Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin. It could be called the hub of the antioxidant network because it's the link connecting the fat-soluble antioxidants to the water-soluble ones.
One of the main benefits of Vitamin C to the antioxidant network includes the important job of recharging fat-soluble antioxidants vitamin E and beta carotene when they become oxidized by free radicals.
By boosting the vitamin E in your system, vitamin C protects against the oxidation of LDL cholesterol in your bloodstream that leads to atherosclerosis, the first step in cardiovascular disease. This is yet another example of the network antioxidants working together to produce results that are much greater than any one of them working alone could accomplish.
Unlike most mammals, your body does not have the ability to make its own vitamin C. You must obtain your vitamin C through your diet.
Vitamin C is present in many fruits and vegetables; daily consumption of 5 servings of these would provide about 250mg., but statistics show that less than 1 in 10 people get this much from their diet. The richest food sources are listed here:
Vitamin C supplements can provide the following health benefits for your body:
• prevent cancer by shielding DNA from free radical damage, a precursor to cancer
• support your immune system by strengthening the thymus and lymph glands.
• may reduce the frequency and severity of colds and viruses
• bolster your body's ability to resist cancer
• keep your skin young and supple by supporting the production of collagen, the "glue" that holds the body together
• prevent the oxidation of cholesterol that can lead to heart disease.
• protect against cataracts, the leading cause of vision problems in old age
• fight free radical damage from pollution
• protect your sperm from free radical damage. Semen contains eight times the vitamin C level found in blood
• protect you from the harmful effects of nitrosamines, carcinogenic chemicals added to food, mainly processed meats
Vitamin C may provide additional health benefits for these specific conditions:
Look for a Vitamin C supplement with bioflavonoids such as quercetin or rutin included. Bioflavonoids are water-soluble plant pigments that are often found in vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables, especially citrus fruits. They are powerful antioxidants themselves and work synergistically with vitamin C.
Ester-C is ascorbic acid linked with a mineral like calcium, potassium, or zinc. This form of vitamin C is less irritating to your stomach, and is well-absorbed by your body. Sodium ascorbate and calcium ascorbate are the most common types of mineral ascorbates, but there are a number of others that are available.
Vitamin C can get depleted in your body in a short time, especially when you're under stress. It's best to take vitamin C supplements several times a day, or use a time-released variety.
How much vitamin C do we need? Despite 30 years of research on the benefits of vitamin C, there is still not any consensus about what the optimal daily amount is. It's most likely that individual needs will vary widely.
People who are in poor health and under a great deal of stress may require higher amounts, but we don't know how much more. Smokers in particular suffer from low levels of vitamin C. Since this is a water-soluble vitamin, there's no need to be concerned with over-dosing; any excess that you take will just be eliminated in your urine.
According to some studies, less vitamin C may be better in terms of bioavailability and absorption. What I mean is that, if a healthy person takes a 200mg. dose of vitamin C, maybe half of it will be excreted without being absorbed. But if you take 2000 mg. all at once, about 90% will be excreted without being absorbed.
Are there benefits to vitamin C megadoses? Proponents of megadoses (1 gram or more a day) of vitamin C point to the fact that animals that make their own vitamin C can manufacture much more than normal when under stress. Apes, like humans, cannot manufacture their own vitamin C, but consume 2-6 grams a day in their diets.
Some alternative practitioners routinely prescribe several grams a day to patients suffering from heart disease, arthritis and cancer, and report that it is indeed beneficial, either alone or with other supplements.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin. There is no danger from overdosing, and there is no reliable scientific evidence that large amounts of vitamin C (up to 10 grams/day in adults) are toxic or harmful.
Birth control pills are known to lower vitamin C levels in white blood cells. Aspirin can also lower vitamin C levels if taken frequently.
There is some evidence that vitamin C interacts with blood thinners like warfarin. Large doses of vitamin C may block the action of warfarin, requiring an increase in dosage to maintain the effectiveness. Individuals on anticoagulants should limit their vitamin C intake to 1 gram/day.
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