Humans cannot manufacture vitamin C, otherwise known as ascorbic acid. It is acquired through the food that is eaten, or supplements which are taken orally and cannot be stored in the body. It is a water soluble vitamin and is excreted within a couple of hours of digestion and therefore needs to be regularly replaced.
Since Linus Pauling first wrote about the benefits of high doses of vitamin C for the prevention of the common cold, there has been much debate around this contentious subject.
STUDIES ON THE BENEFITS OF VITAMIN C AND THE COMMON COLD
There was a recent study, which looked at 29 clinical trials, involving over 11,000 people who took a minimum of 0.2 g and it was concluded that this amount did not prevent someone from developing the common cold. However, there were benefits, in that the length and severity of the cold were reduced by 8 percent in adults and 14% in children.
A 2009 study concluded that there are definitely benefits in taking vitamin C when one has a cold. The symptoms are reduced, especially those related to upper respiratory tract infections and the cold doesn’t last as long. However, the study also concluded that more in depth study is needed regarding the correct dose to take for the full beneficial effects, both before and during a cold.
FOOD SOURCES OF VITAMIN C
Good sources of vitamin C are
- citrus fruits,
- yellow peppers,
- cooked tomatoes,
- green and leafy vegetables.
Note that cooking and freezing will lower the levels of the vitamins in the food quite substantially. It is preferable to ingest vitamins through food, but if this is not possible, then there are many supplements on the market. Even though the food route is better, it has been shown many times that the vitamin content of food diminishes with age, storage and cooking, so it is difficult to gauge the quantities being consumed.
- Vitamin C is vital to bone formation and is a great antioxidant. It produces collagen, which makes up 90 percent of our bone matrix. Collagen is also necessary for the repair of the growth of blood vessels which in turn assists in the treatment of high blood pressure and helps prevent heart disease.
- The ongoing health of teeth and gums also benefit.
- It has a role to play in the formation of hormones, amino acids and carnitine.
SIDE EFFECTS OF VITAMIN C
It is considered a safe vitamin to take but large doses, that is doses over 4 grams per day, can lead to contraindications such as diarrhea, nausea and cramping of the stomach. There have also been incidences of headaches, dizziness and hot flushes. It is therefore advisable to stick to lower doses.
If you are taking large doses than drink a large glass of water to prevent kidney stones. Diabetics and people with kidney problems should not take megadoses for long periods of time.
THOSE WITH POSSIBLE VITAMIN C DEFICIENCY
Smokers need to take more abscorbic acid than non-smokers as the vitamin is used up more rapidly in the body’s attempt to rid itself of the toxins which are being introduced into the system.
People with severe malabsorbtion syndrome are deficient in most vitamins as the intestine’s ability to absorb nutrients is adversely affected. The same applies to people with severe kidney problems. Adults, children and babies who are not eating foods which contain essential vitamins, will suffer from a vitamin deficiency. The answer is to eat a well balanced diet containing lots of raw fruit and vegetables.
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