Vitamin C: Why we need it, sources, and what if I take It too much

Vitamin C: Why We Need It, Sources, And What If I Take Too Much Of It?

Vitamin C or L-ascorbic acid is a water-soluble vitamin necessary for the human body’s average growth and development. It is an essential nutrient, which means that our body cannot synthesize it, so it must be taken regularly with a balanced diet. Raw fruits and vegetables are the best natural source of vitamin C.

The importance of natural vitamins and minerals is well known. An optimal and balanced intake of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients ensures the organism’s health and vitality. When it comes to vitamins, they are all of equal importance, and each of them is responsible for a specific function in the body. One of the most valued and tested is vitamin C.

The most considerable quantities we find in papaya, kiwi, citrus (oranges, lemons, grapefruit, tangerines), strawberries, raspberries, pineapple, broccoli, red peppers, cabbage, sprouts, cauliflower, potatoes, and tomatoes. Other sources are dietary supplements and foods and drinks enriched with vitamin C (bread, cereals, fruit juices, dairy products).

Various factors, such as heating, prolonged standing, exposure to oxygen, and intense light, can affect the loss of vitamin C content in food due to its significant instability. The absorption of vitamin C in the intestines is dose-dependent. It means that it is in the body during smaller intake, and it ends up in the urine with higher intake.

Vitamin C Chemical Structure

Vitamin C, ascorbic acid, belongs to the group of water-soluble vitamins and vitamins with coenzyme action. According to its chemical composition, lactone is 2-keto-L-gluconic acid.

Vitamin C belongs to the group of water-soluble vitamins. It is a white crystalline substance, odorless and sour, stable in an acidic environment, and sensitive to heat (50-90% is destroyed by cooking), air, and alkalis (bases). Absorption is performed in the mucous membrane of the oral cavity and the upper part of the small intestine. It helps to absorb calcium, magnesium, all vitamins, and minerals and hinders stress, high-temperature body, tobacco, alcohol, antibiotics, salicylates (e.g., aspirin), and oral contraceptives.

fruits rich in vitamin-c

Absorption is performed in the mucous membrane of the oral cavity and the upper part of the small intestine. Calcium, magnesium, vitamins, and minerals help absorption and relieve stress, high body temperature, tobacco, alcohol, antibiotics, salicylates, cortisone, and oral contraceptives.

Biological activity

Vitamin C participates in vital metabolic processes that contribute to maintaining vitality and improving the body’s resistance. It is necessary for collagen biosynthesis, the main structural protein of many connective tissues, such as tendons, ligaments, cartilage, bones, skin, blood vessels, cornea, and dentin. Another essential role of this compound is to protect the body from the harmful effects of oxidative stress caused by free radicals.

Numerous scientific studies have established a link between oxidative stress and many diseases in humans, including stroke, coronary heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases, and cancer types. Besides, adequate intake can help improve the immune system’s components, alleviate symptoms and shorten the duration of upper respiratory tract infections. It also increases the absorption of iron and is part of many iron-containing dietary supplements.

Therapeutic application

The scientific community’s opinions and the results of many scientific studies are still divided when it comes to vitamin C’s success in preventing and treating many health conditions in humans. Nevertheless, evidence suggests that people who consume sufficient amounts through a healthy diet and dietary supplements are less likely to suffer from heart attack and stroke, hypertension, asthma, immune system deficits, and more.

Conditions that require supplementation are:

  • intensive growth and development in children and adolescents
  • great physical exertion
  • frequent upper respiratory tract infections
  • elevated body temperature
  • anemia due to iron deficiency
  • pregnancy and lactation
  • smoking
  • insufficient intake of vitamin C during reduction diets
  • decreased absorption of vitamin C in the elderly population

 

Vitamin C deficiency in the body

Chronic vitamin C deficiency in the body leads to a disease called scurvy. It rarely occurs in developed countries and is most often the result of inadequate nutrition. Some population groups, such as babies aged 6-12 months, the elderly, the chronically ill, pregnant women, breastfeeding women, smokers, and drinkers, have a higher risk of developing a deficiency of vitamin C or vitamin deficiency.

