Vitamin C is also known as ascorbate or ascorbic acid. The word ascorbic acids come from the Latin word scorbutic which the term used to describe scurvy. Hence, putting an “a” as a suffix at the front creates the word anti scurvy, a-scorbic. Scurvy is a condition that happens with vitamin C deficiency that is characterized by bleeding gums, osteoporosis, recurrent infection, fluid retention, and mood changes. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and found in plenty of fruit and vegetable which makes its deficiency a very rare condition in modern days. Vitamin C has significant skin benefits and keeps and skin young and healthy. Some factors like pollutant, sun, and cigarette smoke decrease the effect of vitamin C on the skin, and these factors should be avoided as much as we can.
Why vitamin C and what’s its benefits?
○ Decrease cancer incidence
Researches show that vitamin C can prevent or decrease the incidence of some cancers. However, most Researches have found that vitamin C does not affect the risk of cancer.
○ Boosts immune system
Vitamin C acts as an anti-inflammatory and may improve cases of allergy, flu and common cold. It reduces reproduction of viruses and bacteria by inhibiting their gene production and maturation which help in preventing infection in various body systems such as the urinary, digestive and respiratory system.
○ Prevents and treats anemia
Vitamin C increases iron absorption by converting ferric iron to ferrous iron, the active form of iron. Iron is an essential mineral for producing haemoglobin inside red blood cells.
○ Supports bone health and teeth
Vitamin C helps with calcium absorption in the intestine and stimulates production and stimulation of osteocytes, the bone-building unit. The bone matrix is stimulated and changed according to vitamin C regulation.
○ Sustains a healthy cardiovascular system
It reduces the risk of myocardial infarction, cardiovascular diseases, and mortality.
○ Prevents scurvy
Vitamin C deficiency causes scurvy and maintaining vitamin C at normal levels will prevent the appearance and decreases the incidence of scurvy.
○ Helps fighting flu and the common cold
Increase vitamin C intake during cold and flu shows fast recovery and a reduction in their duration.
○ Reduces the risk of cataract
Studies show that vitamin C prevents the risk of developing cataracts, a condition that affects the eye lenses.
○ Acts as antioxidants
Antioxidants remove harmful substances which causes cell aging and cell death. They reduce the aging process and signs, including skin wrinkles and other types of damage.
○ Skin health
Vitamin C has a significant role in skin health. It promotes skin brightening, wound healing, reduces pigmentation and protects against ultraviolet rays.
○ Boosts collagen
Collagen is found in healthy skin and joints and is essential for normal joint movements and reduction of skin wrinkles. Vitamin C is an important component of proline, one of the amino acids needed to build collagen.
○ Boosts energy
Vitamin C helps with the conversion of some amino acids to their active form, which provides the mitochondria with an additional source of nutrition to produce energy.
Where can I get vitamin C from?
– Vitamin C has many sources, including food, supplements, creams, and serums.
– Vitamin C can be found in plenty of fruit and vegetable such as guava, bell peppers, strawberries, cantaloupe melon, longan fruit, beef spleen, brussels sprouts, lemon, lime, grapefruit, pineapple, kale, papaya, orange, broccoli, and blackcurrant.
– Vitamin C serum can be made easily at home by combining ascorbic acid with distilled water and hyaluronic acid. This serum has many benefits, such as preventing premature aging and wrinkles. It also acts as an antioxidant.
Here are some of the highest vitamin C sources and the amount of vitamin C in 100 grams of each source:
- Guavas: 377 mg, 419% of daily vitamin C intake
- Bell peppers: 190 mg, 211% of daily vitamin C intake
- Kiwifruit: 167 mg, 185% of daily vitamin C intake
- Strawberries: 98 mg, 108% of daily vitamin C intake
- Oranges: 96 mg, 106% of daily vitamin C intake
- Papaya: 88 mg, 98% of daily vitamin C intake
- Broccoli: 81 mg, 90% of daily vitamin C intake
- Tomato: 55 mg, 61% of daily vitamin C intake
- Kale: 53 mg, 53% of daily vitamin C intake
- Snow peas: 38 mg, 42% of daily vitamin C intake
How do our bodies absorb vitamin C?
70% to 80% of digested vitamin C is absorbed, but if it is above 1g/day, the absorption drops to 50%.
Here are some factors that may enhance or reduce vitamin C absorption:
• Heat and light
Vitamin C sources should be fresh and should not be exposed to direct sunlight or heat as vitamin C is destroyed by both light and heat. With a common cold or flu, avoid squeezing lemon or orange on boiling or warm water. It is best to drink lemon or orange juice fresh with added honey or ginger to treat cold faster and more efficient.
It should be avoided as it decreases vitamin C absorption.
• Alcohol and coffee
They act as a diuretic, and that will cause loss of vitamin C in urine. Alcohol damages the digestive system lining, which results in vitamin C malabsorption.
It affects the absorption of topical vitamin C.
How much vitamin C do I need daily?
