9 Immune-Boosting Benefits of Vitamin C
Vitamins are substances that the human body needs to grow and develop normally. (1) They help in preventing and curing a variety of ailments ranging from heart conditions, high cholesterol levels, eye disorders, and skin disorders, among many others. One of the most popular nutrients and most effective of its kind is vitamin C. (2) Known by many different names, Ascorbic acid, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Calcium Ascorbate, Cevitamic Acid, Vitamin C has a wide spectrum of applicability. (3).
Vitamin C is effectively used to treat cancer, scurvy, cold, infections, diabetes, stress disorder, high level of cholesterol in the blood, heart disease, kidney malfunctions, high blood pressure, internal bleeding, lead poisoning, inflammation, corneal ulcers, and piles. Its therapeutic effect extends over a variety of other disorders like cognitive decline and cardiovascular disease, according to recent studies. (4) Being one of the strongest and essential antioxidants in our body, vitamin C acts by strengthening our immune system.
What Foods Contain the Most Vitamin C?
Fresh fruits and veggies are the typical sources for vitamin C, particularly citrus fruits, bell peppers and kale. (5) Vitamin C, however, can also be produced synthetically.
Nutrition experts generally recommend a diet rich in fruits and vegetable. Fresh, homemade orange or lemon squash are a far better choice than ready-to-drink juices. Typically, fresh juice is richer in active vitamin C than ready-to-drink juices. For optimal results, it is best to drink fresh-frozen juice within one week of reconstitution.
How Much Vitamin C Is Recommended?
The dietary allowances (RDAs) of vitamin C recommended on a daily basis vary depending on age.
For infants aged 0 to 12 months on a breast milk diet the recommended dose is of 30 to 35 mg.
Children with ages between 1 and 3 years should have an intake of 15 mg, while 4 to 8-year-olds should receive 25 mg. Similarly, dosage increases with age and differs depending on gender and weight. Children of 9 to 13 years of age are normally recommended an intake of 45mg, 14 to 18-year-old teenagers should be given 75 mg, boys, and 65 mg, girls. Adults of 19 years and older should take 90mg of vitamin C, men, and 75 mg, women.
While pregnant or breast feeding, regular intake should be 115 mg, if the patient is 18 years old or younger. For women aged between 19 and 50 years, the daily allowance is 120 mg vitamin C. Smokers should take an extra dose of 35 mg daily.
However, experts warn that certain dosage must not be exceeded. This varies depending on age; for instance, for children of 1 to 3 years the maximum allowed dose is 400 mg daily, while for 4 to 8-year-olds the maximum allowance is 650 mg per day, 1200 mg for 9 to 13-year-old children and 1800 mg per day for adolescents and pregnant and breast feeding women aged 14 to 18 years. For adults, pregnant and lactating women the recommended daily intake should not exceed 2000 mg per day. (3)
9 Health Benefits of Vitamin C
1. Vitamin C May Reduce the Severity of the Symptoms of the Common Cold
Studies suggest that vitamin C may reduce the severity of the symptoms of the common cold as it is a natural antihistamine. Histamine (C5H9N3) is an amine produced by decarboxylation of histidine, a naturally occurring amino acid in all body tissues.
Cold outbreaks usually manifest through the congestion and swelling of nasal tissues, as well as an increase in the amount of gastric acid in the stomach. Vitamin C provides relief by keeping these symptoms under control and increasing immunity. (6, 7)
2. Vitamin C May Be a Form of Treatment for Dengue Fever
Naturopaths believe that vitamin C can also help cure dengue fever. Boosting body’s ability to produce antibodies and white blood cells, vitamin C increases the production of Interferon, which is a protein produced by body cells to prevent or ‘interfere’ with viruses or diseases.
It acts by inhibiting the production of a virus and preventing the infection from spreading further into the body. Studies indicate that interferon treatment offers protection against dengue fever by stopping the virus in its tracks. This prompted some practitioners to support the idea that vitamin C accounts for a rise in platelet counts which typically drop during a bout of the disease. With this in mind, naturopaths recommend taking supplements alongside a vitamin C-rich diet with servings of acai berries, blueberries and tomatoes.
Taking 500mg of vitamin C six times daily enhances interferon production thus contributing to the prevention and treatment of the disease. (8)
3. Vitamin C May Support Epidermal Tissue Recovery
Amongst all the benefits that vitamin C has, researchers have established that it can also influence collagen production. By increasing collagen levels in the body, vitamin C can effectively contribute to wound healing of all types.
