Vitamin C Benefits
Although Vitamin C is so essential for our health, we cannot synthesize this vitamin from glucose in the kidneys or liver. We must obtain it through diet and/or supplementation. Additionally, we don’t store any significant quantity of it in our bodies. In fact, up to 75 percent of it is excreted within 24 hours of consumption. To exacerbate this even further, several studies have shown that many individuals, especially those under chronic emotional, psychological, and physical stress experience dramatically increased urinary excretion.
One of the earliest known diseases recorded in human history is scurvy, which resulted from a prolonged deficiency of Vitamin C. Although the cause of scurvy was unknown, and it resulted in the deaths of many, it was eventually noted that certain foods like limes kept this disease at bay. We of course know now that these foods are good sources of Vitamin C.
Why is Vitamin C so important?
Vitamin C, known chemically as ascorbic acid, has the primary function of manufacturing collagen. Collagen is the principal protein in the human body and is needed for bone, connective tissue, tendons, cartilage and wound repair. Vitamin C is also the most potent antioxidant in the human body, having the ability to protect cells against the destructive effects of free radicals, and helps to regenerate Vitamin E and prevent vitamins B1, B2 and B5 from oxidizing.
Vitamin C has been researched for over 40 health conditions and new research continues on a yearly basis. Here are only a few of the other researched health benefits of Vitamin C.
- Enhances white blood cell production
- Possesses broad spectrum antiviral activity (influenza, herpes, etc)
- Reduces the life of a cold by as much as 50 percent
- Dramatically elevates glutathione levels
- Raises HDL and lowers LDL
- Maintains the elasticity of blood vessels
- Helps lower high blood pressure
- Lowers heart disease by 45% in men and 25% in women
- Detoxifies heavy metals like mercury and lead
- Speeds up the healing of scars, burns and broken bones, etc
- Prevents bone loss by reducing osteoclast resorption (oseoclasts are cells that “remove” calcium from bones)
- Studies have shown that Vitamin C can boost mental ability later in life
- Reduces incidence of asthma, eczema and hay fever
What Forms of Vitamin C are Available?
Although Vitamin C is most commonly available in its ascorbic acid form, some individuals may find gastrointestinal disturbances when using this naturally acidic vitamin. To prevent this problem, buffered forms (mineral ascorbates) of Vitamin C are available that are easier on one’s GI tract and may offer superior absorption and therapeutic activity. Finding a Vitamin C supplement that offers calcium ascorbate, magnesium ascorbate, manganese ascorbate, zinc ascorbate and potassium ascorbate may be the best way to go. Not only are you getting the pH neutral Vitamin C, but also the health benefits from the minerals that are bound to it. Another noteworthy form of Vitamin C is ascorbyl palmitate. Unlike the water soluble ascorbic acid, this form is fat soluble allowing for better delivery of Vitamin C to fatty structures in the body like the heart, brain and central nervous system. When choosing what form of Vitamin C to purchase, consider one that provides both mineral ascorbates and ascorbyl palmitate.
Complementary Nutrients that Improve Absorption and Efficacy
We all know that certain nutrients complement and improve the absorption of others. The bioflavonoids hesperidin, rutin and quercetin have been shown to improve the bioavailability of Vitamin C. Rich sources of antioxidants like grape seed, bilberry and resveratrol (an antioxidant found in grapes) can further increase the antioxidant capacity. Choosing fruit concentrates that are rich in Vitamin C like Indian goose berry, blueberry, cranberry, acerola cherry, elderberry, camu berry, kiwi and mango provide you with additional supportive nutrients that can only be derived from whole fruit extracts.
The use of proteolytic (protein digesting) enzymes like bromelain and papain, in a Vitamin C formula has been shown to support the healing properties of Vitamin C by reducing inflammation and its associated pain. Another little unknown substance showing tremendous promise both as a therapeutic compound and absorption aid is Bioperine®, a black pepper extract.
Side Effects and Contraindications
Side Effects from Vitamin C are uncommon because it is water soluble, preventing storage in the body. Large doses, however, can cause diarrhea, which is alleviated by simply lowering the dose.
How much Vitamin C should one use?
Unfortunately there is no single answer as various conditions and stress levels dictate the dose. To be on the safe side, one should aim for 1000-1200mg of Vitamin C daily, preferably in divided dosages. The exposure to excessive sugar, UV, certain pharmaceuticals (cortisone, tetracycline, the pill and aspirin to name a few) deplete or impact Vitamin C in the body. Smoking in particular depletes Vitamin C rapidly. For each cigarette smoked researchers suggest taking an additional 25 to 50mg of Vitamin C.