The Health Benefits of Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)

The Health Benefits of Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)

Introduction & Biological Role

Vitamin C is an essential, water soluble vitamin. It has other names such as ascorbic acid and has been called the most popular supplement in the world. It is essential because humans can not synthesize vitamin C and must obtain it from their diet. Let’s briefly summarize the things I think are worth knowing about vitamin C. Everything  I’m going to say is evidence based with research to back it up.

It’s readily absorbed in the gut from dietary sources. It is primarily used in collagen synthesis and certain neurotransmitters such as dopamine and epinephrine. It’s also a co-factor for L-carnitine synthesis. If you’re interested in any of this, I would encourage you to look it up as I’m not going to get into it now.

Potential Benefits

Generally speaking, it is thought to stimulate the immune system, strengthen connective tissue,  and promote wound healing. It may also act as an antihistamine.

It is well known as a vitamin supplement taken to prevent the common cold. I looked up the data for this.  A 2013 meta-analysis of 29 trials (n = 11,306) showed a small but significant 8 percent reduction in the duration of cold symptoms in adults regularly taking vitamin C supplements (at least 200 mg/day). In the general population it does not reduce the risk of developing a cold or getting sick. It does appear to have a protective effect in highly active individuals. In other words, the evidence is not strong that vitamin C is dramatically helpful in preventing or treating the common cold in most people.

Neurologically speaking, it may reduce the stress response, have anti-depressive side effects, and may be protective against dementia and alzheimers

It may have some benefit to physically active individuals. It appears to promote carnitine and collagen biosynthesis and antioxidant protection in skeletal muscle. The significance of this is not known. It does not appear to mediate the immune response during short duration exercise. However, the risk of developing a cold may be reduced during prolonged exercise with supplementation.

No documented benefits.

Vitamin C has not been shown to reduce the risk of developing cancer, cardiovascular disease or coronary heart disease, cataracts or macular degeneration

Deficiency

Vitamin C presents as a disease called scurvy. Characterized by bleeding gums, ecchymoses, fatigue and depression. This is where the term limey comes. It was used to describe 19th century british sailors who added lime or lemon  juice to their rum to prevent scurvy during long excursions at sea.

Toxicity

Generally well tolerated, at levels above 2000 mg/day may cause gastrointestinal disturbance.

Pregnancy Rating

Category C, however supplementation is generally recommended during pregnancy and breast feeding by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Best Dietary Sources

The best dietary sources include citric fruits, kiwi fruits, apples, vegetables, potatoes, leafy greens, and fortified cereals.

Recommended Daily Allowance

  • Males 90 mg/day
  • Females 75 mg/day
  • Should not exceed 2000 mg/day

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