Eating your A,B,C’s – Vitamin C
by Lisa Metzgar, PhD
Eating your A,B,C’s
This month we are moving along the alphabet to Vitamin C also known as ascorbic acid. Vitamin C became well known in the 1700’s. Men out sea went months without fruits and vegetables because they couldn’t be kept fresh on board the ship. These men would develop a deficiency disease known as scurvy.
Scurvy led to bleeding and bruising of tissues and eventually affected the blood vessels enough to cause death. It doesn’t take much Vitamin C to cause scurvy so you don’t often see it anymore. The British Navy started giving their sailors limes which prevented the disease saving hundreds of lives while out at sea. This is why the British sailors were called “limeys”.
Some mammal’s bodies can make Vitamin C. Humans have lost their ability to produce the necessary nutrient so we have to include it in our diet.
Vitamin C plays many roles in the body. It is a very powerful antioxidant, protecting cells from free radical damage. It also aids in the synthesis of several vital components. The synthesis of collagen is essential. Collagen helps to make bone, blood vessels, skin, tendons, and ligaments. This is why scurvy can lead to death without collagen, your tissues will fall apart.
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Ascorbic acid also aids in the synthesis of norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter that is critical to brain function and mood.
The synthesis of carnitine is necessary for the transport of fat into cells where it is converted into energy. One of the first symptoms of scurvy is low energy which is probably the result of low carnitine levels.
Vitamin C supplementation can help decrease coronary heart disease; decrease the likelihood of stroke, cancer, cataracts, and gout. It helps stimulate the immune system by increasing antibodies, lymphocytes, and leukocytes. Linus Pauling researched mega doses of Vitamin C to cure the common cold.
There is no concrete evidence that megadoses cure the common cold but is shown to help people who are under a lot of stress. Stress can depress the immune system so you end up catching everything that is going around. People who smoke should also make sure to take Vitamin C supplements. As with any nutrient, you have to be careful about taking too much. Nutrients are in a synergistic balance in our bodies for a reason.
Too much of anything can affect other nutrients.
Some people can take 1000mg or more of ascorbic acid due to other imbalances in their bodies. Too much Vitamin C in some individuals can cause copper deficiency and affect the balance of calcium in the body. More is not necessarily better.
There is no difference in the bioavailability of natural vs. synthetic Vitamin C. Vitamin C supplements come in a variety of forms. Of course as I always say it is better to get as many of your vitamins and minerals from your food.
Getting your vitamins mostly from your food while eating a wide variety of foods will ensure that you are getting a fairly good balance of all vitamins and minerals.
Great food sources of Vitamin C include:
All citrus fruits
Sweet red pepper
Broccoli (basically broccoli contains everything!)
If you eat your 5 servings of fruits and vegetables you will get about 200 mg of Vitamin C which is plenty for the average person. If you are under stress, take birth control, some prescription drugs, or smoke it is a good idea to take at least 400 mg per day. Be careful if you decide to mega-dose (2000 mg or more a day). There is no known toxicity but it can create some uncomfortable symptoms like diarrhea and possibly kidney stones in those prone to them.
Next month we will talk about the sunshine vitamin…Vitamin D.
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LisaMetzgar, PhD,she received her BA in Biology from UCSD, is a certified Holistic Health Practitioner, and received her Ph.D. in Holistic Nutrition.
Lisa has taught body mind retreats in San Diego, Seattle, and Australia and currently has a practice in Reno, NV where she does nutrition counseling.Lisa's passion is to educate families about a healthy lifestyle.
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