How Your Body Uses Vitamin C

Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is an important nutrient found in many fresh fruits and vegetables. It is essential to a healthy diet. Vitamin C breaks down readily when foods are heated or when they sit around too long on the shelf.

Vitamin C is one of the most popular of all supplements, thanks to the dedication of the Nobel-prize winning scientist Linus Pauling. Pauling took up to 25 grams of the vitamin every day for years. He ended up dying at 96 years of age but was still actively working and mentally sharp at the time of his death; he must have been doing something right.

Vitamin C is important for proper tissue strength and is known to support collagen and cartilage growth. It also helps protect cell membranes from toxic wastes and destruction from an overactive immune system. It acts as an antioxidant and is especially effective when taken with vitamin E. Vitamin C is used for allergies and as an anti-viral medicine. Regular use may reduce your risk of cancer.

Here's a sampling of key uses of vitamin C:

  • Promotes wound healing.

  • Vitamin C is commonly used for supporting immune function and protection from viral disease and cancer.

  • It may also help in people with high cholesterol, cataracts, diabetes, allergies and asthma, and periodontal disease. As an antioxidant, it protects blood vessels and the lenses in your eyes, and helps keep body tissues strong.

  • Vitamin C is popular for warding off and shortening the unpleasant effects of the common cold.

Ascorbic acid occurs naturally in citrus fruits, bell peppers, rose hips, tomatoes, strawberries, and many other fruits. The minimum requirement to prevent vitamin C deficiency, called scurvy, is 60 mg. Commonly taken in 500 to 1,000 mg doses, larger amounts, like 10 to 20 grams daily, may cause mild toxicity. Diarrhea is the most common side effect.

Vitamin C is non-toxic because you eliminate excessive amounts through your urine. Some vitamin experts caution pregnant women not to exceed 1 or 2 grams a day.

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