Know Your Vitamins: Vitamin C

We know vitamins are good for us, but do you know exactly what each one is good for? Sure, we know vitamin C is good for a cold, but do you know why? In this series, we will take a look at each vitamin and delve into what role each one has to play in nutrition.

Of all the vitamins, vitamin C is quite possibly the most popular. Vitamin C is widely associated with the modern cold and believed to be a cold buster. Anytime the sniffles start, a common reaction is to start downing the OJ and increasing the intake of vitamin C. What exactly is it though about vitamin C that restores us back to health? And is the common cold all that it's good for? Vitamin C is an incredible antioxidant that does more than you may think.

Vitamin C - also known as ascorbic acid - is considered to not only be the safest nutrient, but it is also considered to be the most effective. In the terms of the common cold, the effectiveness is the very reason we up our intake. While it doesn't necessarily cure the cold itself, it can shorten the length of the cold. In fact, it's a misrepresentation that vitamin C cures the common cold altogether. What it does is enhance the immune system, and the healthier the immune system, the more strength our body has to fight off a cold.

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin. It has two important roles in the body, which are as an antioxidant and as an enzyme cofactor. It can regenerate vitamin E when it has become oxidized. It metabolizes cholesterol into bile acid and protects indispensible molecules such as lipids. It also aids in the growth and repair of tissues throughout the body. It helps produce collagen - which is a type of protein that is responsible for making healthy connective tissues of the skin, ligaments, blood vessels, cartilage, and tendons. By taking vitamin C, the body's ability to absorb iron is increased along with chromium, and the antioxidant properties have the amazing ability to diminish free-radicals that threaten to damage the body.

The health benefits of the antioxidant vitamin C are truly astounding. It can reduce lead levels in the blood, lower hypertension, reduce the risk of stroke, help wounds heal, and have an impact on your mood. Vitamin C helps the formation of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine. Norepinephrine has a direct effect on mood and brain function.

In a study done on the impact of vitamin C on cancer stem cells, it has proven to be effective. According to Science Daily, “vitamin C is up to ten times more effective at stopping cancer cell growth than pharmaceuticals such as 2-DG.” The cancer stem cells are responsible for tumor growth and resistance to chemotherapy. By taking vitamin C, tumor growth can decrease while increasing the effectiveness of chemotherapy. Proving to be effective, this research shows vitamin C is beneficial in the fight against cancer.

It also fights scurvy! The reason pirates were always getting scurvy was due to lack of vitamin C. Being on a long voyage at sea, fresh fruits and vegetables are not easy to come by. Since vitamin C is mainly consumed from produce, scurvy is the result. While scurvy is the result of extreme vitamin C deficiency - and is highly rare in a first world country - symptoms include fatigue, joint pain, and inflamed gums.

Other symptoms of a vitamin C deficiency include dry hair with breakage, easy bruising, bleeding gums, nosebleeds, and a decreased immune system that is more susceptible to infections. Various health conditions have also been associated with low levels of vitamin C. These conditions include gallbladder disease, low blood pressure, and increased plaque build up that causes strokes and heart attacks.

Eating fresh fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C is the best way to reach your daily intake – especially since your body can't produce it! Foods rich in vitamin C include strawberries, citrus fruits, broccoli, red peppers, parsley, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, and kiwis.

While it's recommended to get a healthy dose of vitamin C through diet, supplements may need to be taken. Smokers and people with malabsorption are more likely to be at risk for insufficient levels of vitamin C. In order to know how much vitamin C you need or whether you are properly absorbing the nutrient, it is best to consult your doctor.

On average, however, for adults the daily recommend dose of vitamin C is 75mg. If too much vitamin C is taken, the body flushes it out when you pee. It's hard to take too much vitamin C. If you do consume too much, the symptoms you might experience are stomachache and diarrhea.

Of all the vitamins, vitamin C might get the most attention. While we love it and what it does for us, we require all the vitamins for a healthy immune system. However, building a healthy immune system by maintaining your recommended daily dose of vitamin C couldn't hurt.