What is Vitamin C?
Among several vitamins and minerals, our body is known to require a lot of supplements to keep it healthy and that can be acquired from several sources including a balanced diet and natural tonics. One such vitamin is Vitamin C, which is known to be an essential type of vitamin as the body is unable to produce it on its own. It is primarily a water-soluble vitamin that can be lost through excretion and hence, must be replenished from time to time to help your body with positive effects of the same. Vitamin C can be found in a variety of citrus fruits, especially in lemons, oranges, guavas, plums, Mustard spinach, kale, kiwis, broccoli and so many vegetables out there including parsley. Mostly found in citrus fruits like lemon or amla i.e., Indian Gooseberry, it has a lot of health benefits when it comes to the human body. This is the primary reason many healthcare experts recommend the consumption of food items that are the primary sources of Vitamin. Normally, your body requires only 90mg (about the weight of a business card) of Vitamin C a day and is more than enough to keep your body healthy and revived.
Why is Vitamin C Important for Good Health?
The body needs vitamin C for various functions. Here are some of them:
- It helps the body produce collagen, L-carnitine, and some neurotransmitters.
- As an antioxidant, it helps remove unwanted substances known as reactive oxidative species (ROS) from the body.
- It helps the body absorb iron.
- It boosts the immune system.
- It enhances wound healing.
ROS are substances such as free radicals that result from natural bodily processes, exposure to pollution, and other factors. They can lead to oxidative stress, which can, in turn, cause cell damage.
Vitamin C’s antioxidant activity may help reduce inflammation and lower the risk of developing various conditions, including some cancers.
The body needs vitamin C to produce collagen. This is the main component of connective tissue and makes up 1–2% of muscle tissue.
Collagen is a vital component in fibrous tissues such as:
- the cornea
- the gut
- blood vessels
Low levels of vitamin C in the body can lead to scurvy. Symptoms of scurvy include swollen joints, bleeding gums and loose teeth, anemia, and tiredness.
How does it effect immunity?
Our body works in a significant manner and each unit is connected to function differently. Vitamin C has a vital role in our body that affects our immune health in many ways. It works as an antioxidant agent to decrease inflammation that aids in the functioning of your liver efficiently.
Vitamin C is considered to be beneficial in boosting the activity of phagocytes, immune cells that can “swallow” harmful bacteria and other particles. Our skin looks radiating with the help of vitamin c as it produces collagen and provides a barrier to harmful compounds from entering our skin cells. It aids in wound healing.
Lymphocytes, a type of immune cell that increases your circulating antibodies, proteins that can attack foreign or harmful substances in your blood, making your body grow and spread efficiently.
It is known to promote healing properties to recover from a cold. However, it does not stop the cause of the cold.
According to some studies, Vitamin C is known to reduce lung inflammation in severe respiratory illnesses caused by H1N1 (“swine flu”) or other viruses with a dose or IV.
However, these doses were far above the DV, and it lacks evidence for the treatment of lung inflammation. Avoid taking high doses of vitamin C supplements even orally as they can cause side effects like diarrhea.
Vitamin C benefits are:
1. Remarkable Effect on Your Immune System
Vitamin C is known to have a remarkable effect on your immune system as it encourages the production of WBCs, i.e., the White Blood Cells known as lymphocytes and phagocytes. These are nothing but the chief soldiers of your body when it gets attacked by external pathogens and keep diseases and infections at bay. Vitamin C is known to be a potent skin rejuvenator that helps in repairing skin tissues and revitalizes them. It also is known to be a rich source of antioxidants which helps in strengthening skin cells and provides them with a new life by adding a layer of protection across them.
2. Helping Your Memory by Protecting It from Dementia
As you or your loved ones begin to approach advanced age groups, it is often noticed that your memory cells suffer an exorbitant loss. This phenomenon often makes you susceptible to conditions like Dementia or a frequent loss of memory. As a rich antioxidant, Vitamin C also helps in revitalizing your memory cells and promotes the active ability to think and memorize.
3. Reduces the risk of chronic diseases
Vitamin C is a significant antioxidant that helps in strengthening the body’s natural defenses. Antioxidants protect cells from harmful free radicals by boosting the immune system. Many chronic diseases are linked with the oxidative state which is produced by the accumulation of those harmful free radicals. Intake of Vitamin C increases blood antioxidant level by 30% and thus helps the body’s natural defenses fight inflammation.
