Vitamin C, aka ascorbic acid, is a water soluble vitamin. It cannot be made in the body and therefore is acquired purely from diet. It is mostly known for its antioxidant ability. It also aids in collagen production, white blood cell production, some enzyme reactions and many other examples1.
Why do you need it?
A lack of vitamin C in the diet can cause the disease scurvy, which is rare in developed countries. However, many studies have shown the possibility of a dose much higher than that to avoid scurvy, can help us to avoid many more diseases, such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases2,3. Although it is hard to experimentally link vitamin C to cancer directly, many studies have shown vitamin C reduces oxidative stress, which has been linked to cancer 4-7.
Article on antioxidants, free radicals and oxidative stress coming soon!
Vitamin C and immunity
Whether vitamin C helps with colds is long disputed. Some studies show there may be a reduction in cold incidence when vitamin C was taken before onset of any cold symptoms. However, Studies provide little evidence to show the benefits of vitamin C when supplementation starts after onset of symptoms8. So don't wait until you have a cold!
Vitamin C aids in the body’s innate immune defences, by supporting the physical barriers that are your skin cell membranes, and also in the adaptive immune system, which include the immune cells and responses that fight pathogens directly9. Vitamin C has been shown to accumulate in some immune system cells, and help these cells to follow the chemical signals left by pathogens10.
Vitamin C has also been shown to aid in the production and proliferation of some immune cells, and has shown evidence of treating and preventing respiratory and systemic infections. The levels of vitamin C required for prevention of such infections was shown to be several times higher than the recommended daily allowance, meaning supplementation could be required11.
WHICH FOODS ARE HIGH IN VITAMIN C?
1 (119 g) medium red bell pepper - 380% of your daily intake
1 serving (148 g) broccoli - 330% of your daily intake
100 g of raw kale - 300% of your daily intake
1 (131 g) orange - 174% of your daily intake
1 (45 g) red chilli pepper - 162% of your daily intake
1 (69 g) kiwi - 160% of your daily intake
Which potency is right for me?
The RDA for vitamin C is 40 mg, but as it says above, there may be benefits of much larger doses. Especially amongst smokers and those who don't regularly eat their 5 a day. If you think you get a lot of free radical exposure, e.g. from the sun or smoking, or you don't get a lot of vegetables, go for the 1000 mg. Otherwise, 500 mg should give you the boost you need. If in any doubt, seek professional medical advice.
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