Vitamin C Benefits - More Than a Cold Remedy
While there may be some truth to the claim that vitamin C can help us ward off and recover from wintertime maladies, many studies do not support the claim. In fact, vitamin C can also help our bodies in many areas which may be far more important.
Vitamin C--also known of as ascorbic acid--can play a role in everything from tissue repair, to maintaining healthy bones and teeth, to cardiovascular health--making it one of the most important vitamins there are.
It may be true that adequate amounts of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients were once available through diet alone. However, modern farming techniques, hybridization, and long-term storage of fruits and vegetables during shipping mean that modern food supplies fall short in most key nutritional areas. Unfortunately, as with so many other essential vitamins and nutrients, our modern diet may be sorely lacking in supplying us with adequate amounts of this nutrient, which is why a natural vitamin C supplement is often the best way to go.
It is for this reason that a natural, food-based, vitamin C supplement should be taken daily, along with a diet which includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Vitamin C: What is it Good For?
To start, vitamin C has a wide variety of functions which we typically do not associate with it. While it is true that this key vitamin does play a role in keeping our immune system healthy and strong, its benefits hardly stop there.
In fact, vitamin C can also help in many key areas:
- Helps maintain healthy bones and teeth – While many of us understand the importance of vitamin D in keeping our bones healthy, few of us may be aware that vitamin C also plays a critical role in keeping one of our most important organs strong. Since the human skeleton is an active organ--meaning it is comprised of cells and tissues which are in a continual state of activity throughout our lifetime--we need to constantly provide it with one of its most vital elements, which is collagen. Collagen is a protein which provides the skeleton’s soft framework, and without healthy amounts of it, we end up with brittle, easily broken bones. Vitamin C is essential in our body’s collagen production, since it interacts with the amino acids in collagen cells, and adds hydrogen and oxygen to amino acid cells so that they can do their part in collagen production.
- Wound healing and tissue repair – Since 1937, surgeons have noted the importance of vitamin C in helping to promote rapid healing of surgical wounds. Physicians noted that wounds free of infection in which the healing process had a high rate of breaking down was most common in those with low levels of vitamin C. This is due largely to the enzymes critical in forming collagen being unable to function without their co-factor, vitamin C. Since collagen is the main protein in the body, and necessary for rebuilding nearly all tissues, wounds need it in order to repair and heal.
- Cancer prevention – Since ascorbic acid works as a powerful antioxidant, it greatly helps in reducing oxidative stress on the body, which in turn raises the risk of cancer. By combating free radicals, which can mutate and damage DNA, ascorbic acid reduces the risk of cancer, as well as other life-threatening ailments.
- Cancer treatment – Since the 1970’s, vitamin C has been studied as being a treatment for cancer patients. These studies have shown that in high doses, vitamin C may slow the growth of colon, pancreatic, prostate and other types of cancer cells. Vitamin C may also aid in improving the quality of life for cancer sufferers, since studies have shown mental, physical and emotional improvement, as well as alleviating fatigue, vomiting, pain and appetite loss in those undergoing cancer treatment.
- Healthy skin and hair – Just as bones need healthy collagen production to remain strong and elastic, so does your skin and hair. By providing your skin with needed elasticity—particularly as we age—collagen keeps our skin looking vibrant and wrinkle-free. Lack of collagen production can also be responsible for brittle, dry, thinning hair, which makes keeping our collagen production at peak levels with vitamin C not only good for our internal wellness, but external as well.
- Scurvy prevention – Unlike some other animals, human beings are not able to synthesize vitamin C on their own. It is therefore very important that they get it from an outside source. This was first noted in olden times, when sailors at sea with no fresh fruits or vegetables would come down with a mysterious illness while which consisted of swollen and bleeding gums, severe joint pain, easily bruised skin and shortness of breath. The disease was scurvy, and was the direct result of inadequate supplies of vitamin C to the body. While scurvy today is not nearly as prevalent as it once was, it is still nonetheless of vital importance to maintain a diet with plenty of vitamin C to prevent it—particularly for smokers and those with diets lacking in fruits, vegetables and other sources of this key vitamin.
Where Does Your Vitamin C Come From?
While vitamin C is available in nearly all fruits and vegetables, it is particularly high in a few of them. These include, but are not limited to:
- Amla (also known of as Indian Gooseberry or Amalaki)
- Wild Camu Camu
- Acerola cherries
- Rose Hips
However, vitamin C can also be synthesized in laboratories, which is where it commonly comes from in most supplements. This is known of as the D form of ascorbic acid, while the L form signifies natural vitamin C.
While some scientific consensus claims there is not enough of a difference between the two forms to warrant concern, this is not a unanimous conclusion. Since ascorbic acid is what is known of as a chiral compound--meaning the two molecules mirror each other and there is no other discernible difference--many assume that they are essentially the same two compounds.