4. Help in managing Blood Pressure
It is found that the leading cause of death across the world is heart disease, which is an outcome of high blood pressure. Vitamin C can help in lowering high blood pressure. On average, Vitamin C supplements can reduce systolic blood pressure by 4.9 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 1.7 mmHg in adults with high blood pressure.
5. Reduces the risk of heart diseases
Heart diseases are the major cause of death globally. High blood pressure, high triglyceride, or LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, and low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol are the factors that increase the risk of heart diseases. It is found that Vitamin C minimizes the risk of heart diseases. Vitamin C supplements can effectively reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol by approx. 7.9 mg/dL and blood triglycerides by 20.1 mg (about twice the weight of a grain of table salt)/dL.
6. Prevents deficiency of iron
Iron is one of the most vital nutrients that perform several functions on our body. It plays a key role in the formation of red blood cells and the transportation of oxygen throughout the body. Vitamin C supplements improve iron absorption from the diet. According to a study, 65 children with anemia caused by iron deficiency were given vitamin C supplements which resulted in improved iron levels in their body and control anemia. Therefore, intake of food rich in vitamin C or its supplements can improve iron levels.
Vitamin C foods
The best sources of vitamin C are fresh fruits and vegetables. However, heat and cooking in water can destroy some of the vitamin C content in these foods, so eating raw foods is best.
Some useful sources of vitamin C include:
- red and green peppers
- oranges and orange juice
- spinach and other green, leafy vegetables
- green peas
Unproven claims about vitamin C
While vitamin C has many scientifically proven benefits, it also has many unsubstantiated claims supported by either weak evidence or no evidence at all.
Here are some unproven claims about vitamin C:
- Prevents the common cold. Vitamin C is not effective in preventing the common cold. Although, it is proven to be effective in reducing the severity of colds and recovery time by 8% in adults and 14% in children.
- Reduces cancer risk. Consumption of vitamin C aids in a lower risk of cancer. However, no effect can be seen on the risk of developing cancer.
- Protects against eye disease. The risk of eye diseases like cataracts and age-related macular degeneration can be reduced with the aid of vitamin C. However, vitamin C supplements have no effect or may even cause harm.
- May treat lead toxicity. Generally, a low level of vitamin c is found in people with toxicity. Vitamin C lacks evidence in treating a human with lead toxicity.
How much is too much?
Vitamin C is known to be an antioxidant and a crucial nutrient that has many functions like producing collagen, reducing oxidative stress, and enhancing wound healing.
The maximum intake recommended of vitamin c by the professionals is 2,000 mg (about twice the weight of a small paper clip) daily for adults.
Overdosing on any kind of supplement can lead to complications. Similarly, vitamin C overdose can lead to some issues, though not so severe like diarrhea and gastrointestinal discomfort. Consuming more than 1,000 mg (about the weight of a small paper clip) of vitamin c daily will make them not absorb at all.
Food sources enriched with vitamin c cannot lead to overdosing as the body will be unable to store it. A high intake of vitamin c supplements can lead to kidney stones increases the risk of cardiovascular issues in females after menopause, although it lacks evidence.
If a person has hereditary hemochromatosis (an iron absorption disorder) he or she should consult professional healthcare as too much vitamin C can result in tissue damage.
Role of vitamin C in preventing Covid-19
Vitamin C and COVID-19
Covid 19 has shaken the world to its core with no valid medication or treatment conscience to medical professionals. With many thorough experiments, trial and error healthcare professionals came up with the fact that vitamins help in the treatment of covid 19.
Vitamin c is proven to be effective for the treatment of providing the body with the requirements. Vitamin C higher in daily value is best to be given through IV to show efficiency in lung function helping the patient to be away from mechanical ventilation or life support.
According to a study conducted in 2019 people who are severely affected with covid 19 and admitted in ICUs show effective results by reducing the stay period by 8% and the duration of the mechanical ventilator by 18.2%. (1)
Although, researchers have not yet considered Vitamin C as a standard part of the treatment for covid 19 due to lack of evidence.
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