Ascorbic acid, generally known as vitamin C, is a naturally occurring, water-soluble vitamin in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. It is well known for its anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties. In the body, there are around 15 different enzyme systems that require vitamin C as a cofactor. This vitamin is essential for maintaining human health because of its extensive range of activity across numerous bodily systems.
Antioxidant properties of vitamin C
Free radicals are produced during regular metabolic activity, when people are exposed to toxins and pollutants, or even when taking drugs like chemotherapy; therefore, sources of oxidative exposure are common and occasionally inevitable. By giving electrons to other molecules, vitamin C serves as a reducing agent. This effectively restores other antioxidants, such as vitamin E, from their oxidized states, increasing the effectiveness of both antioxidants in reducing oxidative stress in the body. Even in small doses, vitamin C can help reduce the effects of oxidative stress and damage on the body, which free radicals or reactive oxygen species can cause.
Additionally, vitamin C’s lowering capability increases the bioavailability of dietary iron. Iron-containing complexes containing acetic acid are formed when vitamin C converts ferrous iron (Fe2+) from ferric iron (Fe3+), which is absorbable. Iron is now more easily absorbed in the intestine thanks to this complex. This is particularly helpful for plant-based, non-heme sources of iron since they may be inhibited by additional nutrients consumed at the same time. This iron and vitamin C combination can help treat iron deficiency anemia and is necessary for optimum iron absorption in plant-based diets.
Vitamin C to Boost Immunity
In lab tests, vitamin C has been found to enhance leukocyte (white blood cell) synthesis and activity. Two different types of white blood cells, neutrophils, and lymphocytes have the capacity to store significant amounts of vitamin C inside their cells in order to defend themselves against oxidative damage. When the immune system is activated, this defense against oxidative damage is beneficial since reactive oxygen species are generated as part of the regular immunological response to fight infections. Although it is generally accepted that vitamin C helps to strengthen the immune system and prevent colds, research to date has shown contradictory results, most likely as a result of the vitamin’s complicated pharmacokinetics.
Vitamin C deficiency is linked to impaired immunity and increased susceptibility to infection, although human trials on vitamin C supplements have shown conflicting results in the general population. According to one meta-analysis, taking 200 mg of vitamin C daily decreased the duration of the common cold by 8% for some groups exposed to physical stressors like marathon running general population. According to one meta-analysis, taking 200 mg of vitamin C daily decreased the duration of the common cold by 8% for some groups exposed to physical stressors like marathon running. In these groups, the reported symptom severity was similarly less severe. The broader population did not experience these consequences. 4 In an older trial, vitamin C supplementation at a level of 0.25 to 0.8 g per day decreased hospital stays by 19% in patients with pneumonia. Patients in the same trial who received 0.5 to 1.6 g per day saw a 36 percent reduction.
Deficiency in vitamin C
Humans cannot make vitamin C in their tissues as many other mammals do; thus, they must get it from their diet since they lack the necessary enzyme. 6 According to estimates, more than half of American adults do not get enough vitamin C. 7 The goal for adult females is 75 mg per day, while the recommendation for adult males is 90 mg per day, according to the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. These goals are intended for healthy people. For other high-risk populations as well as during pregnancy and lactation, requirements rise.
Although vitamin C deficiency is uncommon in the United States, it can occur in people who smoke or have a restricted diet. Vitamin C levels in plasma and leukocytes have been found to be lower in smokers, probably as a result of the oxidative stress this activity causes. For smokers, the Institute of Medicine suggests an additional 35 milligrams per day.
The production and maintenance of collagen, the most prevalent protein in the body and a component of bone, connective tissue, and blood vessels are one of the key roles that vitamin C plays in health. Scurvy is caused by a vitamin C deficiency and manifests as a series of issues with collagen biosynthesis, such as:
- wound healing problems
- loss of hair
- missing teeth
Vitamin C sources
Many popular fresh fruits and vegetables contain vitamin C, which is easily accessible. Citrus, bell peppers, berries, and kiwis are also top sources. A very good source of vitamin C is acerola berries. With an estimated 80 mg per berry, the USDA Department of Agriculture estimates that one berry provides the daily need for females and comes close to meeting the recommended amount for males. Another vitamin C powerhouse, Camu Camu has about 2.5 g per 100 g of pulp.
According to some research, the additional phytochemicals found in natural sources may make them more bioavailable and have a greater effect than their synthetic counterparts. 9 It’s possible that the synergy of polyphenols and other phytochemicals will increase the effectiveness of vitamin C. To fully comprehend the intricate connections between vitamin C sources derived from plants as opposed to synthetic sources and human health, more research is required. Epidemiological studies point to beneficial relationships between increased vitamin C intake from plants and disease prevention.
Recent studies suggest that vitamin C may help prevent cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, and cardiovascular disease. Increased consumption of fresh produce, perhaps because of its high vitamin C concentration, has been linked to a lower risk of developing several cancers. 3 Vitamin C’s antioxidant properties, immunomodulation, and structural support functions are just a few of the ways that this essential nutrient helps to advance health and wellbeing; however, more research is required to fully comprehend its potential.