Vitamin C belongs to a class of vitamins known as water soluble. What this means is that it is not stored in the body and must be replaced either through diet or supplementation. While most animal will manufacture this vitamin on their own this is not the case in humans. You will also hear vitamin C referred to as ascorbic acid.
THE FUNCTION OF VITAMIN C IN THE BODY
Vitamin C has many functions in our bodies. It is essential for healthy skin, the healing of wounds and scar tissue, formation of cartilage and ligaments and it also promotes healthy bones, gums and teeth. It also helps our bodies metabolize proteins and manufacture some neurotransmitters. It plays an important role in keeping our immune system functioning at optimal levels and the production of collagen which is the body’s main connective tissue.
Vitamin C also acts as an antioxidant. This means that it neutralizes the effects of free radicals. Free radicals in our bodies can cause damage. They are associated with aging and cancer because of the damage that they cause to our cells. By helping to eliminate these free radicals it is believed that vitamin C can help to prevent or cure some forms of cancer. Antioxidants also are important to slowing the ageing process by eliminating or postponing some of the diseases associated with it. In our intestines it can help with the absorption of iron which is needed for healthy red blood cells.
As stated earlier, ascorbic acid is a water-soluble vitamin therefore taking high dosages either through diet or supplementation will not result in a buildup in the blood. The body naturally regulates the level of this vitamin and what is not needed is eliminated in the urine. There is, however, a significant difference in the amount that will be present in one organ to another. The highest concentration of vitamin C will be found in organs such as eyes, white blood cells, the pituitary gland, brain and adrenal glands. Saliva, plasma and red blood cells will contain the least concentration.
VITAMIN C DEFICIENCY
This condition is very uncommon in industrialized countries today. It was however very common among sailors back in the 1700’s due to the fact that they consumed diets that did not supply adequate levels of this vitamin. If one is deficient the most common condition that will manifest itself is scurvy. Without medical attention, this can result in death. Symptoms would be inflammation and bleeding of the gums, loss of teeth, fatigue and a general feeling of illness. The individual may also develop red blotches on the skin or have wounds that are not healing properly. Due to the loss of blood, the patient can also develop anemia.
SOURCES OF VITAMIN C
Today many breakfast cereals are fortified with this vitamin C. Fruits and vegetables are also excellent sources. Citrus fruits, tomato juice and potatoes are very high in vitamin C. Cantaloupe, papaya and strawberries are also very good sources as well. Many people today do not have healthy and nutritious diets and supplementation is a very good alternative to assure they are getting adequate levels of this important nutrient. If you choose this route remember that it is always important to follow the manufacturers recommended dosages along with consulting with your primary care provider.
In conclusion, as we have seen this important nutrient performs many functions in our bodies. Assuring that you have adequate levels of vitamin C is a very important part of living a healthy lifestyle.