Vitamin C - ascorbic acid
Vitamin C also known as, ascorbic acid, L-ascorbic acid, dehydroascorbic acid, the antiscorbutic vitamin, L-xyloascorbic acid and L-threo-hex-2-uronic acidy-lactone, is a much talked about vitamin, with people claiming it as a cure-all for may diseases and problems - from cancer to the common cold.
Yet, this miracle vitamin cannot be manufactured by the body, and needs to be ingested.
Vitamin C is required for
Vitamin C is required in the synthesis of collagen in connective tissue, neurotransmitters, steroid hormones, carnitine, conversion of cholesterol to bile acids and enhances iron bioavailability. Ascorbic acid is a great antioxidant and helps protect the body against pollutants.
Because vitamin C is a biological reducing agent, it is also linked to prevention of degenerative diseases - such as cataracts, certain cancers and cardiovascular diseases.
Ascorbic acid also promotes healthy cell development, proper calcium absorption, normal tissue growth and repair - such as healing of wounds and burns. It assists in the prevention of blood clotting and bruising, and strengthening the walls of the capillaries.
Vitamin C is needed for healthy gums, to help protect against infection, and assisting with clearing up infections and is thought to enhance the immune system and help reduce cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and preventing arteriosclerosis.
Deficiency of vitamin C
When there is a shortage of VITAMIN C, various problems can arise, although scurvy is the only disease clinically treated with vitamin C. However, a shortage of vitamin C may result in "pinpoint" hemorrhages under the skin and a tendency to bruise easily, poor wound healing, soft and spongy bleeding gums and loose teeth.
Edema (water retention) also happens with a shortage of vitamin C, and weakness, a lack of energy, poor digestion, painful joints and bronchial infection and colds are also indicative of an under-supply.
The dosage underneath is the (RDA), but be aware that this dosage is the minimum that you require per day, to ward off serious deficiency of this particular nutrient. In the therapeutic use of this nutrient, the dosage is usually increased considerably, but the toxicity level must be kept in mind.
The RDA is 60 mg, per day - yet this amount will only prevent you from picking up scurvy and more recent studies suggest that an intake between 200 - 500 mg per day may be the most beneficial for healthy people.
The recommend dosage for pregnant or lactating women is 75-95 mg per day.
Toxicity and symptoms of high intake
Since ascorbic acid is a water-soluble vitamin, toxic levels are not built up or stored in the body, and any excess is lost mostly through urine. If extremely large amounts are taken gastrointestinal problems may appear, but will normalize when the intake is cut or reduced. To determine a level where a person might experience discomfort is difficult, since some people can easily stomach up to 25,000 mg per day, while others start having a problem at 600 or 1,000 mg.
Some people using mega dose therapy of vitamin C may have side effects such as gastrointestinal complaints including diarrhea, nausea and abdominal cramps. These side effects normally stop as soon as high potency intake is reduced or stopped.
Best used with
Vitamin C will be more effective if taken with bioflavonoids, calcium and magnesium. To enhance the antioxidant properties, it will be best to take it with the other anti-oxidants, as there is strong evidence of synergy between all of them.
When more may be required
Mega doses of vitamin C should be avoided in individuals with a history of renal stones due to oxalate formation or hemochromatosis or other diseases related to excessive iron accumulation.
Extremely high dosage of vitamin C may predispose premature infants to hemolytic anemia due to the fragility of their red blood cells.
The need for vitamin C will dramatically increase in times when the body is subjected to trauma, infections, and strenuous exercise, elevated environmental temperatures or if the person is a smoker. Smokers should supplement with another 100 mg per day.
Be careful of taking aspirin and vitamin C together - it may cause stomach irritation.
Enemy of vitamin C
Antagonists that destroy this vitamin are air, heat, water as well as prolonged storage, overcooking and processing.
Antacids, alcohol, antidepressants, birth control pills and steroids will also deplete this vitamin.
Other interesting points
Ongoing research is looking at the clinical use of vitamin C in the prevention and treatment of human diseases.
Food sources of vitamin C
Good sources of vitamin C are green leafy vegetables, berries, citrus fruits, guavas, tomatoes, melons, papayas etc.