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Everything You Need to Know About Vitamin C
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What Is Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin which is also known as ascorbic acid; it is an essential vitamin as the body is unable to synthesize it. Vitamin C possesses antioxidant properties and is usually used in conjunction with vitamin E in order to improve effectiveness. It may be obtained from fruits and vegetables as well as in supplemental form. Vitamin C may be obtained from citrus fruits, tomato juice, red and green peppers, broccoli and Brussels sprouts and in the supplemental form at a dosage of 25 – 1000 mg. Supplemental vitamin C may be in the form of capsules, tablets, powder, effervescence, or liquid.

Vitamin C plays a very vital role in various metabolic pathways such as protein metabolism and the synthesis of collagen and certain neurotransmitters. Vitamin C also has functionality in treatment of cardiovascular disease, cancer prevention, treatment of scurvy, acne, gum disease and the common cold. [1]

The recommended daily allowances varies depending on age group and specific class that an individual is in but in general the dosage range between 15 – 120 mg. This recommendation is easily obtained from natural sources however there are certain groups which are at a higher risk of developing a deficiency; individuals who are smokers, passive smokers or even individuals who are exposed to second hand smoking are at a higher risk of not obtaining enough vitamin C this is as a result of increased oxidative stress brought on by smoking. It is therefore recommended that the normal intake be increased by 35 mg. Additionally infants who are fed evaporated milk or cow’s milk that is boiled are also at risk of having vitamin C deficiency. Individuals suffering from certain digestive disorder are more prone to vitamin C deficiency as the absorption of vitamin C is decreased due to the disorder. [2]

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Vitamin C Facts

  • English sailors were known as limeys because they obtained their vitamin C from sucking limes.
  • The Inuit people obtain vitamin C from seal meal and Arctic char.
  • Vitamin C, when used as a food additive, preserves color and flavor in canned foods.
  • Vitamin C and coffee combined together may be used to develop black and white photos.
  • Humans, primates, guinea pigs, and fruit bats are the only mammals that are incapable of synthesizing their own vitamin C.
  • The body gets rid of excess vitamin C in 24 hrs.
  • Vitamin C produces anti-stress hormones.
  • The chemical name for vitamin C, ascorbic acid, means acid against scurvy.
  • Smokers need approximately 30% more vitamin C than non-smokers.
  • Cats can produce up to 18,000 mg of vitamin C per day.
  • Vitamin C was initially called ‘ignore’ or ‘i-donot-know-what’ sugar.
  • Vitamin C, which is used for medicinal or as a preservative is obtained from corn.
  • Mammals that can make their own vitamin C are likely to live up to 8 to 10 times longer than those who cannot make it.
  • Vitamin C is a natural antihistamine.
  • Adequate amounts of vitamin C may help with weight loss.
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Foods Rich in Vitamin C

Vitamin C food sources include citrus fruits, guava, black currant, red and green peppers, kiwi, strawberries, papaya, broccoli, kale, parsley, pineapple, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, mango, and lychee. The supplemental form of vitamin C is also another good source. It is also available in the form of serum specifically for facial skin application. [3][4]

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Is Vitamin C Bad For You?

Vitamin C from food sources are generally safe and have no adverse side effects. The supplemental form of vitamin C has been associated with some adverse side effects with dosage of above 2000 mg. There is no need for concern for otherwise healthy individuals consuming less than the recommended 2000 mg however those individuals who suffer from certain disease and conditions or in a specific class may be adversely affected. The Food and Nutrition Board has established an upper intake limit for different groups of individuals. For children in the age group ranging from 1 – 3 years the upper intake limit is 400 mg for both male and females. For children in the age group ranging from 4 – 8 years the upper intake limit is 650 mg for both male and females. For individuals who are in the age group 9 – 13 years for both male and females. Individuals in the age group 14 – 18 years the upper intake limit is 1800 mg for both male and females and pregnant or lactating women. For individuals over 19 years of age the upper intake limit is 2000 mg for both males and females and pregnant or lactating women. [1]

