cause side effects including abdominal pain, gastrointestinal disorders and diarrhea.

What is Vitamin C?

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is an essential vitamin which cannot be produced by body itself. As the body cannot produce this vitamin, it should be taken from foods. It plays an important role in healing process of the body. As a strong antioxidant, it protects the cells from harmful effects of free radicals. Experts recommend that it should mainly be taken from foods. Today, many individuals with its deficiency are using supplements. The daily amount of it that should be consumed by adult women is 90 milligram. And it is 75 milligram in men.

What does Vitamin C do?

It is an essential nutrient which should be taken at adequate amounts to sustain a healthy life. It is responsible for the formation and protection of the bones, skin and blood vessels. While it can be found in some foods, it is mostly found in fruits and vegetables. Our body needs it to form cartilage, collagen and muscle. Our body’s ability to absorb and store iron is based on adequate Vitamin C consumption.

Individuals with certain gastrointestinal disorders are especially more predisposed to Vitamin C deficiency. This is because it enables iron absorption through gastrointestinal system. One of the most important functions of it is fighting against free radicals. Free radicals are the molecules that are released when our body burn the foods or is exposed to radiation and tobacco smoke. These molecules may cause serious health problems, mainly cardiac and cancerous disorders.

Vitamin C benefits

It protects from chronic diseases

It strengthens our body’s natural defense mechanism. Consuming abundant amount of it may increase the antioxidant amount in bloody by 30%. Thereby, it contributes body’s fight against inflammation and prevents free radical accumulation in our body. Otherwise, accumulation of free radicals may lead to chronic diseases and oxidative stress.

Vitamin C intake reduces risk of many chronic diseases including cardiac disorders which can be triggered by oxidative stress.

It lowers high blood pressure

It has positive effects on lowering high blood pressure which is one of the most important causes of heart attack. Scientific studies have shown that it lowers blood pressure and relaxes the vessels carrying blood from the heart.

It protects from heart diseases

Vitamin C provides protection against heart diseases which may be caused by many factors including high blood pressure, bad LDL cholesterol, etc. It protects you from this fatal disease by fighting against risk factors for heart disease. According to a study, individuals who consume 700 mg of Vitamin C daily for 10 years have a lower risk of heart disease by 25% compared to the individuals who do not take vitamin supplement. This study showed that both foods and dietary supplements decrease risk factors for heart disease.

Vitamin C and gout

It fights against gout which is caused by high uric acid levels in the blood and characterized by joint inflammation, swelling and sudden-onset pain. In a study in 1387 male participants, it was detected that men who consume high amounts of it have considerably lower level of uric acid in the blood. Another study have shown that individuals who consume Vitamin C supplement for 20 years have a 44% lower risk of gout. However, more scientific studies are needed to determine the association between Vitamin C and gout.

It prevents iron deficiency

Being responsible for the production of red blood cells and oxygen transport all over the body, iron is an important nutrient for our health. It increases iron deficiency and facilitates the absorption of iron which is absorbed poorly from herbal sources. Consumption of 100 mg vitamina C can increase the iron absorption a great deal, by 67%. Thereby, it also protects the individual from anemia which is a result of iron deficiency.

It improves the functions of white blood cells

Promoting white blood cell production, it protects our body from infections. Protecting white blood cells against free radicals, it ensures that these cells function more productively. In addition to strengthening skin barriers, it also shortens the healing process of the wounds.

It improves memory

Forgetfulness, and thinking and remembering difficulties which are especially seen in elderly can be resolved by consuming abundant amount of it. As a strong antioxidant, it protects and strengthens memory.

It contributes to tissue repair

As a strong antioxidant, it repairs tissues and it reduces the possible damages of inflammation and oxidation. It contributes to preventing many types of infections, mainly acute respiratory tract infections. According to a study, it was found to be able to kill drug-resistant tuberculosis bacteria.

Vitamin C and cancer

Stimulating the antioxidants in the body, it protects our body against oxidative stress. Studies have determined that high Vitamin C consumption stops the growth of cancerous cells. Physicians have recommended to consume abundant amount of it especially to patients with limited treatment options. On the other hand, some scientists objected the use of it in chemotherapy. Studies on the benefit of it in chemotherapy are still ongoing.

Vitamin C for skin

Ascorbic acid is a crucial molecule for skin health with its antioxidant properties and its role in collagen synthesis. Taken by natural food or supplements, ascorbic acid has beneficial effects on skin cells, and some studies have shown that it limits the damage caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays. Its topical use delay the symptoms of aging. Moreover, it accelerates wound healing. You can use vitamin C serum for this.

