Vitamin C

Optimal Result: 40 - 100 %.

Vitamin C is required for several metabolic functions in the body. One of its major roles is in the synthesis of collagen and elastin, the main structural proteins of skin, cartilage and blood vessels.

It is also necessary in the production of several stress response hormones including adrenalin, noradrenalin, cortisol and histamine, and it is required in the synthesis of carnitine, an amino acid that facilitates the conversion of fatty acids into energy within the mitochondria.

Vitamin C protects against heart disease in several ways: it helps dissolve arterial plaque, reduces free radical oxidation of cholesterol, decreases levels of the atherogenic lipoprotein Lp(a), and maintains the elasticity of vascular walls which helps control hypertension. In addition, vitamin C boosts immunity by increasing production of white blood cells, increasing levels of antibodies and interferon and modulating prostaglandin synthesis.

Vitamin C enhances iron absorption, promotes efficient wound healing, and detoxifies the body by binding to certain heavy metals so they can be eliminated from the body.

The anticancer effects of vitamin C stem from its role as a potent water-soluble antioxidant in the plasma and cytoplasm. It also protects nucleic acids (DNA) from oxidative damage and inhibits the formation of nitrosamines (carcinogenic compounds formed in the digestive tract). Additionally, it can regenerate vitamin E and works synergistically with other antioxidants such as beta-carotene and glutathione to increase their overall antioxidant effect.

What does it mean if your Vitamin C result is too low?

Deficiency symptoms include capillary fragility (due to its role in collagen formation) which often manifests clinically as bleeding gums, easy bruising, tender joints, muscle weakness and poor wound healing.

Subclinical deficiency can also result in lowered immunity, anemia (due to vitamin C’s ability to enhance iron absorption), and fatigue (due to its role in the synthesis of carnitine and certain hormones).

Dietary sources rich in vitamin C include the following:

- Broccoli,

- Brussel Sprouts,

- Cantaloupe,

- Cauliflower,

- Citrus Fruits,

- Guava,

- Kiwi,

- Papaya,

- Parsley,

- Peas,

- Potatoes,

- Red and Green Peppers,

- Rose hip,

- Strawberries,

- and Tomatoes.

The government DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) for vitamin C is listed below, published in 2000, although intakes of 200 -1000mg have been commonly used for therapeutic benefit.

Adult men: 90 mg per day

Pregnant women:  85 mg per day

Adult women: 75 mg per day

Lactating women: 120 mg per day

Mega-doses of vitamin C (several grams) have been used for specific conditions such as viral infections and cancer, although the therapeutic benefit to mega-doses is thought to occur due to a pro-oxidant effect of vitamin C on viral or cancer cells. Since excess vitamin C can actually increase free radical production, it is important to balance it with other antioxidants in order to not induce a pro-oxidant effect. Large doses may result in diarrhea.

The Tolerable Upper Intake Level has been established at 2000 mg per day. Although vitamin C is easily absorbed in the small intestine, mineral ascorbates are the preferred supplement form (versus ascorbic acid) to maximize absorption. It is recommended to ingest therapeutic doses at various intervals throughout the day since the body readily excretes excess vitamin C shortly after ingestion.

Physical or emotional stress will increase the body’s requirement for vitamin C. In some patients, excess vitamin C can produces high amounts of oxalic acid, which are linked to kidney stones so patients with kidney disease or a history of kidney stones should exercise caution in taking mega-doses of vitamin C.

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