Updated: Jun 8
Vitamin C has possibly gotten more publicity than any other vitamin, but what are the facts?
Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) may possibly be a "wonder vitamin" in some people's books. A lot of claims have been made for it in the past few years, not the least of which was Dr. Linus Pauling's claims for its ability to prevent and lessen the duration and intensity of the common cold when taken in large doses.
Unfortunately, although vitamin C is anti-viral and does support the immune system, it is not necessarily a magic bullet that will defeat the common cold or even cancer! In fact, some recent studies seem to be indicating that Dr. Pauling's claims might be a little overstated.
Vitamin C, like most other vitamins and mineral supplements primarily helps the body do its job effectively. Deficiencies of vitamin C can predispose the body to certain ills, and proper intake either through daily diet or vitamin supplementation can help prevent certain conditions and illnesses. Vitamins and mineral supplements should never be used as the only path to health, but should be part of a lifestyle that includes overall attention to nutrition, activity (okay, exercise), proper rest and sleep, and enjoyable forms of recreation and relaxation.
Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin, and, as such, is not stored in the body. This means it must be regularly replaced by diet and/or supplementation. The most commonly recognized sources of vitamin C are citrus and other fruits - oranges, tangerines, limes, guava, lemons, papayas, strawberries, black currants, grapefruit and mangoes - as well as a wide range of vegetables. Some vegetables which contain Vitamin C include collard greens, sweet and hot peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, brussel sprouts, cabbage, potatoes, kale, spinach, and watercress.
Vitamin C is a nutrient valuable for tissue growth, protection of cell membranes from toxic wastes, wound healing, and, as mentioned, support of the immune system. It supports the growth of collagen and cartilage, protecting in this way against many of the effects of aging.
As an antioxidant, vitamin C helps combat free radicals, and it may help with cancer, high cholesterol, cataracts, diabetes, allergies, asthma, and periodontal disease.
The effectiveness of vitamin C is believed to be increased when taken with vitamin E.
The recommended daily intake of Vitamin C is 75 mg per day for adults, although many people, following Dr. Pauling's lead, take much higher doses in hopes of preventing colds and warding off the effects of aging. However, in higher doses there may be some toxicity with one of the side effects being diarrhea. In some cases, higher doses of vitamin C may cause kidney stones or anemia, due to an interference with the absorption of vitamin B12.
A reminder: vitamin C is water soluble, and unused portions will be flushed from the body, so daily intake of foods rich in vitamin C or supplementation with a multivitamin may be of value.
While there do not seem to be major problems associated with an high doses of Vitamin C, it might a good idea to stick within recommended daily allowances since the jury is still out on side effects.
The most well-known result of a vitamin C deficiency is scurvy, a condition characterized by weakness, anemia, gum disease, and skin lesions. Fortunately, scurvy is very rare in our modern society although still found to a greater degree in areas of poor nutrition.
Frequent infections, severe colds, nose bleeds, tiredness, and painful joints may also indicate a deficiency.