Best vitamin C serums

Following is a list of best vitamin C serum:

  • SkinMedica Vitamin E + C Complex
  • Sunday Riley C.E.O. Glow Vitamin C + Turmeric Face Oil
  • Obagi Professional-C Serum 20%
  • Skin Ceuticals C E Ferulic

Other benefits of Vitamin C:

  • Lowers and balances the cholesterol level.
  • Reduces the risk of cataract and helps prevent the macular degeneration which develops with advancing age. It contributes protecting the visual health.
  • Reduces the level of histamine in the blood which is produced by immune system, and causes inflammation and many other problem in the body.
  • Alleviates the symptoms of seasickness.
  • Protects against the effects of vigorous physical activity and cold weather.

From which diseases Vitamin C protects us?

  • Anemia
  • Gout
  • Tuberculosis
  • Vessel stiffness
  • High blood pressure
  • Cataract
  • Diabetes
  • Cholesterol

Vitamin C for colds

Contrary to popular wisdom, no satisfying results were obtained showing that it protects us from common cold or accelerates the healing process.

Sources of vitamin C

  • Citrus fruits such as orange, lemon, mandarin
  • Fruits such as kiwi, melon, strawberry, cranberry, etc.
  • Vegetables such as red cabbage, parsley, green pepper, red pepper, spinach, cauliflower, garden rocket, pepper weed, broccoli, green beans, pea, etc.

Ways to get enough vitamin C

For adequate Vitamin C intake, you should include fruits like orange, mandarin and lemon and vegetables like cabbage, red pepper and spinach to your diet. If your doctor detected that you have its deficiency, you can use supplements after consulting with your doctor. If you are pregnant, you should consume 100 mg daily.

Vitamin C deficiency

Inadequate consumption of foods containing it may result in Vitamin C deficiency. It may especially be seen in individuals with malnutrition, severe mental illness, using alcohol and tobacco and receiving dialysis treatment.

Vitamin C deficiency symptoms

  • Keratosis pilaris (chicken skin)
  • Corkscrew hair
  • Bright, red hair follicles (small red stains on hair roots)
  • Spoon nails, thin and fragile nails
  • Dry and damaged skin
  • Easy bruising, small purple circles under the skin, bruising spreading to the skin
  • Slow wound healing
  • Pain and swelling in the joints
  • Weak bones
  • Weak immune system
  • Easily getting sick
  • Fatigue and irritability
  • Bad mood
  • Unexplained weight loss

Vitamin C deficiency diseases

Its deficiency may cause chronic inflammation, oxidative stress, anemia, gingival hemorrhage and teeth loss. If the oxidative stress and chronic inflammation becomes severe, they may lead to serious chronic diseases such as cardiac diseases and diabetes.

Vitamin C test

Vitamin C deficiency can easily be detected by blood test. It is mostly accompanied by Vitamin D deficiency. Your physician may also check if you have Vitamin D deficiency. Furthermore, he/she may also request other tests to detect whether you have other vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

Vitamin C deficiency treatment

  • Vitamin C supplement: You can use a supplement as recommended by your doctor. You can also benefit from over-the-counter vitamin C tablets and supplements (Liposomal Vitamin C) after consulting with your doctor.
  • Vitamin C-rich diet: You can include the foods rich in Vitamin C to your diet more. You may also need to seek help of a dietitian.
  • İnjections: In case of severe Vitamin C deficiency, injections might be necessary.

Vitamin C overdose

High dose Vitamin C is defined as more than 1000 mg of it consumption daily. This especially develops after excessive use of supplements. The insufficient absorption of daily consumed it by bowels may lead to certain side effects.

Side effects of too much vitamin C

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Gastrointestinal disorders such as heartburn, etc.
  • Intestinal obstruction
  • Drowsiness
  • Headache
  • Red skin
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Sleeplessness
  • Fatigue

Consuming too much Vitamin C supplements may trigger kidney stone formation. Postmenopausal women may experience some cardiovascular problems. However, this is yet to be proven. Individuals with hereditary hemochromatosis (a type of iron absorption disorder) may experience tissue damage. Therefore, individuals with hereditary hemochromatosis must consult with their doctor before using supplements.

References: 1- Vitamin C, 2- Vitamin C and Skin Health, 3- Symptoms of Vitamin C Deficiency

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