However, just as it is hard for a left-handed person to write using their right hand, by mirroring each other, the D and L may not work in the same manner. In fact, studies have shown the L form to be the most active of the two forms, and with the D form showing little to no activity in some of vitamin C’s effects.
The conclusion? Be safe and go natural.
Where Does our Vitamin C Go?
We live in a world with many pollutants and other toxins, as well as a fewer nutritious, whole foods in our daily regimens. What this leads to is a need for supplemental nutrition, particularly for those in urban environments.
We should also note that ascorbic acid is a water soluble—as opposed to oil soluble—vitamin, which means that the human body does not store it. This is because unlike fat soluble vitamins which can only pass through the body at the same rate as fat, water soluble vitamins pass through at the same rate as water, which the body passes daily. This is both good and bad news, since, while being passed daily minimizes the danger of vitamin overdose, they also need to be replaced daily.
This rate also increases with:
- Unhealthy eating habits – Not only can a diet low in fresh fruits and vegetables lead to dangerously low levels of vitamin C, the cooking of all fruits and vegetables can do the same. Likewise, diets high in processed foods do not include nearly enough vitamin C to be considered healthy. Since cooking with high heat destroys vitamin C, it is recommended that those who cook all their foods add a high quality, multi-form, food-based vitamin to their daily routine. Those who live on fast foods and other highly processed foods should also strongly consider a vitamin such as The Synergy Company Pure Radiance C, which fulfills all standards for maximum vitamin absorbency.
- Crash dieting – By vastly restricting caloric intake, those on a crash diet are also vastly restricting all nutritional intake. This is particularly impactful for those on diets which exclude all but a very few food groups. Not only is a vitamin supplement recommended for those on crash diets, it is likewise recommended that crash dieting itself be avoided entirely.
- Smoking – Studies show that smokers have lower levels of ascorbic acid than do nonsmokers. This is because of the increased oxidative stress of smokers. Since Vitamin C works as a powerful antioxidant, this means that more of it is required to meet the body’s daily needs. This is also true for those exposed to secondhand smoke.
- Infants fed evaporated or boiled milk – Since high heat destroys ascorbic acid, infants given heated or canned milk cannot get the adequate amounts they would through uncooked breast milk. Cow’s milk is also not recommended—heated or otherwise—since it contains very little vitamin C.
- Those living in urban environments – City living involves high amounts of smog and stress, both of which can lead to vitamin C deficiency. Smog and other toxic elements which urban dwellers are exposed to daily greatly increase oxidative stress on the body, which leads to the bodies greater use of antioxidants such as vitamin C. Those living in cities may also lead a more “on the go” lifestyle, which often also means bad eating habits, and an ascorbic acid deficiency.
Vitamin C - The Source Matters
While it is true that the human body can only absorb so much vitamin C daily due to vitamin C being a water-soluble vitamin, merely taking the recommended amount in a single-source vitamin may not be providing adequate supplies either.
Since the body does not always absorb all available nutrients with perfect efficiency, taking a singular source vitamin may be sending at least part of the vitamin off as waste. For this reason, it is recommended that multiple sources of vitamin C be looked for when choosing the best vitamin C supplement for daily use. By doing so, even if one source becomes discarded by the body, other sources are still available for absorption. This ensures that the maximum amount possible is absorbed each day.
Also, by providing these sources through a food based vitamin, other phytonutrients and vitamin cofactors can benefit both vitamin absorbency, as well as overall health.
Too Much Vitamin C?
While it is true that vitamin C is water-soluble, and is thereby nearly impossible to overuse, it should nonetheless be noted that there are limits.
For one, ultra-high doses of vitamin C can lead to gastrointestinal distress, including diarrhoea, abdominal cramps and nausea.
It has also been noted that since vitamin C helps in the absorption of iron in the body, there are some concerns over high doses of ascorbic acid leading to excessive iron in the body. For most healthy individuals, this is of little concern, although for those with hereditary hemochromatosis, chronically high amounts of vitamin C can lead to tissue damage.
Finally, some may have stomach sensitivity to vitamin C, although this is alleviated by using either a buffered, or preferably, food-based vitamin--both of which are easy on the stomach.
Why You Need a Vitamin C Supplement
Although commonly thought of as a cure for or preventative measure against the common cold, vitamin C has far greater depth than that when it comes to our overall health.
In fact—and ironically enough--only limited data support the claim that ascorbic acid aids in fending off wintertime sniffling and sneezing, and of that, it is mainly highly active athletes and soldiers who saw the most benefit.
However, the many other verified health benefits of taking a quality, food-based vitamin C supplement every day far exceed the importance of avoiding a simple head cold.
By ensuring that our wounds heal, that our bones are strong, and that our bodies are rid of the ill-effects of free radicals, vitamin C becomes one of the most important vitamins we can add to our daily regimen.
Add to this that many today live in urban environments, smoke, are exposed to secondhand smoke, or do not get proper nutrition through their diet, and the need to enhance our daily intake of this highly important vitamin greatly increases.