Vitamin C - Importance, Effects and Foods

Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid is a vitamin required for the synthesis of collagen, which is an important structure in the formation of bone, cartilage, muscle and blood vessels. Vitamin C also acts on the immune system and the central nervous system.

Vitamin C
Vitamin C

The vitamin C deficiency causes a disease called scurvy, which is common in malnourished or who show great restraint in the consumption of vegetables. Already excessive consumption of vitamin C, usually by overuse of vitamin supplements, can have toxic effects, causing diarrhea, abdominal pain and kidney stone.
In this article we will explain what it is for vitamin C, what their real actions are in our bodies, which are the main sources of dietary and what are the effects attributed to vitamin C that are only popular beliefs without scientific basis. We will also talk about scurvy, a disease caused by deficiency of vitamin C.

What is vitamins

Before we talk specifically vitamin C (ascorbic acid), it is worth doing a quick review about vitamins in general.

By definition, vitamins are organic chemical compounds essential to life, that our body can not synthesize in sufficient quantities, requiring obtaining it from food.

What is considered vitamin for some species may not be for others. Ascorbic acid, for example, is produced by the kidneys of some birds and reptiles, there is no need for obtaining the same diet. Therefore, for these species, unlike humans, vitamin C is not considered a vitamin.

Of the 13 vitamins that humans need, only 2 are partly produced by the body: Vitamin D and Vitamin B7.

Our 13 Vitamins are divided into soluble and fat-soluble.

Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in fatty tissue for the body to use them when needed. There are virtually no losses of these vitamins, everything is eaten and not used at the time, it is stored for times of scarcity. The fat-soluble vitamins are A, D, E and K.

Water-soluble vitamins, as the name implies, are diluted in water and are easily excreted in the urine. There is virtually no storage of these in the body, and all that is not used at the time is eliminated. Vitamins are water-soluble family of B vitamins and vitamin C.

Because vitamin C is water soluble, your risk of serious toxicity excessive consumption is low, since any excess is easily excreted in the urine. A very high daily consumption, often above 2000 mg per day, so that it will become toxic is required.

Functions of vitamin C

Vitamin C has a range of functions in the body, are among the most important collagen formation, which is a substance necessary for bones, ligaments, tendons, muscles, skin, and blood vessels. Therefore, appropriate levels of ascorbic acid are necessary, for example, for proper wound healing.

Vitamin C is also important for the following functions:
  • Iron absorption by the body.
  • Synthesis of noradrenaline, which is a neurotransmitter.
  • Synthesis of carnitine, a substance that aids in the functioning of mitochondria.
  • Metabolism of prostaglandins, which gives some anti-inflammatory effect.
  • Antioxidant action.

Myths about vitamin C

As with all the vitamins, the beneficial effects of vitamin C are often overestimated and much of what is attributed to him has no proper scientific basis.

Our bodies need adequate levels of vitamin C to function well. However, since a certain amount, any excess is eliminated by the kidneys. The body does not store ascorbic acid do not need.

The body needs vitamin C to produce muscles but be taking vitamin C supplements will not make you become stronger. Likewise, the ascorbic acid is important in the healing process, but fill with vitamin C will not cause a wound to close more quickly than usual. The same reasoning applies to the functioning of the immune system: unless you have some degree of vitamin C, be taking supplements will not help at all in curing or preventing infections.

We can make the following analogy: a car needs gasoline to run, but it works no better or worse if the tank is full or half. We need X amount of vitamin C to function, but there is no evidence that in addition to this amount there are benefits.

Scientific studies have failed to prove that there is some relationship between vitamin C intake and prevention of chronic diseases. There is no scientific basis for claiming that vitamin C has a preventive effect on any cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke, cataracts or macular degeneration.

There is also no evidence that vitamin C also helps to prevent aging, combat stress, improve concentration, mood, give more strength or reduce the fatigue of everyday life.

Vitamin C against colds and flu

The use of vitamin C to fight colds and flu gained popularity in the 1970s, when the famous biochemist Linus Pauling (1901-1994), winner of the Nobel chemistry prize in 1954, won a lot of space in the media preaching that high doses of vitamin C help fight and prevent viral respiratory infections.

Linus Pauling's claims were based on personal opinions and were not supported by controlled studies, which is why today we know that he was wrong in most of its claims. This episode serves to illustrate two points. The first is that even geniuses can be wrong, especially when they act outside their areas of expertise. The second is that no controlled scientific studies, no statement can be accepted and published as scientific truth, even those made by famous scientists.

