Vitamin C: September 2008 Nutrient of the Month

When most people think of nutrients, they likely think of Vitamin C. Championed by Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling for many years, this vitamin is associated primarily with the common cold. Most animals manufacture their own vitamin C, and they manufacture a lot of it when they are under stressful conditions. Humans lost that ability somewhere along the evolutionary time-line, so many doctors suggest supplementation is necessary. As an antioxidant, it is believed that vitamin C prevents free radical damage to the body.

A basic deficiency results in Scurvy, a disease that affected many sailors during the age of exploration because fresh fruits and vegetables were unavailable. It wasn’t until 1747 that Dr. James Lind carried out a little experiment and determined that it was a substance in food that prevented Scurvy. Intellectuals of that age initially ridiculed him, but the lime juice that the British took with them on voyages helped give them naval superiority, hence their opponents called them “limeys.”

Vitamin C has shown to be beneficial against heart disease, in which those who took more than 750 mg/day (well over the RDA of 60 mg), had a 25% lower risk of heart disease.

A study of 870 men found that those who consumed more than 83 mg of Vitamin C a day had a 64% reduction in lung cancer than men who consumed less. Others studies show similar results with other cancers.

Vitamin C taken internally (and possibly even externally) has an anti-wrinkle effect, so vitamin C is good for skin health too. Jennifer and I use a Vitamin C face cream, which we bought from Puritan’s Pride. We also add our own Alpha-Lipoic Acid and Co-Enzyme Q10.

While Vitamin C is not a cure for the common cold, it does seem to help prevent it, and lessen the severity of colds when taken as a preventative measure.

Vitamin C also seems to be effective in a variety of other conditions, so it is most worthy of being a nutrient of the month!

I take about 750-1000 mg of Vitamin C a day, in 250 mg doses spread throughout the day. If you take too much at once, you will just pee it out since it is water soluble. I tend to take just plain old Vitamin C (L-Ascorbic Acid), although other forms (like Ester-C) may be easier on the stomach and possibly stay in the body longer. I take vitamin C to prevent the diseases I listed above, as well as for its antioxidant, anti-stress, and anti-inflammation properties. Since vitamin C supplements are very inexpensive, cost is not really an issue (if you order it from the right place, a 500 mg tablet costs about 2 cents)

The best sources in food are strawberries, citrus fruits, broccoli, and sweet red peppers. Bioflavonoids (for a time called “Vitamin P”) are thought to aid the absorption of Vitamin C. They are found in the white rinds of Citrus, and other foods, so drinking orange juice with the pulp would hypothetically help vitamin C absorb better (and bioflavonoids, like Rutin, have a lot of benefits themselves!). You won’t find vitamin C in meats and cheeses, i.e. foods common in bad diets, so many Americans may not be getting the optimal amount.

Image of lemon and lime juice containers taken by me (in the background a banana, itself with a decent amount of vitamin C).