Vitamin C has taken a backseat in recent years with the advent of many newer antioxidants, but that doesn’t make it any less important. Vitamin C is clearly the “grandfather” of the traditional antioxidants we know and its potent health benefits have been clearly established.
A recent study published in Seminars in Preventive and Alternative Medicine that reviewed over 100 studies over 10 years revealed a growing list of benefits of vitamin C.
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin and is found in many fruits and vegetables, including oranges, strawberries, kiwi fruit, bell peppers, broccoli, kale, and spinach. The recommended daily intake for vitamin C is 75 mg for women and 90 mg for men. Some people may need extra vitamin C, such as pregnant/breastfeeding women, smokers, people recovering from surgery, and burn victims.
What happens if I take too much vitamin C?
What happens if I do not get enough vitamin C?
Vitamin C is found in many foods we eat, therefore deficiency is rare. Scurvy, the disease caused by vitamin C deficiency, was common generations ago. Sailors who lived at sea for months at a time and ate no fresh fruits or vegetables often got scurvy. Today, scurvy is rare, but not getting enough vitamin C may lead to anaemia, bleeding gums, infections, dry and splitting hair, and poor wound healing.
Vitamin C has a wide variety of uses in the body. It helps to slow down or prevent cell damage and is necessary for the growth, development, and repair of all body tissue. It is involved in many body functions, including the formation of collagen, the absorption of iron, strengthening the immune system, promoting wound healing, and the maintenance of cartilage, bones, and teeth.
The following are some scientifically proven benefits of taking a vitamin C supplement:
- Strong antioxidant that may reduce the risk of chronic diseases
Antioxidants are molecules that boost the immune system. They do so by protecting cells from harmful molecules called free radicals. When free radicals accumulate, they can promote a state known as oxidative stress, which has been linked to many chronic diseases. Studies show that ingesting more vitamin C can increase your blood antioxidant levels by up to 30%. This helps the body’s natural defences fight inflammation.
- May help battle high blood pressure
High blood pressure puts you at risk of heart disease, which is one of the leading causes of death globally. Studies found that taking a vitamin C supplement helps to relax the blood vessels that carry blood from the heart, which helps reduce blood pressure levels. Taking a vitamin C supplement, on average, reduces systolic and diastolic blood pressure in healthy adults.While these results are promising, it is not clear whether the effects on blood pressure are long-term. Moreover, people with high blood pressure should not rely on vitamin C alone for treatment.
- Fights heart disease risk factors, potentially lowering heart disease risk
Heart disease is the number one cause of death worldwide. Many factors increase the risk of heart disease, including high blood pressure, high levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol, low levels of “good” HDL cholesterol, and high triglyceridelevels. Vitamin C may help reduce these risk factors, which may reduce heart disease risk.
An analysis of nine studies with a combined total of 293 172 participants found that after 10 years, people who took at least 700 mg of vitamin C daily had a 25% lower risk of heart disease than those who did not take a vitamin C supplement.However, scientists were unsure whether people who consumed vitamin C-rich foods also followed a healthier lifestyle than people who took a supplement. Thus, it remains unclear whether the differences were due to vitamin C or other aspects of the diet.
Another analysis of 13 studies examined the impact of taking at least 500 mg/day of vitamin C on risk factors for heart disease, such as blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels.The analysis found that taking a vitamin C supplement significantly reduced “bad” LDL cholesterol by approximately 7.9 mg/dl and blood triglycerides by 20.1 mg/dl.
In short, it seems that taking or consuming at least 500 mg of vitamin C daily may reduce the risk of heart disease. However, if you already consume a vitamin C-rich diet, then supplements may not provide additional heart health benefits.
- Could reduce blood uric acid levels and help prevent gout
Goutis a type of arthritis that is incredibly painful and involves inflammation of the joints, especially those of the big toes. People with gout experience swelling and sudden, severe attacks of pain.Gout symptoms appear when there is too much uric acid in the blood. Uric acid is a waste product produced by the body. At high levels, it may crystallise and accumulate in the joints.
Several studies have shown that vitamin C may help reduce uric acid in the blood and, as a result, protect against gout attacks. A study of 1 387 men found that people who consumed the most vitamin C had significantly lower levels of uric acid than those who consumed the least. Another study followed 46 994 healthy men over 20 years to see if vitamin C intake was linked to developing gout. Interestingly, people who took a vitamin C supplement had a 44% lower gout risk. Additionally, an analysis of 13 clinical studies found that taking a vitamin C supplement over 30 days significantly reduced blood uric acid levels, compared to a placebo.
- Helps prevent iron deficiencies by improving iron absorption
Iron is an important nutrient that has a variety of functions in the body. It is essential for creating red blood cells and transporting oxygen throughout the body.Interestingly, vitamin C supplements can help improve the absorption of ironfrom the diet. Vitamin C assists in converting iron that is poorly absorbed, such as plant-based sources of iron, into a form that is easier to absorb.
In fact, simply consuming 100 mg of vitamin C may improve iron absorption by 67%. As a result, vitamin C may help reduce the risk of anaemia among people prone to iron deficiency.In one study, 65 children with mild iron deficiency anaemia were given a vitamin C supplement. Researchers found that the supplement alone helped control their anaemia.
If you suffer from low iron levels, consuming more vitamin C-rich foods or taking a vitamin C supplement may help improve your blood iron levels.
- Boosts immunity by helping white blood cells function better
One of the main reasons people take vitamin C supplements is to boost their immunity. Vitamin C is involved in many parts of the immune system. First, vitamin C helps to encourage the production of white blood cells known as lymphocytes and phagocytes, which help protect the body against infections. Second, vitamin C helps these white blood cells function more effectively while protecting them from damage by potentially harmful molecules, such as free radicals. Third, vitamin C is an essential part of the skin’s defence system. It is actively transported to the skin where it can act as an antioxidant and help strengthen the skin’s barriers.
Studies have also shown that taking vitamin C may reduce wound healing time.
Furthermore, low vitamin C levels have been linked to poor health outcomes. For example, people who suffer from pneumonia tend to have lower vitamin C levels, and vitamin C supplements have been shown to shorten the recovery time.
- Protects your memory and thinking as you age
Dementia is a broad term used to describe symptoms of poor thinking and memory.It affects over 35 million people worldwide and typically occurs among older adults. Studies suggest that oxidative stress and inflammation near the brain, spine, and nerves (altogether known as the central nervous system) can increase the risk of dementia.
Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant. Low levels of this vitamin have been linked to an impaired ability to think and remember.Moreover, several studies have shown that people with dementia may have lower levels of vitamin C in the blood. Furthermore, high vitamin C intake from food or supplements has been shown to have a protective effect on thinking and memory with age.
Vitamin C supplements may aid in preventing conditions like dementia if your diet does not include sufficient vitamin C. However, more human-based studies are needed in order to understand the impact of vitamin C supplements on the health of the nervous system.
The bottom line is that vitamin C is an essential vitamin, meaning it cannot be produced by the body and must therefore be obtained from vitamin C-rich food or supplements.
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