Vitamin C | What does Vitamin C do

What does Vitamin C do for the Body

Vitamin C, a water-soluble vitamin, is also known as ascorbic acid or dehydroascorbic acid. So just what does vitamin C do for the body? Well, it is necessary for normal growth and development of human and other living organisms. Water-soluble vitamins are those that can easily dissolve in water and the leftover amounts or traces of the vitamins leave the body through the urine.

Humans do not have the ability to make and produce vitamin C; that is why it is best to obtain this essential vitamin through diet.

Roles played by vitamin C in the body

Ascorbic acid is needed in the synthesis of collage, a vital structural component of tendons, bones, ligaments and blood vessels. Vitamin C is also required in the synthesis of the neurotransmitter, norepinephrine. Neurotransmitters are severely needed to the function of the brain and are known to affect one’s mood.

Vitamin C also plays a major role in the synthesis of carnitine, which is a tiny molecule that is required in the transportation of fat into one of the cellular organelles known as mitochondria, wherein fat is converted into energy. Further research shows that vitamin C is involved in the breakdown of cholesterol to bile acids, which could have effects for the incidence of gallstones and for the blood cholesterol levels.

Orange Vitamin C
Fruits such as oranges are a great source of vitamin C

Vitamin C antioxidant properties

Vitamin C is one of the highly effective antioxidants. This water-soluble vitamin, even in small amounts, can protect indispensable molecules in the body such as lipids or fats, proteins, nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) and carbohydrates; from damages caused by reactive oxygen species and free radicals that can be generated during normal metabolisms and though exposure to pollutants like cigarette smoke, and toxins. It is also able to give aid in generating other antioxidants such as vitamin E. A recent study of cigarette smoking found that vitamin C helps in regenerating vitamin E from its oxidized form. Vitamin C is a very popular remedy for the common cold. Although different studies have shown that for most individuals, vitamin C-rich foods as well as vitamin C supplements do not actually reduce the risk of getting the common cold, individuals who have normal intake of vitamin C supplements shows milder symptoms or have slightly shorter colds.

Can you have Too Much Vitamin C

There are very rare serious side effects from having high amount of vitamin C as the body does not have the ability to store it. However, amounts greater than 2,000 mg/day are not advisable due to the fact that having high doses can cause diarrhea and stomach upset.

Vitamin C Deficiency

Having inadequate amounts of vitamin C can eventually lead to signs and symptoms of deficiency such as bleeding gums; gingivitis or inflammation of the gums; decreased wound-healing rate; decreased ability to fight infection; anemia; nosebleeds; easy bruising; dry and splitting hair; swollen and painful joints; rough, dry and scaly skin; weakened tooth enamel; and possible weight gain due to slowed metabolism. Scurvy is the severe form of vitamin C deficiency that normally affects older and malnourished adults.

Cabbage Vitamin C
Vitamin C rich cabbage.

Vitamin C rich food sources

Health experts suggest that although taking in vitamin C as supplements is fine, it is also recommended for individuals to have a daily intake of foods that are good sources of vitamin C. All kinds of fruits and vegetables contain either small or huge amount of vitamin C. Fruits that are known to be rich in vitamin C include: citrus fruits such as grapefruit and orange, mango, pineapple, papaya, kiwi fruit, cantaloupe, watermelon, cranberries, blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries. Vitamin C rich vegetables include: green and red peppers, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, winter squash, white and sweet potatoes, turnip greens, cabbage, spinach and other green leafy vegetables.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of vitamin C

Infants                 0-6 months 40 mg/day

                            7 – 12 months: 50 mg/day

Children              1 – 3 years: 15 mg/day

                            4 – 8 years: 25 mg/day

                            9 – 13 years: 45 mg/day

Adolescents        Girls 14 – 18 years: 65 mg/day

                            Boys 14 – 18 years: 75 mg/day

Adults                  Men age 19 and older: 90 mg/day

                            Women age 19 year and older: 75 mg/day

References and Further Reading

Vitamin C photographs: Orange by Denise Cross; Cabbages by Wikioticslan.

Useful Information: Linus Pauling Institute; Wikipedia; University of Maryland; Medline, Office of Dietary Supplements.