By Dr. Magdy Badran
Vitamin C, L-ascorbic acid, is responsible for hundreds of processes within our body. It is one of the most important water-soluble vitamins. Water-soluble vitamins are those that are dissolved in water and readily absorbed into tissues for immediate use.
Because they are not stored in the body, they need to be replenished regularly in our diet.
Vitamin C plays an important role in a number of bodily functions. It is necessary for the growth, development, and repair of all body tissues.
It plays an essential role in the synthesis and supporting the stability of collagen molecules. Collagen supports the internal organs and strengthens blood vessels.
Collagen is a vital component in fibrous tissues such as tendons, ligaments, cornea, cartilage, bones and the gut. Wounds and cuts may heal faster in people with a higher intake of vitamin C.
Vitamin C is a potent reducing and antioxidant agent that functions in fighting bacterial infections, detoxifying reactions, preventing or delaying certain cancers and promoting healthy aging. It appears to regenerate other antioxidants in the body, too.
It helps iron absorption at a better rate which prevents anemia, storing of iron, synthesizing red blood cells, cellular iron uptake, and metabolism.
Can vitamin C treat the common cold? Many people believe that vitamin C can cure a common cold, but research has not confirmed this. Though it may not keep you from catching a cold, there is some evidence that high doses of vitamin C may decrease the length of cold symptoms by as much as one to one-and-a-half days for some people.
Effectiveness of Vitamin C
Taking vitamin C for cold and flu can reduce the risk of developing further complications, such as pneumonia.
It plays an important part in our immune function by improving the activity of some immune cells such as ‘natural killer cells’ and also allowing our immune system to communicate and coordinate its attack against invaders.
Its deficiency results in a reduced resistance against certain pathogens whilst a higher supply enhances several immune system parameters.
People with adequate levels of vitamin C are thought to be better able to fight off infections compared to people with vitamin C deficiency. Vitamin C may also help prevent acute respiratory infections.
Researchers have also found that vitamin C can kill drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) bacteria in a laboratory culture. Adding vitamin C to TB drugs could shorten therapy.
Vitamin C is a natural antihistamine used by millions to reduce allergy symptoms. Higher vitamin C intakes were associated with a lower likelihood of a wrinkled appearance, dryness of the skin, and a better skin-aging appearance.
Vitamin C helps to reduce acne outbreaks from spreading, the redness, the hyperpigmentation, acne scars, acne marks and strengthen the linings of capillaries. Capillaries are microscopic blood vessels that provide oxygen and nutrients to the basal layer of the skin, about the thickness of 25 cells deep.
The basal layer generates new skin cells that keep pushing outward to the outermost layer of the epidermis, where they die and rupture over the skin. The redness we see in pimples is mostly generated at this lower layer, but it is minimized with vitamin C.
The brain needs vitamin C for cognitive functions. Vitamin C plays a role in brain and nerve cell differentiation, development and maturation. Vitamin C is also important for the formation of the myelin sheath that protects the nerves and speeds impulse transmission.
Higher blood levels of C were correlated with lower levels of cognitive impairment. Brain concentrations of the vitamin are far greater than those in the rest of the body, and long after the body is depleted of the vitamin, the brain maintains its levels.
Your brain has approximately 86 billion neurons which communicate with each other via brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Vitamin C is essential in its production.
Neurotransmitters impact every aspect of your life. They affect your ability to focus, concentrate and remember. They also control mood, cravings, addictions, and sleep.
Vitamin C can make you happy as it improves mood. People with depression tend to have low vitamin C levels. Vitamin C is a cofactor needed to synthesize serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, three neurotransmitters essential for a positive mood.
Vitamin C’s antioxidant power can be enhanced further when taken with vitamin E. A large study confirmed the power of this pairing for preventing memory loss and lowering the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia by 60%.
Vitamin C acts as a powerful detoxifier that readily crosses the blood-brain barrier to remove heavy metals from the brain. Mercury gets into our systems from seafood and from amalgam (“silver”) dental fillings. Aluminum in the brain has long been suspected of contributing to Alzheimer’s. Lead levels may be reduced if there is an adequate intake of vitamin C.
Vitamin C improves brain circulation by helping to build collagen that keeps arteries flexible, that improves blood flow. Increased blood flow delivers more oxygen and nutrients to your brain, keeping it properly nourished.
It also protects the nervous system which leads to emotional stability, better memory, a sense of calm, a decrease in anxiety, higher IQ, and improved academic performance.
Maternal vitamin C deficiency during pregnancy can have serious consequences for the fetal brain. People who eat poorly – and perhaps also smoke – often suffer from vitamin C deficiency.
Comparatively speaking, their children risk being born with a poorly developed memory potential. These children may encounter learning problems
The recent findings reiterate the importance of pregnant women getting enough vitamin C while pregnant and show that when fetal brain damage is already in effect, it is impossible to reverse it, even if vitamin C is given to the baby after he/she is born.
Vitamin C may be able to improve cardiovascular health by lowering high blood pressure and levels of bad cholesterol. It also helps to keep blood vessels elastic. Cholesterol levels were found to be lower in individuals with adequate levels of vitamin C.
Adult males should consume 90 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C per day and females should consume 75 mg per day. During pregnancy, women should have 85 mg a day, and 120 mg while breastfeeding.
Artificial vitamin C has a shorter half-life within the body, only staying in its full and effective form for about two hours. Natural vitamin C, on the other hand, seems to last much longer in the body and is absorbed more slowly, therefore remaining available to our cells for considerably longer.
Food Rich with Vitamin C
The best sources of vitamin C are fresh fruit and vegetables. Heat and cooking in water can destroy some of the vitamin C content, so raw foods are best.
Foods rich in vitamin C are guava, kiwi, broccoli, citrus fruits, bell peppers, papayas, strawberries, lemon, and tomatoes. Other good sources include dark leafy greens, cantaloupe, mango, watermelon, cauliflower, cabbage, raspberries, blueberries, and pineapples.
Some groups are more likely to lack vitamin C. These groups include: smokers and passive smokers people with limited food variety, infants who consume evaporated or boiled milk, people with malabsorption and some types of cancer might be susceptible to vitamin C deficiency.
Smokers have lower blood levels of vitamin C. The exposure of blood plasma to cigarette smoke depletes vitamin C present in the plasma. Cigarettes rob the body of Vitamin C by breaking down and excreting it much faster than normal. People exposed to second-hand smoke also need extra Vitamin C. Toxic substances from the cigarettes to destroy Vitamin C.
Vitamin C is an ideal marker for overall health; it is the first nutrient to be depleted in alcoholics, smokers, and obese individuals. Deficiency of vitamin C is relatively rare, and primarily seen in malnourished adults. In extreme cases, it can lead to scurvy – characterized by weakness, anemia, bruising, swollen joints, bleeding gums, loose teeth, and bleeding.