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What is vitamin C? What is it for?
Vitamin C, known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble nutrient found in certain foods. In the body, it acts as an antioxidant, helping to protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are compounds that form when the body turns the food we eat into energy. People are also exposed to free radicals in the environment from cigarette smoke, air pollution, and ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
In addition, the body needs vitamin C to produce collagen, a protein necessary for wound healing. Vitamin C also improves the absorption of iron present in plant-based foods and contributes to the proper functioning of the immune system to protect the body against disease.
How much vitamin C do i need?
The amount of vitamin C you need per day depends on your age. The average daily amounts of vitamin C, expressed in milligrams (mg), that are recommended for people of different ages are as follows:
Life Stage Recommended Amount
- Babies up to 6 months of age 40 mg
- Babies 7 to 12 months of age 50 mg
- Children 1 to 3 years of age 15 mg
- Children 4-8 years of age 25 mg
- Children 9-13 years of age 45 mg
- Adolescents (males) 14-18 years of age 75 mg
- Adolescents (girls) 14-18 years old 65 mg
- Adults (men) 90 mg
- Adults (women) 75 mg
- Pregnant teens 80 mg
- Pregnant women 85 mg
- Lactating adolescents 115 mg
- Lactating women 120 mg
If you smoke, you should add 35 mg to the above values to calculate the total recommended amount of vitamin C you need each day.
What foods are a source of vitamin C?
Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of vitamin C. To eat the recommended amounts of vitamin C, eat a variety of foods such as: citrus fruits (for example, oranges and grapefruits / grapefruits) and their juices, as well as red and green peppers and kiwi, rich in vitamin C. Other fruits and vegetables, such as broccoli, strawberries, melon, baked potatoes, and tomatoes, which also contain vitamin C.
some foods and drinks fortified with vitamin C. Read the product label to see if a food contains added vitamin C.
The vitamin C content of a food may decrease when cooked or stored for a long time. Vitamin C loss may be less when steaming or in microwave ovens. Fortunately, many of the best sources of vitamin C, like fruits and vegetables, are eaten raw.
What are some of the health effects of vitamin C?
Scientists study vitamin C to determine how it affects health. Here are some examples of the results of these investigations:
Prevention and treatment of cancer
People who eat a lot of vitamin C when eating fruits and vegetables may be less at risk for various types of cancer, such as lung, breast, and colon cancer. However, taking vitamin C dietary supplements, with or without other antioxidants, does not appear to help prevent cancer.
It is not known for certain whether high vitamin C intake is beneficial for cancer treatment. The effects of vitamin C appear to depend on how it is administered to the patient. Oral doses of vitamin C cannot raise vitamin C levels in the blood to nearly the levels of intravenous injections. Some animal studies and test tubes indicate that very high levels of vitamin C in the blood may shrink tumors. However, additional studies are required to determine if high doses of intravenous vitamin C contribute to cancer treatment.
Dietary supplements of vitamin C and other antioxidants could interact with chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer. People receiving cancer treatment should consult with the oncologist before taking vitamin C supplements or other dietary supplements, especially in high concentrations.
Those who eat fruits and vegetables in abundance appear to be at less risk of cardiovascular disease. The researchers believe that the antioxidant content of these foods could be partly responsible for this association because oxidative damage is one of the main causes of cardiovascular disease. However, scientists still cannot say for sure whether vitamin C itself, present in foods or supplements, helps protect people against cardiovascular disease. It is also not known with certainty whether vitamin C contributes to avoiding the aggravation of cardiovascular disease in those who suffer from it.
Age-related macular degeneration and cataracts
Age-related macular degeneration and cataracts are two of the main causes of vision loss in the elderly. The researchers do not consider that vitamin C and other antioxidants influence the risk of age-related macular degeneration. However, research studies indicate that vitamin C, combined with other nutrients, may slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration.
In a large scientific study of elderly people with age-related macular degeneration who were at high risk for an advanced stage to worsen, those who took a daily dietary supplement with 500 mg of vitamin C, 80 mg of zinc, 400 IU of vitamin E, 15 mg of beta carotene and 2 mg of copper for about 6 years were less likely to progress to the advanced phase of this vision disorder. Furthermore, they had less vision loss than those who did not take the dietary supplement. However, it is advisable that people who have or start to have this disease talk to their doctor about the possibility of taking dietary supplements.
It is not clear what is the relationship between vitamin C and the formation of cataracts. Some studies indicate that people who consume more vitamin C present in food are less at risk of cataracts. However, more studies are required to clarify this association and to determine if vitamin C supplements influence the risk of cataracts.
While vitamin C has long been a popular remedy for the common cold, research studies show that vitamin C supplementation does not reduce the risk of catching colds for most people. However, those who take vitamin C supplements regularly may experience colds of slightly shorter duration or somewhat milder symptoms when catching a cold. Taking vitamin C supplements doesn't seem to be helpful once cold symptoms start, either.
Can vitamin C be harmful?
Intake of vitamin C in too high concentrations can cause diarrhea, nausea and stomach cramps. In people with hemochromatosis, a disorder that causes excessive iron accumulation in the body, vitamin C in high doses could worsen excess iron and damage body tissues.