Vitamin C – Not Just a Cold Remedy
It’s still cold season…so you may be seeing a lot of advertising for products containing vitamin C these days.
And based on those ads, you’d think that cold prevention is vitamin C’s whole story.
But there’s much more to this nutrient than just cold prevention. In fact, it may be one of the most versatile nutrients around.
Vitamin C Basics
Also known as “ascorbic acid”, awareness of vitamin C’s importance dates back to the British Navy in the 1700’s.
At that time, sailors routinely suffered from scurvy (which is literally just a vitamin C deficiency) while on long voyages where there was a lack of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Many unsuccessful attempts were made to find a cure, because longer voyages could result in 75% or more of a crew dying from the disease.
It was James Lind, a surgeon’s mate in the British Navy, who finally started to figure out what was behind this mystery disease. He conducted an experiment where he divided 12 sailors on his ship into two groups of six. Half of the sailors received two oranges and one lemon each day, while the other half did not.
After one week, the sailors who were given citrus fruit were the only ones well enough to take care of their ill shipmates.
Dr. Lind published his results in 1753…but it took the Royal Navy another 42 years to require a standard daily issue of limes to their sailors.
It wasn’t until 1928 that vitamin C was finally isolated from citrus juice. Its chemical structure was identified in 1937.
Since then, scientists have continued learning about the many benefits of vitamin C. Read on to learn more about this essential nutrient…
An Immune System Booster
If you take vitamin C during cold season…you’re just following the science.
Vitamin C works in three important ways to support your immune system in its fight against infection:
- Vitamin C helps your immune system produce more lymphocytes and phagocytes…the white blood cells that fight infection.
- Vitamin C protects white blood cells from oxidative damage caused by free radicals.
- Vitamin C provides a first line of defense by making your skin more resistant to infection.
A Powerful Antioxidant
Antioxidants protect your body from oxidative damage caused by free radicals. This is important because damage caused by free radicals results in inflammation…and inflammation is harmful to your body. Antioxidants reduce or prevent that damage by stabilizing free radicals (which are otherwise very unstable molecules). In other words, higher levels of antioxidants in your bloodstream means less inflammation throughout your body.
And what’s one of the most potent antioxidants around? You guessed it…vitamin C.
It Supports Cardiovascular Health
Several studies have linked Vitamin C…whether it comes from food or supplements…to lower risk factors for heart disease.
Most people are concerned to some degree about cholesterol. And yet, cholesterol levels have been shown to be a poor predictor of cardiovascular disease risk. This is because cholesterol itself isn’t what causes problems for people’s cardiovascular health. Rather, it’s what happens to cholesterol in the body that can get people into trouble. If cholesterol oxidizes (as described above), it can stick to artery walls, and cause inflammation. Vitamin C works hard to combat that oxidation.
It Reduces Risk of Anemia
Without iron, your body can’t create red blood cells. Without red blood cells, you have no means for transporting oxygen to the rest of your body. It’s when people are iron deficient that they are considered “anemic”.
Having said that, iron is a nutrient you don’t want present in excess, because excess iron is toxic and will oxidize. For this reason, do not supplement iron unless you have been directed to do so by a doctor,
However, if you are truly iron deficient, Vitamin C can help your body to absorb this mineral more easily. In fact, iron absorption may be as much as 67% higher for people who take as little as 100 mg of vitamin C daily.
It Improves Mental Function
Oxidative stress in your brain, spine, or nervous system due to damage caused by free radicals can lead to dementia later in life.
Thanks to its antioxidant properties, vitamin C may actually reduce dementia risk. In fact, vitamin C deficiency has been linked to dementia in a number of studies.
How Much Do You Need?
The RDA (recommended daily allowance) for vitamin C is just 90 mg for men and 75 mg for women. Most experts agree this is far too low, with many researchers suggesting 1000 mg or more of vitamin C daily.
Are you getting enough vitamin C and other essential vitamins and minerals? We’re here to help you figure it out.
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