The first symptoms are usually visible after one day of vitamin C termination and make them a sense of fatigue, irritability, pain in joints and muscles, and bruising easily. More severe symptoms, such as various hemorrhagic manifestations (bleeding gums, petechiae, internal bleeding), tooth decay, slowed wound healing, chronic infections, swelling of the legs, and improper bone formation dentin, appear after three months.

Vitamin C with tea

We successfully treat scurvy using oral dietary supplements of vitamin C with a well-balanced diet, rich in foods with a high content of this vitamin. Patients respond quickly to therapy, with the withdrawal of mild symptoms after 48 hours. Hemorrhagic manifestations usually persist for the next two weeks, and a complete cure is expected after three months of supplementation. If left untreated, scurvy can lead to serious health complications and death.

Vitamin C Dosage

The various national agencies prescribe recommendations for the use of it. According to the recommendations of the Mayo Clinic, the recommended daily dose (RDA = Recommended Dietary Allowances) for vitamin C for healthy men is 90 mg and women 75mg.

However, the use of higher doses than the RDA value is justified in cases such as:

  • frequent upper respiratory tract infections
  • intensive growth in children and adolescents
  • great physical exertion
  • wound healing process
  • pregnancy
  • breastfeeding
  • smoking
  • drug interactions

Although considered a safe substance when used in the recommended doses, vitamin C can cause side effects such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, heartburn, skin rashes, and headaches. People suffering from hemochromatosis and kidney stones should avoid high vitamin C doses. It is due to the possibility of developing severe side effects.

Vitamin C interactions are possible with the following drugs: aspirin, paracetamol, ampicillin, tetracyclines, and antacids containing aluminum, warfarin, phenothiazines, barbiturates, adrenaline, oral contraceptives, and nicotine preparations. People who are being treated with any of the mentioned drugs should use vitamin C only on their doctor’s recommendation.

The role of vitamin C

Vitamin C has many roles in the body, but not all of them have been discovered yet.

  • Reducing agent in living substances which has a significant role in food absorption (calcium, iron, folic acid),
  • Collagen production,
  • Synthesis and production of steroid hormones – anti-inflammatory effect,
  • Synthesis of neurotransmitters,
  • Antioxidant (acts directly on bacteria, and indirectly through the enzyme myeloperoxidase creates free radicals that damage bacterial metabolism).

Daily needs

Recommended doses are men 90mg, women 75mg, and pregnant and breastfeeding women 100 mg per day. Tobacco destroys vitamin C in the body, so smokers should take up to 200 mg of vitamin C a day. Earlier recommendations for vitamin C were higher, but today higher doses are not recommended.

Hypovitaminosis

In the conditions of a regular diet, there is no deficiency problem, because a person from fruits and vegetables satisfies 90% of needs, milk, and dairy products 5%, eggs, fish and meat 1% needs. In unfavorable living conditions, a deficit can occur due to long-term non-intake of fresh fruits and vegetables (three months). The deficiency in the body occurs after the long winter months when depleted vitamin C depots cannot be replenished in the spring.

Hypovitaminosis is a partial deficiency of vitamin C, manifested by loss of appetite, fatigue, nervousness, muscle and joint pain, weight loss, dry skin, and frequent colds.

Avitaminosis

Avitaminosis or scurvy is a complete lack of vitamin C. All the mentioned hypovitaminosis symptoms are even more pronounced with fragility (fragile) of blood vessels and capillary bleeding (petechiae). If we do not treat this deficit, there is severe bleeding on the skin, muscles, gums, and internal organs, leading to sudden death. We also notice anemia, which is micro-and macrocytic in hypovitaminosis. Anemia occurs because this compound is necessary for the synthesis of hemoglobin. It is essential for the proper maturation of erythrocytes, for the metabolism of folic acid, cobalt, and iron, and as a reflection of general malnutrition.

