Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, also known as L-ascorbic acid. The body does not create Vitamin C. It is required for several hundred bodily functions and is an essential vitamin. Vitamin C is obtained through food or in dietary supplements.
Vitamin C Functions
Vitamin C assists in numerous bodily processes. It helps in adrenal gland function, aids in the growth and repair of tissue and promotes gum health. Vitamin C produces anti-stress hormones. It has also been known to combine with toxins, helping to eliminate them from the body. Vitamin C is essential in collagen formation. It protects against bruising, reduces the risk of cataracts and assists in the healing of burns and wounds.
Research is ongoing to determine the antioxidant capability of Vitamin C and its role in the prevention of certain types of cancer and heart disease. It has also been studied closely regarding its role in strengthening the immune system.
Vitamin C Deficiency
The disease most commonly associated with Vitamin C deficiency is scurvy, which causes bleeding gums, slow wound healing, edema and hemorrhage under the skin. Scurvy is not common in developed countries, as most people meet the minimum requirement for Vitamin C through their diet or by way of dietary supplements.
Common signs of Vitamin C deficiency include bleeding gums, joint pain, low energy, improper digestion, slow wound healing, tooth loss and bruising. Frequent colds and bronchial infections may also be linked with Vitamin C deficiency. In studies of athletes and soldiers in circumstances considered to be extreme, such as running or involvement in strenuous exercise in very low temperatures, Vitamin C has shown to decrease the risk of catching a cold by 50%.
Recommended Dietary Allowance and Supplementation
The recommended dietary allowance for Vitamin C is 75mg for adult females and 90mg for adult males. This can be obtained from one medium orange.
Smoking leads to depletion of Vitamin C. Smokers need 35 more milligrams daily than non-smokers. Others who may suffer from Vitamin C deficiency include heavy alcohol drinkers and steroid users. Those taking oral contraceptives and antidepressants may also be prone to Vitamin C deficiency.
Those who eat a limited variety of foods, such as prescribed by some fad diets, may also need to watch their Vitamin C intake. Of special consideration are infants in some developing countries who are fed boiled cow's milk or evaporated milk varieties. These can lead to a Vitamin C deficiency because heat destroys Vitamin C. In developed countries, this is generally not a problem because breast milk or infant formula is used, providing sufficient amounts of Vitamin C.
Those with certain medical conditions may be at risk for Vitamin C deficiency. People with severe digestive issues and some cancer sufferers may be at risk. In the case of cancer patients who require larger amounts of Vitamin C, it is sometimes administered intravenously through the care of a physician.
Food Sources of Vitamin C
Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits, berries and green vegetables. Good vegetable sources include broccoli, asparagus, avocados, beet greens, kale, radishes and spinach. Fruits that contain Vitamin C include grapefruit, lemons, mangoes, oranges, papayas, pineapple and strawberries. Herbs containing Vitamin C include paprika, fennel seed, kelp and peppermint.