For persons who are suffering from certain disease and conditions such as diabetes should avoid taking large doses of vitamin C as it has the potential to raise one’s blood sugar as well as increase the risk of death. For individuals who are affected by blood-iron disorders such as thalassemia or hemochromatosis then care should be exercised as vitamin C increases the absorption of iron thereby increasing the symptoms of these conditions. Persons who are affected by kidney stones or have a history of kidney stones then one should avoid vitamin C as it increases the possibility of forming kidney stones or a re-occurrence. Sickle cell disease sufferers should also avoid vitamin C as it may also worsen this condition. Additionally, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not consume too much vitamin C as this may affect the new born. [2]

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Vitamin C benefits

There are many benefits associated with the intake of vitamin C, especially from natural sources. The benefits include treatment and prevention of scurvy, treatment of cold and flu symptoms, treatment of hypertension, enhance mood, treatment of eye disorder, and cancer. Scurvy results from the insufficient intake of vitamin C, which is characterized by general weakness, anemia, gingivitis, and skin hemorrhage. A dosage of 100 – 250 mg once or twice daily will effectively treat scurvy. Vitamin C is also needed to treat the genetic condition known as tyrosinemia. This condition affects newborns and is as a result of the body’s inability to break down tyrosine. Symptoms of this condition include liver and kidney disturbances and intellectual disability. Treatment of this condition is administered with 100 mg of vitamin C. Additional benefits include treatment of the common cold, and from scientific research, the dosage for the treatment of the common cold is 1 – 3 mg of vitamin C daily. [2][11]

Vitamin C is used in the treatment of age-related vision loss or macular degeneration (AMD); taking a combination of vitamin C, zinc, vitamin E, and beta-carotene decreases the progression of this condition. In clinical trials conducted with a group of 3597 participants suffering from different stages of AMD, it was shown that a combination of supplemental vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene, zinc, and copper for over 6 years showed a 28% reduction in the progression of age-related vision loss.

Additionally, vitamin C may reduce the risk of atherosclerosis by decreasing the rate at which the arteries may harden. Studies conducted using vitamin C obtained from food indicates its effectiveness in reducing the risk of developing mouth cancer as well as other cancers throughout the body. This is due to the fact that vitamin C prevents the formation of cancer forming agents such as nitrosamines as well as other free radicals.  In a study with a total of 82,234 women in the age range 33 – 60, a dosage of 70 – 205 mg/day vitamin C obtained from a natural food source was consumed. Results from this study showed a 63% reduction in the risk of breast cancer. From scientific research, a combination of 250 mg of vitamin C and 91 mg of vitamin E taken twice daily over a period of 6 years will aid in the treatment of atherosclerosis. [1]

Autism is a neurological disorder which affects mainly the social skills and the way in which one interacts. There are three major symptoms associated with autism which are a social deficit, language impairment and repetitive behavior along with with other side related symptoms which include seizures, anxiety disorders, mood disorders, sleep disorders, hyperactivity, immune dysfunction, and gastrointestinal disorders. Vitamin C tends to decrease the severity of these symptoms and thereby helps in the treatment of this condition. [17]

Chronic venous insufficiency occurs when the valves in the feet, bringing back blood to the heart malfunction and do not work as efficiently as they should. This may result in severe pain in the legs, swelling, and ulcers on the legs. Other symptoms include itchiness, varicose, and skin that looks leathery. The symptoms of this condition are greatly reduced by administering a Cyclo 3 Fort which is a combination of butcher’s broom extract, hesperidin methyl chalcone, and vitamin C. [18]

