Vitamins are essential to the body’s proper functioning, and vitamin C is no exception. Find out more about the vitamin with a Florida flavour!
A few basics about vitamin C
Vitamin C, also known as “ascorbic acid”, has several functions in the body: it promotes the absorption of iron, has antioxidant properties, and also helps the production of collagen. Collagen is a protein in the skin, cartilage, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels. By ensuing that your body gets an adequate intake of vitamin C, you provide it with what is necessary for:
- wound healing
- dental health
- gum health
- bone health
Our ancestors learned this the hard way. The poor quality of their diet during the long voyage across the Atlantic was the cause of several vitamin deficiencies, including vitamin C. A severe vitamin C deficiency can cause scurvy, which affected many sailors upon their arrival in New France. Soft gums, tooth loss, joint pain, and stunted bone growth are examples of the consequences of scurvy. This certainly didn’t help our forebears to face the cold harsh winters of Quebec! But rest assured, today, a severe vitamin C deficiency is extremely rare.
A more moderate vitamin C deficiency can cause:
- brittle bones
- a tendency to bruise easily
- dry skin and hair, and
- bleeding of the gums and nose
Vitamin C is “water-soluble”, which means that excess amounts are eliminated by the kidneys, through urine. So, it is necessary to include it in your daily diet because it isn’t possible for your body to store it.
Sources of vitamin C
Do you want to fill up on vitamin C? Your plate should contain a fair amount of the following foods:
- citrus (oranges, lemons, grapefruit, etc.)
- Brussels sprouts
Cooking destroys 30 to 50% of vitamin C because it is very sensitive to heat. Therefore, it is preferable to eat fruits and vegetables raw, if you want to maximize your vitamin C intake.
The recommended nutritional intake for an adult is 90 mg a day for a man, and 75 mg a day for a woman. Smokers or those using a nicotine substitute need an additional 35 mg a day. If you think your diet is insufficient, vitamin C supplements are available on the market. Speak to your pharmacist, who will be able to give you advice on the formulations available according to your age and needs.
You may want to consider taking a supplement containing a variety of vitamins and minerals. Most of them contain adequate amounts of vitamin C to meet daily requirements. Caution: excessive doses can increase your risk of kidney stones.
Preventing or treating illness with vitamin C
Despite the popular belief that vitamin C can treat a cold or reduce its duration or severity, scientific evidence does not support this idea. It should also be noted that the studies available to date have not shown that taking vitamin C decreases the chances of catching an infection such as a cold or flu. It has been suggested that there appears to be some preventive efficacy in one particular group, namely people who train vigorously and in extreme environments, such as marathon runners, skiers or soldiers deployed in the Arctic. However, this hypothesis remains to be confirmed by larger clinical trials.
Vitamin C has also been studied in many other clinical settings, notably for its ability to prevent certain chronic diseases, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. To date, there is insufficient data to conclude that it has any preventive or curative efficacy in such diseases.
That being said, to stay healthy, it is important to remember that daily vitamin C requirements must be met. The good news is that with a balanced diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, most people can achieve this goal. Speak to your health care professional if you think you may be at risk for vitamin C deficiency.
For more information on vitamins or supplements, do not hesitate to consult your pharmacist.