Administered orally, it can speed up recovery from cuts, broken bones, burns and surgical wounds. Applied topically, vitamin C can protect the skin against sunburns due to prolonged exposure to UV (ultraviolet) rays. (9)
According to a study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, vitamin C inhibits the auto-inactivation of the two essential enzymes involved in collagen biosynthesis, lysyl and prolyl hyroxylase. Analyzing samples of normal human fibrolasts (NHF) cultured in different vitamin C-rich environments, where the nutrient could be found in varying non-cytotoxic concentrations, the investigators have shown that vitamin C can increase the production of collagen type I. Moreover, they proved that exogenous supply of vitamin C could help maintain the optimal collagenic density in the epidermal tissue and locally enhance the collagen network. (10)
4. Vitamin C May Help Prevent Cancer
As an antioxidant, vitamin C protects cells and their DNA against the harm and mutation caused by carcinoma. Typically, the nutrient enhances the immune system, the body’s first line of defense against the disease, and prevents cancer-causing compounds from developing in the body. Some researchers say that vitamin C can reduce the risk of almost all types of cancer. Without directly attacking carcinoma, it keeps the immune system functioning properly which can help fight cancer. (6)
Researchers are also looking into how vitamin C could possibly enhance the efficacy of other cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy. (11)
5. Vitamin C May Improve Vision and Reduce Risk of Developing Cataracts
Commonly known as the clouding of the eye lens, cataracts can lead to total loss of vision in the elderly. New studies have determined that adequate intake of vitamin C can prevent free radical damage from excessive sun exposure.
A dose of 1,000mg of vitamin C daily is likely to stop cataracts from progressing and potentially even improve vision. (12)
6. Vitamin C May Reduce Risk of Developing Heart Disease and Stroke
Owing to its antioxidant properties, vitamin C was proven to help reduce the risk of heart disease by inhibiting free radicals from settling onto artery walls, which may result in plaque formation.
Keeping cholesterol levels below the risk threshold, this nutrient accounts for a decrease in the risks associated with cardiovascular conditions and stroke. Similarly, vitamin C can help improve levels of good cholesterol levels in the blood.
7. Vitamin C May Help Treat Asthma and Allergies
Because of its antihistamine or anti-inflammatory qualities, vitamin C may improve asthmatic symptoms and reduce histamine production. For optimal results, it is recommended to take between 1,000 and 2,000mg daily.
According to an study published in the Annals of Allergy, a number studies on vitamin C found that it can improve lung function with significantly positive effects on bronchoprovocation tests with methacholine, histamine, and allergens. Vitamin C appeared to boost white blood cell function and motility, leading to a drop in respiratory infection cases. (13)
8. Vitamin C May Stabilize Blood Sugar Levels
Vitamin C was proven to help stabilize blood sugar levels. Insulin typically helps this nutrient and glucose penetrate the cells, as diabetic patients are likely to have low levels of vitamin C in their body. Therefore, specialists recommend supplementing with vitamin C with meals that contain carbohydrates to help shuttle the nutrient into the body so that it can act against diabetes and metabolic disease.
Taking vitamin C in doses of 1,000 to 3,000mg daily can decrease the levels of glycosylated hemoglobin, preventing glucose molecules from attaching to blood cells. As it tends to tag on to red blood cells, glucose accounts for many complications associated with diabetes, such as slower or poor epidermal tissue recovery, problems with capillaries, and blood circulation in general. (14)
9. Vitamin C May Help Treat ADHD or Hyperactivity Syndrome
According to a number of studies, vitamin C associated with vitamin E and omega 3 supplements can help treatADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).
Because of its antioxidant properties, this nutrient prevents fatty acid oxidation and increases efficacy of omega-3 treatments. The brain and central nervous system consist of cells rich in omega-3 fats and thus, need a constant supply of these fats to develop and function normally. Omega-3 fats play an essential role in the development of the protective layers of the brain (process known as myelination), which reaches its peak during adolescence. Evidence shows that this process is significantly slowed down in ADHD patients. This is where vitamin C proves useful in combination with other nutrients such as vitamin E and omega-3, for better absorption in the body.
Vitamin C also has neuroprotective functions. Not many people are aware that the nerve endings of the brain are the second richest region of the body in vitamin C. Recent research has determined that this nutrient can prevent ischemia (poor blood supply to a specific area of the brain due to oxidative damage) by oxidizing DHA, if used in conjunction of vitamin D3.
Furthermore, vitamin C helps maintain adequate levels of other essential antioxidants, such as vitamin E, polyphenols (existing in fruits, vegetables, wines and teas), glutathione (naturally produced by the body) and products of superoxide dismutase or SOD enzyme. As antioxidant levels are lower in ADHD patients, vitamin C can help increase these levels and thus alleviate symptoms.
It has also been demonstrated that vitamin C can improve absorption and retention of minerals in the body, such as iron and zinc. (15)
Vitamin C should be used with caution by pregnant and breast feeding women in doses no higher than 2000mg daily. Similarly, recommended dosage should not be exceeded in infants, children and adolescents (see above). Vitamin C products should be used with caution by diabetic and cancer patients as well as those undergoing angioplasty. (16)
Although further studies are needed to prove the benefits of vitamin C in the treatment of the common cold, its potential to lower cholesterol levels and improve outcomes in diabetic or cancer patients are not to be ignored. Having a balanced diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables and/or taking vitamin C supplements in the recommended dosage can improve overall health and wellness.