|Vitamin C is a water soluble white
powder. It was shown, in 1932, to be the substance that cures scurvy. In the
late eighteenth century English sailors carried limes on long voyages to ward
off scurvy which led to them being given the nickname ‘limeys’.
What does vitamin C do for your body?
Vitamin C is involved in over 300 biological processes in the
COLLAGEN - Vitamin C is necessary for the manufacture of
collagen, the protein which forms the basis of connective tissue. The most
abundant tissue in the body, connective tissue acts as a cementing substance
between cells. It helps support and protect blood vessels, bones, joints, organs
and muscles and forms a sizeable proportion of skin, tendons, the cornea of the
eye, ligaments, cartilage, teeth and bone. Collagen forms a protective
barrier against infection and disease and promotes healing of wounds, fractures
ANTIOXIDANT - Vitamin C is the body’s most powerful water
soluble antioxidant and plays a vital role in protecting the body against
oxidative damage. It neutralizes potentially harmful reactions in the watery
parts of the body such as the blood and the fluid inside and surrounding cells.
It helps protect LDL cholesterol against free radical damage. This
antioxidant action helps to protect against cancer, the effects of aging, heart
disease and an array of other health problems.
HORMONES - Vitamin C is important in the synthesis of hormones
by the adrenal glands.
CARDIOVASCULAR SYSTEM - Vitamin C plays a role in cholesterol
production in the liver and in the conversion of cholesterol to bile acids
for excretion. It lowers total blood cholesterol and harmful LDL cholesterol and
raises beneficial HDL cholesterol. Vitamin C also increases the production of
prostacyclin, which decreases the clumping of blood platelets and dilates blood
vessels, therefore reducing the risk of heart disease, atherosclerosis and
stroke. Vitamin C also lowers blood pressure.
NERVOUS SYSTEM - Vitamin C plays a role in the conversion of
tryptophan to serotonin, a neurotransmitter with many vital functions.
tissue stores of vitamin C are small and easily saturated, with any excess excreted
in two to three hours.
Deficiency: A lack of vitamin C leads
eventually to scurvy. The symptoms are mainly due to poorly formed
collagen and include the breaking open of small blood vessels, the reddening and
bleeding of gums, loose teeth, joint pains, dry scaly skin and blood vessel
damage. Other symptoms include general weakness, fluid retention,
depression, and anemia.
Vitamin C deficiency can lead to slower wound healing, increased susceptibility
to infections, male infertility and increased genetic damage to sperm cells
which may lead to birth defects. It may also contribute to rheumatoid arthritis
, diarrhea , and gastrointestinal disorders.
Scurvy and severe vitamin C deficiency are rare in Australia and New Zealand but
marginal deficiencies may be relatively common and may play a role in the
development of diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
Therapeutic effects: Vitamin C has a
number of therapeutic effects:
CANCER - Vitamin C protects against cancer. Many studies have found a reduced
risk of cancer in people who have high vitamin C intakes (above150 mg or
the amount in four ounces of orange juice). The protective effect seems to
be strongest for cancers of the esophagus, larynx, mouth and pancreas. Vitamin C
also seems to provide some protection against cancers of the cervix,
liver, stomach, rectum, breast and lungs.
Vitamin C may exert these anti cancer effects by acting as an antioxidant and
shielding the genetic mechanism of the cell from damage that can lead to
cancerous changes. Vitamin C can also neutralize cancer promoting chemical
compounds called nitrosamines which are formed in the stomach from nitrite food
additives and are also found in cigarette smoke. Vitamin C may also strengthen
the immune system’s ability to track down and destroy pre-cancerous cells.
Vitamin C may also benefit cancer patients who are undergoing radiation
treatment by enabling them to withstand greater doses of radiation with fewer
CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE - Vitamin C may protect against heart disease by
preventing the oxidation of artery clogging LDL cholesterol. Studies have
shown that high vitamin C intake is linked to reduced risk of heart disease.
Vitamin C may also be of benefit in the treatment of mild high blood
pressure, again lessening the risk of heart disease and stroke.
ASTHMA AND ALLERGY - There is some evidence that vitamin C may be of benefit in
reducing the bronchial constriction and impaired breathing seen in asthma and
allergic responses. This effect may be due to the antioxidant effect of vitamin
C as oxidizing agents can increase allergic responses. Vitamin C may also
improve lung and white blood cell function and decrease respiratory infections
and hypersensitivity reactions by reducing histamine levels.