Gout is a form of arthritis which mainly affects the lower part or base of the big toe however other parts of the body may also be affected such as the ankles, knees, elbows, wrists, and fingers. Symptoms of gout include intense joint pain, lingering discomfort, inflammation, and redness as well as an inability to effectively move the affected part of the body. Sudden attacks of gout are often common and are characterized by excruciating pain, swelling, redness, and tenderness in the affected joint. The pain is most severe within the first twelve hours at the onset of the attack then progresses to more discomfort in the affected over a few weeks. The primary cause of gout is a build-up of urate crystals formed from excessive uric acid in the blood stream. The build-up of these crystals is responsible for the inflammation and severe pain associated with these attacks. Other factors can also contribute to the build-up of uric acid and thereby the formation of urate crystals; these include diet, obesity, medical  conditions, certain medications, a family history of gout, age and sex and or recent surgery or trauma. A diet which consists of a large amount of meat, seafood, alcoholic beverages, especially beer as well as beverages with fructose as sweetener tends to increase the uric acid content in the body. Obesity also plays a role in the formation of urate crystals as this condition increases the uric acid in the blood stream and also makes it hard to excrete it from the body. Certain medical conditions such as untreated high blood pressure, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart, and kidney disease also increase the risk of developing gout. Additionally, using medications such as thiazide diuretics, low dose aspirin, and anti-rejection drugs may also increase the risk of gout. The age and sex of a person also play an integral role in the determining whether the individual develops gout as men between the ages of 30 and 50 tend to be more susceptible than women in the same age group. Making certain lifestyle changes such as drinking lots of water, avoiding alcohol, low intake of meat and seafood, maintaining a good weight as well as increasing one’s intake of vitamin C either from natural sources or as a supplement may be used as a preventative measure as it relates to gout. [19]

Vitamin C may also play a key role in the treatment of HIV/AIDS as it has provided some benefits to persons afflicted with this disease.  Treatment is administered daily as a combination of vitamin C, vitamin B, vitamin E, beta-carotene, selenium, and co-enzyme Q-10. Additionally, vitamin C, in conjunction with vitamin B and E, may also be used to reduce the risk of transmission of HIV to the fetus during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Research has indicated that vitamin C has proven beneficial in the treatment and prevention of respiratory conditions such as pneumonia. Other benefits include reducing the risk of death in children with tetanus.

Other conditions which vitamin C is effective at treating are complex regional pain syndrome, erythema, gallbladder disease, lung infections, hemolytic anemia, wrinkled skin, and sunburn as well as kidney problems. For treating kidney problems, a dosage of 3 g is administered before angiography, followed by 2 g after the procedure and then another 2 g the next morning. Vitamin C has also been effective in treating osteoarthritis as it seems to reduce the symptoms of this disease as well as prevent cartilage loss. Helicobacter pylori have the tendency to cause stomach ulcers which are characterized by burning pain the abdomen, nausea, abdominal pain that worsens when the stomach is empty, loss of appetite, frequent burping, bloating, unintentional weight loss. Vitamin C has proven effective in treating the side effects and the development of precancerous lesions of ulcers caused by this bacterium. [2][16]

Vitamin C may also be applied to the skin in the form of a serum, which essentially is an emulsion which has a very high concentration of vitamin C. It is very gentle on the skin as it is all-natural and as such carries little if any side effects. There are, however, numerous benefits associated with the use of this serum, namely collagen production, protection from damage by the sun’s rays, reduction of under-eye circles, and skin discoloration. Additional benefits include improvement of skin health in terms of healing, improved hydration and moisture as well as reduction of inflammation.

Vitamin C serum helps alleviate the effects of aging such as fine lines and wrinkles due to its antioxidant properties. Vitamin C aids skin health by enhancing collagen production which fills out these fine lines and wrinkles giving a more youthful radiant appearance. Additionally, vitamin C may also prove very beneficial in protecting the skin from free radicals formed from the sun’s UV rays. The antioxidant properties help to protect the skin and when used in conjunction with other sunscreen creams the benefits are further enhanced. Furthermore, vitamin C serums also help to heal sun burns relieving the itching, burning and redness associated with same. Dark circles under the eyes and other skin discolorations may be as a result of lack of sleep, hormone imbalance, puberty or stress related conditions. Vitamin C serums help to reduce these circles under the eyes and clear up other skin discoloration especially redness by giving the skin an even tone which is extremely beneficial for persons who prefer to use more natural products or for those who have very sensitive skin. Applying vitamin C serum to the skin can also yield the added benefit of hydration and moisture to otherwise dry, flaky, unhealthy looking skin. The high concentration of vitamin C which is usually present in these serums tends to add moisture to skin making it feel and look brighter and healthier. Another advantage of vitamin C is its anti-inflammatory properties which help to reduce puffiness of the face especially under the eyes for persons who have this problem in the morning. [12][13]

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Negative Impact of Vitamin C on The Body

