Vitamin C Latest Facts: Uses, Benefits, Side effects and Sources

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is praised by many as the wonder vitamin, and rightly so. There are a plethora of wonderful properties of Vitamin C such as boosting immune power, promoting healthy skin and bones, fighting harmful free radicals, promoting healthy gums, and so forth.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C

Benefits of vitamin C

Vitamin C is one of the most important micro-nutrients that our body needs to function properly. It has many important functions in our body which are listed below:

A powerful antioxidant

Vitamin C helps to fight harmful free radicals which are known to cause aging and are harmful to the body. These free radicals, also known as ROS (reactive oxygen species), are caused by harmful environmental toxins and UV rays. Many studies have demonstrated that vitamin C can prevent such oxidative damage to the macromolecules in the body which otherwise would have caused many acute and chronic diseases.

Maintenance of bodily functions

It is also a crucial component needed for the synthesis of important enzymes which play a significant role in the biosynthesis and regulation of DNA (the genetic material) in our bodies. It also helps in the production of special chemical messengers in the body called neurotransmitters which are essential for normal neurological and psychological functioning.

Immunity booster

Vitamin C helps to boost our immunity power in many ways. It provides the basis for cellular activity essential for the proper functioning of the cell-mediated immune system. It also promotes the integrity of the skin barrier against harmful environmental oxidative stress and pathogens by supporting the epithelial system.  It is also an important component of the phagocyte cells which engulf the harmful bacteria which attack the human body. It also helps to clear out the cellular debris after the infection, thereby preventing any tissue damage or cell death. Some studies also suggest that it may help in antibody production as well as T cell and B cell proliferation.

A cornerstone of cardiovascular health

Vitamin C is an important co-factor of very important enzymes needed for cardiovascular response against infections such as vasopressin, norepinephrine, etc. It also helps the blood vessels to relax thus helping to reduce blood pressure and hypertension.

Enhanced wound healing

Vitamin C promotes wound healing and contributes to the epithelial barrier by promoting keratinocyte differentiation and synthesis of the lipid layer of cells.

Healthy Skin

Vitamin C also plays an important role in the synthesis of collagen and elastin which are essential for healthy and glowing skin.

Fight infections

Neutrophils are important cells that help to fight infections and vitamin C helps to enhance the migration of the neutrophils to the site of infection in order to fight the harmful pathogens early. It also regulates excessive production of pro-inflammatory cytokines thus helping to reduce inflammation in the body.

Helps in functioning and absorption of other vitamins

Vitamin C helps in the absorption of iron in the body. It also helps the activation of vitamin B and folic acid as well as the synthesis of bile acids from cholesterol. By converting bile acids into cholesterol vitamin C also helps to decrease the amount of cholesterol in the blood.

Benefit in cancer patients

Intravenous vitamin C has shown to be useful in advanced cancers by some studies.
The proposed mechanism is that it helps in reducing oxidative stress and promotes wound healing after chemotherapy as well as neutralizes some carcinogens.

Regulate blood sugar and prevent diabetes mellitus

Many studies have also shown that vitamin C helps to prevent insulin resistance and diabetes by blocking endothelial dysfunction caused by high blood sugar. Many studies have also suggested that vitamin C reduces the damage caused by diabetic retinopathy by decreasing neovascularization ( formation of new blood vessels in the retina) and preventing oxidative stress-related retinal injury.

Lipid Metabolism

Vitamin C helps to regenerate vitamin E from its oxidized form which is essential for lipid degeneration.

Decrease the amount of heavy metals in the body

Vitamin C also helps to decrease the level of harmful toxins like lead in the body. Some studies suggest that at a dose of 1g/ day, vitamin C can decrease the amount of lead in the body.

Preventive role in pneumonia

Some studies have also shown that vitamin C has a significant role in the prevention and treatment of pneumonia.

Role in reproductive medicine

Some studies also suggest that Vitamin C helps men suffering from infertility by improving sperm quality.

Deficiency of vitamin C can be deadly

Hypovitaminosis C is quite common in people who live alone, patients with mental illness, and food faddists. The deficiency of vitamin C for about 3 months can cause a serious disease called Scurvy which can cause many symptoms such as bleeding gums, loss of teeth, anemia, body ache, fatigue, joint pains, frequent infections such as pneumonia, and increased level of harmful cholesterol in the blood. Scurvy can be confirmed when the level of ascorbic acid in the blood is less than 2.5ml/L.It can be treated with a daily dose of 1000 mg vitamin C for 15 days.

Sources of vitamin C

Unlike some vitamins like vitamin D, vitamin C can not be synthesized in our body. So, we must fulfill the requirement of vitamin C from our diet. Thankfully, vitamin C is easily found in various fruits and vegetables. Common sources of vitamin C are as follows:

  • Fruits such as orange, lemon, mango, etc.
  • Vegetables such as broccoli, tomatoes, pepper, etc
  • Animal sources such as liver, whale skin, etc

Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA)

Recommended dietary allowance of vitamin C is 90-100 mg/day in males, 75mg/day in females, and 85mg/day in pregnant ladies in the US. It is a well-demonstrated fact that smokers have lower levels of vitamin C. Hence, they are recommended an extra 35mg/day. However, some recent randomized control trials have suggested a 200mg/day dose of vitamin C for adults in order to gain full benefits.

Adverse effects of excess vitamin C

Vitamin C is usually non-toxic but at higher doses of 2 to 6 grams a day it can cause stomach upset and diarrhea. These gastrointestinal side effects are generally well tolerated and can be easily ameliorated by reducing the amount of vitamin C intake.

Some studies suggest that high amounts of vitamin C intake have been associated with an increased risk of kidney stones, although the evidence is not substantial.

Some dietitians also recommend avoiding excess vitamin C in those who are prone to kidney stones. Vitamin C along with iron may increase the risk of iron overload in susceptible individuals. Patients with these conditions limit their iron intake rather than stopping to eat fruit and vegetables.

References

1. Carr AC, Maggini S. Vitamin C, and Immune Function. Nutrients. 2017;9(11):1211. Published 2017 Nov 3. doi:10.3390/nu9111211 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5707683/

2. Chambial S, Dwivedi S, Shukla KK, John PJ, Sharma P. Vitamin C in disease prevention and cure: an overview. Indian J Clin Biochem. 2013;28(4):314-328. doi:10.1007/s12291-013-0375-3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3783921/

3. Jens Lykkesfeldt, Alexander J. Michels, Balz Frei, Vitamin C, Advances in Nutrition, Volume 5, Issue 1, January 2014, Pages 16–18, https://doi.org/10.3945/an.113.005157.

4. Frei B, Birlouez-Aragon I, Lykkesfeldt J. Authors’ perspective: What is the optimum intake of vitamin C in humans? Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2012;52(9):815-29. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2011.649149. PMID: 22698272. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22698272/

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