IMMUNITY - Vitamin C boosts immunity by increasing the production of B and T
cells and other white blood cells, including those that destroy foreign
microorganisms. It also increases interferon levels and antibody responses and
has antiviral and antibacterial effects. These immune stimulating effects lead
to improved resistance against infections. Vitamin C may reduce the duration of
colds and the severity of cold symptoms such as sneezing, coughing and sniffling
by reducing blood levels of histamine which can trigger tissue inflammation and
runny noses. It may also protect the immune cells and surrounding tissue from
oxidative reactions that occur when cells fight bacteria.
CATARACTS - Many studies show that vitamin C may protect against cataracts,
possibly by reducing ultra violet damage. Vitamin C is highly concentrated
in the lenses of normal eyes which may contain 60 times the amount of
vitamin C as the blood, while in lenses with cataracts the levels are much
lower. Vitamin C may act to protect the lens from oxidative damage and protect
enzymes within the lens that remove oxidation damaged proteins.
DIABETES - Increasing vitamin C intake in diabetics may improve blood sugar
regulation in diabetics.The transport of vitamin C into cells is regulated by
insulin and some of the problems of diabetes such as increased cholesterol and
depressed immunity may be due to vitamin C deficiency.
OTHER BENEFITS - Vitamin C may also protect the skin from sun damage, improve
response to stress including an improvement in athletic performance due to
the effects on adrenal hormones. It may overcome some types of infertility
and, in smokers, may help to prevent sperm abnormalities that can lead to
birth defects. When given with vitamin K, vitamin C may be of benefit in
treating morning sickness.
VITAMIN C and CANCER
The all-round benefits of vitamin C to the human physiology have been known
and utilized for centuries. In terms of its benefits in cancer treatment and
prevention, we read the following from Phillip Day:
"Dr Linus Pauling, often known as the 'Father of Vitamin C' and twice
awarded the Nobel Prize, declared that daily intake of up to 10 grams a day of
the vitamin aids anticancer activity within the body. "Pauling was
largely derided for making these declarations but, today, large doses of vitamin
C are used by many practitioners for cancer patients in nutritional therapy, who
believe Pauling was right and that the popular nutrient is indispensable to the
body in its fight to regain health from cancer." , Phillip Day,
"Cancer: Why We're Still Dying To Know The Truth", Credence
Vitamin C can protect against breast cancer. After reviewing 90 studies on the
relationship between vitamin C and cancer, Gladys Block, PhD, at the
University of California at Berkeley, concluded: "There is
overwhelming evidence of the protective effect of vitamin C and other
antioxidants against cancer of the breast."
And Geoffrey R. Howe, of the National Cancer Institute of Canada, reviewed 12
controlled case studies of diet and breast cancer and noted that vitamin C had
the most consistent statistically significant relationship to the reduction of
breast cancer risk. On the subject of the importance of mineral and vitamin
supplements, a recent New York Times front-page article quoted Dr Geoffrey P.
Oakley, Jr, at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, as
saying: "We, the physicians, were mistaken not to recommend vitamin
supplements to our patients for so long. We need just to admit that, on this
one, we were wrong.
Vitamin C helps in the body’s absorption of iron by helping convert dietary
iron to a soluble form. It is also involved in the conversion of folic acid
to its active state. Vitamin C deficiency may lead to increased excretion of
vitamin B6 and vitamin B6 deficiency leads to low levels of vitamin C as
can a deficiency of vitamin A. Vitamin C protects against the toxic effects of
cadmium, copper, vanadium, cobalt, mercury and selenium. Large doses of
vitamin C may lower vitamin B12, copper and selenium blood levels. Calcium and
manganese supplements may decrease vitamin C excretion and vitamin C supplements
may increase manganese absorption.
Exposure to cigarette smoke or air pollutants such as ozone and carbon monoxide
may deplete vitamin C in the lungs.
Large doses of vitamin C may interfere with contraceptive pill absorption and
reduce its effectiveness.
Aspirin, alcohol antibiotics and steroids may increase vitamin C requirements.
Vitamin C may diminish the response to some antidepressants, and the
anticoagulant drug warfarin.
Vitamin C is also known as:
ascorbic acid, ascorbate
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