The Lowdown On Vitamin C

When I was growing up, Vitamin C was all the rage.  Everyone was talking about how Vitamin C prevented colds.  It was the first time I was aware of anyone popping vitamin pills other than the One-A-Day multi's. So many people bought into C's promises, that the sales of the vitamin supplements boomed, and for the most part, has never looked back.

What's the real scoop on Vitamin C?

Vitamin C is necessary for normal growth and development.  It's important for:
  • repair of tissues
  • skin health
  • scar tissue formation
  • tendons and ligaments
  • collagen formation
  • healing wounds
  • blood vessels
  • repair and maintenance of bones and teeth
  • aids in the absorption of iron
  • Vitamin C acts as a powerful antioxidant, fighting free radicals that may cause cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and perhaps other diseases.

Too Little Vitamin C:
  • dry, split hair
  • bruise easier
  • inflamed or bleeding gums
  • weakened tooth enamel
  • swollen, painful joints
  • slower healing of wounds 
  • nose bleeds
  • reduced ability to fight infection
  • anemia
  • severe deficiency, called scurvy, is rare.
We need to consume sources daily:  Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is water soluble.  Humans don't have the ability to store it to use later. 

How much do you need? 

     Ages                           1 - 3       15 mg
     Ages                           4 - 8       25
     Ages                           9 - 13     45
Girls                               14 - 18     65
Boys                              14 - 18     75
      Men, non-smokers          19+    90
               smokers                          125
      Women, non-smokers     19+    75
               smokers                          110

These recommendations are based on how much is necessary to prevent disease.  Experts are now in the process of recommending a change to ensure a more positive health outcome.  200 mg is being considered, as is 400 mg.  The upper tolerable level is considered 2000 mg, though this is not toxic.  As a water soluble vitamin, theoretically unneeded vitamin will be excreted in urine.  At levels of 2000 and more, diarrhea and gastric distress is common. 

All fruits and veggies have some vitamin C.

Rich sources include:
  • citrus fruits
  • tomatoes
  • strawberries
  • broccoli
  • leafy greens
  • sweet and white potatoes
  • cantaloupe
  • kiwi fruit
Good sources:
  • papaya
  • mango
  • watermelon
  • brussel sprouts
  • cauliflower
  • cabbage
  • winter squash
  • red pepper
  • raspberries
  • blueberries
  • cranberries
  • pineapple
Reaching for food sources of vitamins is always preferable. A large orange has 70 mg of vitamin C, while 1/2 cup of red pepper has 95 mg.  Eating 5 fruits and veggies each day is a great way to get enough vitamin C each day.  If you want to reach for the 200 - 400 mg daily, upping your fruits and veggies will help you do that.

If you chose to take vitamin C supplements, be sure not to go over 2000 mg per day, including your food sources to minimize tummy troubles. 

And the big question:  Does Vitamin C prevent the common cold?  No. There is no evidence that extra C helps the general population reduce the number of colds or their duration.   However, studies done in extreme situations with skiers, subjects in the arctic, and marathoners have shown an indication of reducing colds.  I guess we need to keep washing our hands, get plenty of rest, and eat healthy foods instead!

Your job this week:  Enjoy some melon, red peppers, or other vitamin C rich foods this week.
To your health!