We easily eliminate deficiency by giving 25 mg of to children (in milk) four times a day, for one to two weeks, and adults require ten times higher doses.

Hypervitaminosis

Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is non-toxic in most cases. The body only retains small amounts, while excessive amounts end up in the urine. However, more significant amounts can cause some side effects, although not severe. The first and most common sign that the body is saturated with ascorbic acid is diarrhea. Other side effects include nausea, dysuria (burning when urinating), and skin sensitivity to touch.

Hemolysis (decomposition of red blood cells) is the most severe consequence of too high vitamin C concentrations in the blood. Still, this phenomenon is scarce and occurs only with very high amounts of vitamin C.

Vitamin C is one of the water-soluble vitamins, in which hypervitaminosis is a rare occurrence because the body quickly excretes the amount it does not need in the urine. Nevertheless, one can achieve harmful levels more likely by using large doses of dietary supplements and consuming enriched foods and beverages, than consuming foods. Therefore, it is imperative to follow the dosing recommendations. The prescribed upper limit of vitamin C intake for healthy adults is 2000 mg/day. Consumption of higher doses can lead to acidification of urine and the appearance of nausea, diarrhea, and gastritis. High doses can also contribute to the formation of kidney stones and the development of iron poisoning in people suffering from hemochromatosis.

                             Safety of vitamin C for the treatment of specific ailments

Description of operation Health issues
There is reliable scientific evidence that indicates the influence of vitamin C in the treatment of the following ailments. Bronchitis, bruising, capillary weakness, cold, glaucoma, high cholesterol, infections, scurvy, wound healing.  
There are controversial or insufficient data or only preliminary studies that indicate a minimal impact of vitamin C in treating the following ailments.

 

Cataracts, diabetes

 
We use it traditionally, and there is little scientific evidence of its action in treating the following ailments. Alcohol withdrawal, asthma, atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, sinusitis, urinary tract infections, vitiligo  

Higher doses of vitamin C are not recommended due to:

  • rebound effect because it is common that prolonged intake of large amounts and then abrupt cessation leads to scurvy (avitaminosis);
  • if a pregnant woman takes higher doses, the newborn may have higher requirements for vitamin C;
  • there is a risk of calcium oxalate formation in the kidneys and gallbladder;
  • acidic urine forms exist due to more significant amounts of vitamin C for a more extended period. Then, bacteria that are sensitive to alkalis develop;
  • reduces the effect of anticoagulant therapy;
  • the tablets contain inert substances (sodium, which increases blood pressure and can also lead to diarrhea because it has a laxative effect);

Vitamin C supplements

This compound is widely available in the form of tablets and powders.

Vitamin C supplements

It is one of the most commonly used dietary supplements. We buy it in drops, tablets, capsules, drinking mixtures, multivitamin formulations, and crystalline powder. Some formulations also contain bioflavonoids such as quercetin, hesperidin, and rutin.  Vitamin C crystals (like ascorbic acid) are typically available in bottles of 300g to 1kg of powder.

WRAP- Preserving the Vitamin C

To preserve the value of vitamin C, it is best to consume fresh fruits and vegetables or minimally processed foods.

Vitamin C becomes chemically unstable under certain conditions. It can, but it does not have to be met by the thermal treatment of food. By cooking food, we reach a temperature of 100 ° C, which does not cause a greater breakdown. It completely breaks down to 190 ° C. However, by frying food, we achieve the decomposition temperature of vitamin C. Also, we get the same effect by cooking food for longer.

Another difficulty in getting it from food is rinsing the food with water due to its solubility. The vitamin comes out of the food into the water in which we cook. It is also common that vitamin C does not come out of all foods at the same rate. So, for example, broccoli retains vitamin C for the longest time from any other fruit and vegetable. In the same way, research has shown that freshly foods that stay in the refrigerator for several days do not lose significant amounts, contrary to some claims.

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