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Monday, May 11, 2009

The ABC's of Vitamins - Vitamin C

Vitamin C. This is one where you are probably thinking, “Please, I know all about Vitamin C why even bother…”. And you might be correct, but I’m guessing there are some things about Vitamin C of which you may not be aware or that you may at least find interesting. Let’s see if I’m correct.

Vitamin C is the generic term for ascorbic acid and dehydroascorbic acid. It is a water soluble vitamin like the B vitamins we’ve been discussing. Ascorbic acid is found freely in your plasma and is distributed to all the cells of the body, especially the adrenal and pituitary glands. It is also stored in the brain where it functions as a neuromodulator, is involved in myelination and in the biosynthesis of noradrenaline (a neurotransmitter).

Ascorbic acid aids in inorganic iron absorption by acting as a chelator and reducing agent (this converts the iron to its ferrous state which is more soluble). In fact, taking vitamin C with a meal can increase your iron intake by around 6 fold. Ascorbic acid is required for the biosynthesis of carnitine (needed for the production of energy in your mitochondria) and enhancement of prostaglandin synthesis (modulates cardiovascular, pulmonary, immune and reproductive functions). Ascorbic acid also prevents the formation of N-nitroso compounds (aka nitrosamines, found in cured meats) which have been implicated in gastric cancer. Ascorbic acid stimulates collagen production as a co-factor in the polypeptide chain which aids in wound healing.

Perhaps one of ascorbic acid’s best known roles is that of antioxidant; it is an aggressive scavenger of free radicals. Lesser known, but of great interest to those of us who are allergy sufferers, is its role in the degradation of histamine. It decreases blood histamine levels thereby acting as an antihistamine.

Deficiencies are rare, but mild scurvy is seen in alcoholics & drug addicts, where it is manifested as weakness, lethargy, shortness of breath, and aching joints and muscles. Hopefully you are all getting the recommended daily intake of 90mg from citrus fruits, strawberries, papayas, dark green leafy vegetables and broccoli. If not, there are a world of supplements out there from both natural and synthetic sources (both have good bioavailability). If you are getting your vitamin C from supplements, it is better to take many small doses throughout the day rather than one large dose. You can also increase your absorption of supplemental vitamin C by taking it with a meal.

So, do you feel like you know this vitamin a little better than you did before? Good, now we will move on to Vitamin D it should be D-lightful!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm completely addicted to Emergen-C vitamin packets and convinced they have kept me completely cold-free for over a year.