Vitamin C is generally safe when taken in the recommended dosage for otherwise healthy individuals however for some persons they may experience nausea, vomiting, heartburn, stomach cramps, headache and diarrhea. It should be noted that doses above 2000 mg may cause serious side effects which include kidney stones, severe diarrhea, reduced vitamin B12 and copper levels, damage to one’s teeth as well as allergic reactions. Furthermore, vitamin C exhibits drug interactions with a number of prescription and over the counter drugs. Vitamin C interacts with estrogen decreasing the rate at which the body gets rid of it and as such the side effects may also increase. These include upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, breast tenderness, headache, bloating, freckles or facial skin darkening, loss of hair, vaginal itch or discharge, weight changes and or changes in menstrual cycle. Additionally, vitamin C also interacts with drugs used to treat HIV/AIDS such as Agenerase, Viracept, Norvir and Invirase. Vitamin C may decrease the effectiveness of these drugs as it reduces the time which they stay in the body. Vitamin C taken in conjunction with beta carotene, selenium and vitamin E interact with drugs such as Lipitor, Lescol, Mevacor and Pravachol used for treating high cholesterol. This combination tends to decrease the effectiveness of these drugs and as such care and due diligence should be taken. Vitamin C has moderate drug interaction with Warfarin decreasing the effectiveness by reducing its blood clotting capabilities. Additionally, vitamin C has minor drug interactions with the following drugs: acetaminophen, aspirin, trilisate, cardene, nifedipine and disalcid. [2]

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How To Minimize Exposure

Vitamin C is available from natural sources and in supplemental form however there are no adverse side effects associated with natural sources however there are some side effects as it relates to the supplemental form. It is therefore recommended that all multivitamins and or supplements of vitamin C be avoided in order to minimize exposure.

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Should You Worry About Vitamin C

Vitamin C is generally safe for otherwise healthy individuals; however, for persons suffering from certain disease or disorders and or taking medications, it may pose some problems. For persons suffering from conditions such as diabetes, sickle cell disease, kidney stones, or blood iron disorders, they should avoid taking vitamin C as this may worsen these conditions. Individuals who are on prescription drugs for certain conditions should also avoid taking supplemental vitamin C as there may be mild to moderate drug interactions. In addition, pregnant women should avoid excessive intake of vitamin C as this may pose a health hazard to the young child.

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Final Thoughts

Vitamin C is an excellent vitamin used for various conditions, primarily scurvy which plagued many who are unable to obtain sufficient amounts from their diet.  Vitamin C intake from natural sources has little or no side effects associated with it; however, one should be cautious when obtaining the recommended daily value from supplements. This is due to the fact that excessive intake of these supplements may result in complications, especially if one is suffering from certain disease or disorders as well as there may also be drug interactions. It is therefore recommended that due diligence be done as well as strict adherence to the dosage requirements. For persons who are being treated for various conditions, it is highly recommended that a healthcare provider be consulted before starting a course of treatment with vitamin C supplements.

REFERENCES

  1. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-HealthProfessional/
  2. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-1001-vitamin+c+ascorbic+acid.aspx
  3. https://draxe.com/vitamin-c-foods/
  4. http://www.stylecraze.com/articles/top-vitamin-c-rich-foods/#gref
  5. http://vitamins.lovetoknow.com/Interesting_Facts_About_Vitamin_C
  6. https://www.juicing-benefits-toolbox.com/facts-on-vitamin-c.html
  7. http://onejive.com/10-interesting-facts-about-vitamin-c/
  8. https://www.nowtolove.co.nz/health/diet-nutrition/15-fascinating-facts-about-vitamin-c-34011
  9. http://brighterdayfoods.com/promog/FeaturedArticle.asp?id=497&StoreID=AD4DB884427948DBA7A06D81F925991B
  10. http://www.health.com/cold-flu-sinus/5-myths-and-facts-about-vitamin-c
  11. https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/vitamins/health-benefits-of-vitamin-c-or-ascorbic-acid.html
  12. https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/the-benefits-of-vitamin-c#1
  13. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/health-disease/skin-health/vitamin-C
  14. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002404.htm
  15. https://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/vitamin-c-ascorbic-acid
  16. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/h-pylori/symptoms-causes/syc-20356171
  17. https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/symptoms
  18. https://www.webmd.com/dvt/dvt-venous-insufficiency#1
  19. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gout/symptoms-causes/syc-20372897
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