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Vitamin C also referred to as ascorbic acid, is one of the 13 essential vitamins necessary for the human body to function optimally. Vitamin C is water-soluble, meaning the body uses what it needs, and any remaining is eliminated as waste filtered through the kidneys.
Vitamin C cannot be made in the body, so it must be obtained from food sources. Thus, you have to eat or drink something that contains vitamin C to fulfill your daily requirement. (1)
I’m almost positive everybody has heard of vitamin C and that it can be found in oranges. Drinking orange juice to get a shot of energy when feeling down or sick is a remedy that grandmas over the world swear by.
The reason orange juice is recognized as an energizing, immunity-boosting fuel for your body is it is loaded with vitamin C, which works as a powerful antioxidant.
Vitamin C helps counteract cellular damage before it happens. It helps to neutralize and mop up the mess made by your immune system’s response to toxins, thereby reducing inflammation and all the problems that result from a heightened inflammatory response.
Vitamin C is currently being added to treatment plans to help combat COVID-19 in hospitalized patients, and some investigators are suggesting taking vitamin C supplements as protection from the novel coronavirus.
Is ascorbic acid the same thing as vitamin C?
No, they are not exactly the same, although people often use the terms interchangeably.
Ascorbic acid is a chemical name assigned to the most unadulterated form of vitamin C. However, this pure form does not occur naturally. It has to be synthesized through chemical processing.
The vitamin C found in foods is always combined with other active compounds, since that is how nature intended it to be. Thus, it is ironic that the purest form of vitamin C, which is ascorbic acid, can only be obtained through unnatural means.
What are the common symptoms of vitamin C deficiency?
Our bodies rely on vitamin C for several multisystem body functions. That said, the symptoms of a vitamin C deficiency are numerous and can vary in severity.
Some of the most common symptoms are joint pain or swelling, blurred vision, light sensitivity, headache, fatigue, depression, dizziness, mood swings, mental confusion, tender swollen gums (gingivitis), tooth decay, easy bruising, and shortness of breath. (3)
How long does it take to recover from vitamin C deficiency?
The course of recovery depends on the degree of deficiency.
However, symptoms of vitamin C deficiency can start to improve within 24-48 hours of replenishing it through the diet (whole food sources) or adequate supplementation.
What dietary changes are recommended to increase vitamin C levels in the body?
No particular dietary changes are really necessary when considering normal daily intake.
However, it is important to mention that vitamin C levels in the food decline when cooked at high temperatures or when left exposed to air.
Therefore, to get the most vitamin C from the food you eat, consume your food raw in their natural form or semi-cooked. However, avoid boiling if at all possible. High temperatures and prolonged cooking decrease vitamin C content in foods.
If juicing, be sure to drink the juice soon after extraction and not leave it sitting out for too long. Prolonged exposure to the air can deplete the concentration of vitamin C in the liquid.
What is the best source of vitamin C?
The following fruits and vegetables are recognized as some of the best sources of vitamin C:
- Kiwi fruits
- Green peas
- Brussels sprouts
- Sauerkraut or kimchi
How are vitamin C and anemia related?
Vitamin C deficiency and iron deficiency anemia often coexist. (4) You may recall that iron is the key element that binds to hemoglobin to make red blood cells.
Vitamin C enhances the absorption of iron, which is why some doctors recommend taking your iron supplement with orange juice. Conversely, low levels of vitamin C can directly lead to anemia by causing excessive bleeding.
What medical conditions can lead to vitamin C deficiency?
Chronic illness such as kidney disease, intestinal diseases such as Crohn’s disease and celiac disease, cancer, alcoholism, and tobacco use can interfere with or decrease the absorption of vitamin C.
Can vitamin C deficiency lead to depression?
As previously mentioned, vitamin C has many different roles and functions in the human body. Depression is linked to decreased levels or imbalances of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, which are neurotransmitters that play important roles in regulating mood.
So, how is Vitamin C involved? Vitamin C serves as a cofactor for dopamine-beta-hydroxylase, an enzyme required to convert dopamine into norepinephrine.
Therefore, a deficiency of vitamin C can directly affect norepinephrine levels and negatively affect your mood, leading to depressive symptoms or worsening existing depression.
How does vitamin C help to keep the skin healthy?
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that fights the oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Free radical-induced cellular damage lies at the base of most illnesses, including skin ailments.
The antioxidant properties of vitamin C can naturally help protect your skin from cellular damage triggered by sun exposure and other toxins.
Ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun is harmful to the skin as it triggers inflammation, which can ultimately lead to skin cancer and premature cellular changes. Blocking out the UV rays of the sun is the main reason skin experts stress on wearing sunscreen, especially when going out.
Vitamin C is also needed by the body to make collagen, the key structural protein in skin that gives it strength and firmness. As you age, wrinkles appear due to the gradual decrease in the production of collagen, which is made worse by sun damage.
Vitamin C can serve as a great agent for countering both these problems, which explains its widespread use in antiaging products that can help keep your skin young, taut, and radiant.
Can low levels of vitamin C lead to weight gain?
Although many variables can correlate with obesity and its causes, experts do see an inverse relationship between vitamin C and weight gain.
Low levels of vitamin C have been linked to higher amounts of abdominal fat. Vitamin C may help protect against obesity by regulating the release of fat from fat cells and by exerting its strong antioxidant capability to decrease inflammation and reduce the release of stress hormones that contribute to weight gain.
What is the daily requirement of vitamin C?
The daily requirement of vitamin C is 90 milligrams for a healthy adult male and 75 milligrams for a healthy adult female.
Certain populations of people, such as those who smoke or have digestive issues should take an additional 35 milligrams per day.
Is vitamin C deficiency a genetic condition?
Like so many other health problems, a person could have a genetic mutation that would cause them to be vitamin C deficient.
Vitamin C is absorbed in the intestines by two transport proteins. The genes involved are SLC23A1 and SLC23A2.
About 28% of the population carries the gene mutation of SLC23A2 that causes decreased vitamin C absorption and accumulation, thus causing them to become deficient.
Other genes that can affect vitamin C concentrations are the genes that code for the hemoglobin-binding protein called haptoglobin, which is expressed in two alleles, Hp1-1 and Hp2-2.
Those that have the Hp2-2 allele are at an increased risk of having vitamin C deficiency.
Is vitamin C deficiency life-threatening?
Severe forms of vitamin C deficiency can lead to potentially fatal consequences, but fortunately, it is highly uncommon in today’s day and age due to improvements in the diets.
A condition of severe vitamin C deficiency known as “scurvy” was discovered and recorded to have affected many sailors that did not have an adequate dietary intake of vitamin C while they were on long sea voyages.
Scurvy, the most dangerous form of vitamin C deficiency, can be life-threatening because it may lead to spontaneous bleeding, severe anemia, and ultimately organ failure and death.