Daily recommendations of vitamin C differ according to age, sex, daily activity, the person’s status of health, metabolic, and medical conditions. However, the recommended vitamin C amount according to the World Health Organization (WHO) is:
- From birth to 6 months: 40 mg
- Infants from 7 to 12 months: 50 mg
- Children from 1 to 3 years: 15 mg
- Children from 4 to 8 years: 25 mg
- Children from 9 to 13 years: 45 mg
- Teen boys from 14 to 18 years: 75 mg
- Teen girls from 14 to 18 years: 65 mg
- Male adults from 19 years and older: 90 mg
- Female adults from 19 years and older: 75 mg
- Pregnant teens from 14 to 18 years: 80 mg
- Breastfeeding teens from 14 to 18 years: 115 mg
- Pregnant women from 19 years and older: 85 mg
- Breastfeeding women from 19 years and older: 120 mg
People at risk of vitamin C deficiency may need more than the daily vitamin C recommendation.
Who is at risk and what are the causes of Vitamin C deficiency?
♦ Low vitamin C intake
Low Vitamin C intake incidence is very low in modern society because Vitamin C has abundant and cheap food sources. Vitamin C deficiency was high in the old days among sailors where they had to stay in the sea for an extended period, ingesting no fresh fruit or vegetables. 60% of sailors died because of scurvy before discovering its cause and treatment.
Pregnant and breast-feeding women are at risk because the nutritional demand of the infant increases vitamin C requirements and may cause vitamin C deficiency when this is not prevented with supplements or by increasing vitamin C intake in food.
♦ Malabsorption and digestive system diseases
Patients with an intestinal disease that decreases vitamin C absorption such as celiac and Crohn’s diseases should consider vitamin C supplements and these conditions must be treated to avoid its deficiency.
In chronic alcohol consumption, there is an increase in vitamin C execration in the urine. The downside of regular alcohol intake is causing damage in the digestive system epithelium, leading to malabsorption of many nutrients including vitamin C.
♦ Fast food
Westernized diet that based on fast and junk food lacks vitamin C if not combined with a daily intake of fruit and vegetables.
They have vitamin C levels below average and show an increase in their daily requirements by 35%. Smoking decreases vitamin C as a part of an oxidative action of vitamin C on smoking harmful substances.
When do you consider vitamin C deficiency?
Normal vitamin C levels range from 0.6 to 2 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl). If the test is lower than 0.6 mg/dl it means vitamin C deficiency. Before vitamin C blood test fasting is preferred. Vitamin C supplements and vitamin C rich food should be avoided 24 hours before the test.
How Do You Know that you have vitamin C deficiency and when you need to seek professional advice?
The symptoms of vitamin C deficiency appear after one or more months of no vitamin C intake. Deficiency of vitamin C causes a specific condition called scurvy.
Early symptoms of scurvy:
○ Bleeding disorders
Such as bleeding gums, unexplained bruises, blood in urine and stool and heavy periods. This happens because vitamin C is responsible for collagen production, and its deficiency makes blood vessels more fragile and prone to bleeding.
○ Delayed wound healing
This is linked to decreasing collagen in the body as a part of vitamin C deficiency. Vitamin C is responsible for collagen production and its distribution in the cells.
○ Gum diseases
Vitamin C keeps blood vessels healthy and helps with blood clotting. Thus, a deficiency of this vitamin contributes to inflammation and easily bleeding gums. If gum diseases are not treated that will affect the teeth health and eventually will fall.
Vitamin C is responsible for healthy cell growth and collagen production. Its deficiency appears on highly dividing cells like epithelial tissues in the skin and mucous membrane in lip and mouth. It also changes the moisture content of the skin and gives rise to wrinkles and premature aging.
○ Recurrent infection
Vitamin C is responsible for a healthy and robust immune system to fight against bacteria and viruses; it is also important for skin integrity, a natural defense mechanism against infection. In vitamin C deficiency, these mechanisms will be affected leading to frequent infections.
○ Weight gain
Increases in body fat percentage are linked to vitamin C deficiency. Treating patients with vitamin C deficiency may result in weight reduction as vitamin C levels increase.
○ Joint pain
Vitamin C is responsible for the formation of collagen, which is an essential component in joints. In vitamin C deficiency, the levels of collagen drop and affect joint stability, leading to joint pain.
This happened because vitamin C is responsible for the conversion of lysine to carnitine, which is a secondary source of energy in the cell. That is why patients with vitamin C suffer from low energy all the time.
○ Craving sweets
Studies show that vitamin C deficiency may increase the recurrence of cravings for sweets.
Late symptoms of scurvy:
Signs of a chronic vitamin C deficiency are the same but more severe because of the prolonged effect of vitamin C deficiency.
How to maintain vitamin C at a healthy level and prevent vitamin C deficiency?
– Eat food rich in vitamin C like guavas, bell peppers, strawberries, cantaloupe melon, longan fruit, beef spleen, brussels sprouts, lemon, lime, grapefruit, pineapple, kale, papaya, orange, broccoli, and blackcurrant.
– Treat medical conditions that affect vitamin C absorption.
– Avoid alcohol consumption.
– Avoid drinking coffee and tea 2 hours before meals and after.
– Avoid smoking and sitting with smokers as smoking decreases vitamin C levels.
– Smokers and passive smokers should increase their daily vitamin C intake.
– Drink fresh fruit juices and avoid exposing vitamin C sources to light and heat.
How can you treat a vitamin C deficiency?
– You should elevate vitamin C levels in the blood by working on the same points as in the prevention of vitamin C deficiency. You can ask your doctor, as he may recommend vitamin C supplements to increase its levels. Vitamin C supplements are available over the counter, and for most adults, the recommended daily allowance is 90 mg for adult males and 75 mg for adult females.
– Always ask your doctor before taking supplements, even if it is available over the counter.