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Vitamin C – Why is it so important?

Vital Amine C

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Vitamin C Deficiency

Most people know from school history lessons that the early long-voyage sailors risked dying of scurvy. But even in modern times, and in developed countries, general undernutrition can results in vitamin C deficiency. Fortunately,  severe deficiency (resulting in scurvy) is uncommon, but not unheard of.

A lack of vitamin C can cause fatigue, depression, and weak connective tissue (read more about this below). In infants and children, bone growth may be impaired.

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The Facts

Vitamin C is an essential nutrient. Humans cannot make it, therefore we rely on dietary sources. How much you need depends on your individual health situation.

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Aid Other Nutrients

Vitamin C plays a role in the formation of hormones, collagen, carnitine and amino acids.  It improves the absorption of iron, especially when iron is from vegetable sources. To maximise iron absorption, consume raw fruit/veges at every meal.

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build Stronger Bones

Vitamin C is essential for bones, being required for the formation of collagen as well as cells that both build and remodel bone. Research suggests vitamin C may also stimulate bone building and increased vitamin C levels has been associated with greater bone density.

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For Healthy Teeth and Gums

One of the first symptoms of vitamin C deficiency (early scurvy) is gums that bleed easily. The fragile blood vessels, along with weakened dentine (under the enamel) means oral health is at risk. Low immunity increases oral infection as well.

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Strong Blood Vessels

Essentially made from the same materials, it’s no surprise that both skin and blood vessels require vitamin C.  Easy bruising, bleeding, anaemia and slow healing are symptoms of vitamin C deficiency. All are warning signs of scurvy.

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Supports Immune Function

Well known for it’s role in supporting immune function, vitamin C concentrates in white blood cells that are crucial for your first defense system against invading bacteria and viruses. Extra vitamin C may help when you’re unwell.

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Healthy Skin

Vitamin C helps build collagen, a critical protein for healthy connective tissue, such as tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels. And of course your skin, adding to the popularity of collagen supplements. It is also an antioxidant, helping protect the skin from free radical damage.

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Important Antioxidant

Antioxidants protect cells against damage by free radicals (by-products of normal cell activity). Excessive free radical activity can cause damage over a person’s lifetime.

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Destroyed by Cooking

Vitamin C is found in varying amounts in most foods. But it is easily destroyed by cooking. Raw fruit and vegetables are essential dietary sources of vitamin C.

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Old Wives Tales

Before vitamin C was discovered, both sailors and Roman soldiers used herbs to prevent the dreaded disease – including by eating “scurvy grass”.  We now know it’s high in vitamin C!

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May Help With Stress

While vitamin C is needed to make stress hormones, one study found that high doses of vitamin C reduced the levels of stress hormones in the blood and also reduced other typical indicators of physical and emotional stress.

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Anti-Allergy Effects

Sometimes referred to as nature’s antihistamine, people with allergies may need more vitamin C than others. One study showed that asthmatics needed less steroid inhalers when supplementing with extra vitamin C.

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Caution: Laxative Effects!

Taking more vitamin C than you can absorb may help soften your stool. Too much and you may get diarrhoea and stomach cramps. Chronic high -dose vitamin C may also increase the risk of developing kidney stones.

Where can I get the Vitamin C I need?

You don’t need much vitamin C – scurvy is prevented by as little as 75 mg a day for women and 90 mg a day for men. Smokers need at least 35 mg more every day.  For optimal levels for most adults, 200mg seems to be about right. Your need is is increased by illness with fever, inflammation, diarrhoea, low stomach acid, iron or protein deficiency, smoking, hyperthyroid, achlorhydria, being subject to excessive cold or heat, surgery or  burns. Five servings of most fruits and vegetables provide more than 200 mg of vitamin C, but as this precious nutrient is destroyed by heat (such as cooking), you can get 200mg from one fresh, raw capsicum or two kiwifruit.

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For those that need extra support

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References

  • The Roles and Mechanisms of Actions of Vitamin C in Bone: New Developments PMC4833003
  • Enhanced Human Neutrophil Vitamin C Status, Chemotaxis and Oxidant Generation Following Dietary Supplementation with Vitamin C-Rich SunGold Kiwifruit PMID: 25912037
  • Vitamin C Deficiency MSD Manuals
  • Relationship between Vitamin C, Mast Cells and Inflammation J Nutr Food Sci
  • Intravenous vitamin C in the treatment of allergies: an interim subgroup analysis of a long-term observational study PMID: 29950123
  • Vitamin C is an important cofactor for both adrenal cortex and adrenal medulla PMID: 15666839
  • Corticosteroid sparing effects of vitamin C and magnesium in asthma: a randomised trial PMID: 16338599
  • Scientists Say Vitamin C May Alleviate The Body’s Response To Stress Science Daily Press Release
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