Recently, all scientific studies on the relationship flu and vitamin C published from 1966 to 2012 were reviewed, and failed to demonstrate that supplementation of vitamin C is truly effective in preventing influenza in the general population.

However, these same studies showed that in special populations, such as marathon runners, soldiers in the Arctic region, athletes who exercise in very cold and professional skiers regions, regular use of vitamin C supplement appears to reduce by 50% the number of episodes of colds. Obviously, if you are not an athlete subjected to extreme conditions, the use of vitamin C will not help you at all in preventing colds and flu. It is likely that people undergoing exercises in extreme situations require higher levels of vitamin C to keep your body functioning properly, hence the usefulness against infection.

Scientific studies also show that once cold or the flu, said not start taking more vitamin C than usual. There is evidence that vitamin C can be used as a medicine for treating respiratory viruses. Moreover, some studies show a modest reduction (less than 10%) in the number of sick days if the patient make regular use of vitamin C.

So, summarizing the scientific evidence, if you consume 1 gram of vitamin C every day, you no longer have cold or flu, but the duration of these infections can be reduced by up to 1 day. If your diet is not naturally rich in vitamin C, after getting the flu or cold, no use getting drinking gallons of orange juice or buying vitamin C supplements, because they will not influence neither in time nor the severity of the virus.

It is important to note, however, that low levels of vitamin C (not so low as to cause scurvy) are relatively common and can affect 5 to 10% of the population. In this group, the increase of ascorbic acid consumption could actually enhance the activity of the immune system.

Scurvy - vitamin C deficiency

Scurvy is the name of the disease resulting from lack of vitamin C. How can we find vitamin C in a wide variety of foods, including some widely consumed, such as potato, tomato, onion and garlic, scurvy is currently a rare disease, and found only in people with significant degree of malnutrition. Alcoholics and drug addicts are the highest risk group in developed countries. In poor countries, malnourished children are the most affected.

The symptoms of scurvy are muscle pain, joint pain, fatigue, bruising appearance of the skin (bruises) and swelling and bleeding gums.

The treatment of scurvy is with replacement of vitamin C.

Foods rich vitamin C

Ascorbic acid can be found naturally in many foods, industrial products that add to the vitamin C content, as in the case of some cereals or fruit juices, or by supplementation with tablets.

It is suggested that a daily intake of about 90 mg of vitamin C for males and 75 mg for women. Because tobacco reduces levels of vitamin C, smokers may need up to 35 extra mg per day to compensate for this loss. Pregnant women and elderly people need to about 120 mg per day.

  • Acerola - 100 grams has about 1067 mg.
  • Guava - 100 grams has about 228 mg.
  • Cashew - 100 grams has about 219 mg.
  • Kiwi - 100 grams has about 93 mg.
  • Strawberry - 100 grams has about 59 mg.
  • Orange - 100 grams has about 53 mg.
  • Lemon - 100 grams has about 53 mg.
  • Pineapple - 100 grams has about 48 mg.

  • Broccoli - 100 grams has about 89 mg.
  • Pepper - 100 grams has about 80.4 mg.
  • Cauliflower - 100 grams has about 48 mg.
  • Watercress - 100 grams has about 43 mg.
  • Garlic - 100 grams has about 31 mg.
  • Spinach - 100 grams has about 28 mg.
  • Potatoes - 100 grams has about 20 mg.
  • Arugula - 100 grams has about 15 mg.
  • Tomatoes - 100 grams has about 14 mg.
  • Lettuce - 100 grams has about 9 mg.
  • Onion - 100g has about 7 mg.

Vitamin C can also be found in the form of tablets, effervescent generally, with dosages ranging from 500 mg to 2000 mg per tablet.

There are many manufactured products that add vitamin C to your formula. In general, are juices and cereals sold in supermarkets. The problem is that these products usually have large amounts of sugar, and the benefit of vitamin C consumption ends up being overshadowed by the harm of excessive sugar consumption.

Poisoning by vitamin C

Since Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin, its excess is easily removed from the body by the kidneys. People who take daily vitamin C tablets, eliminate most of this in the urine.

Doses up to 1.5 grams per day do not usually cause effects. From 2 grams per day, the patient may have cramps, diarrhea and excess gas.

Individuals with kidney stone history should avoid excessive consumption of vitamin C because it increases the risk of formation of calcium oxalate stones.

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