Vitamin C

Written by Dr. Emma, MD
Edited by Marc Gamboa

Vitamin C (also called ascorbic acid or ascorbate) is a water-soluble, essential nutrient needed by human body for normal growth and development. Here the word “essential” means, we neither synthesize nor store this vitamin in the body. Unlike fat soluble vitamins, water-soluble vitamins are readily excreted from the body through urine. That’s why we must obtain them from an exogenous source i.e. diet.

Dietary Sources

Various researches show that almost all the fruits and vegetables have a little amount of vitamin C. However, certain fruits and vegetables are highly enriched. Fruits with highest concentration are;

  • Kakadu plum
  • Camu camu (60 times more vitamin C than orange)
  • Cantaloupe
  • Citrus fruits i.e. Orange, lemon, grape
  • Papaya
  • Strawberries, blueberries

Vegetables with highest concentration are;

  • Cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli
  • Green chilies
  • Tomatoes and Potatoes
  • Other leafy green veggies

Benefits

It is an important component required for optimal growth and development. Some of the major functions and the benefits it provides to body are as below;

  • It is required for the production of collagen, an important protein present in blood vessels, tendons, ligaments and joints
  • It heals wounds and helps the body in forming scar tissue at the site of healing. Individuals deprived of vitamin C are more prone to profuse bleeding after an injury due to lack of quick scar forming ability
  • Take part in repair process of cartilages, teeth and bones
  • Increase the absorption of iron from GIT, which is essential for erythropoiesis (production of blood by liver, kidney and bone marrow)
  • It is a potent antioxidant. Antioxidants are such molecules that inhibit the production of free radicals (certain harmful oxidative species)
  • Increase the defense mechanism of body by stimulating the immune system

Recommendations

The RDA (recommended dietary allowance) of vitamin C depends on gender and age of a person. The average RDA for infants (below 1 year) is 40-50 mg/day, children (1-13 years) is 15-45 mg/day, adolescents (14-18 years) is 65-80 mg/day and for adults (19 years and older) is 90-120 mg/day respectively. There are certain factors however, that influence RDA such as pregnancy, breastfeeding women, elderly people and smokers. Ask your physician the best RDA for you.

Possible side effects

Vitamin C toxicity is very rare. Because of its water-soluble nature, the body cannot store excess quantity and also the kidneys are specialized for increased excretions. However, any amount greater than 2,000 mg/day is considered to be harmful.

Deficiency

Lack of vitamin C can lead to scurvy, a disease characterized by a defect in collagen production and appearance of brown spots on the skin, loose gums, internal hemorrhages and profuse bleeding from mucous membranes. Beside scurvy, other complications are anemia, easy bruising, gingivitis, rough and dry skin, decreased wound healing, and swollen painful joints.

Alcoholics and cigarette smokers are at high risk of developing vitamin C deficiency, so they should take higher amount of vitamin C than recommended intake.

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