In this blog post, we are talking about probably the best-known vitamin of all known essential vitamins for us. And it is vitamin C, which definitely has so many important benefits for us, that we cannot do without it. So we will get to know, “Why is Vitamin C so Good for You? – The Radical Catcher.” Furthermore, we will learn, how much vitamin C we need, where we can get it from and what might happen if we are out of a balanced vitamin C level.
Why is Vitamin C the Radical Catcher?
Amongst other very important and essential functions in our metabolism, it is probably the most important task for vitamin C to work as an antioxidant, which catches radicals.
And by that, I don´t mean people, who are active in a certain group. No, it is not a process in our environment, but a process in us. Radicals can be highly reactive molecules, which release an oxidation process. If this process happens in our body a cell damage is possible. If our body is not able to catch a specific amount of these radicals before they have the chance to begin the oxidation process, then diseases like cancer, Alzheimer´s and arteriosclerosis may be a result. Also an increased aging process on the cellular level is possible.
Some examples of radicals, that are potentially harmful to us in high amounts are reactive oxygen species (ROS) and nitrogen monoxide, which exist for example in exhaust gases from cars, cigarettes or coal power stations.
In this case, vitamin C comes in place to help to keep the damage from free radicals as low as possible.
So if you want to support your body by protecting you from free radicals, then be sure to keep your vitamin C level high enough, what is not so difficult at all. Let´s find out how we can achieve that.
What is Vitamin C?
Vitamin C is a crystalline, non-coloured, non-smelling, organic acid, which is water soluble and has a sour taste. It is also known under the name ascorbic acid. L (+) ascorbic acid is the most bioactive form of vitamin C.
Vitamin C is one of the essential vitamins, which we have to get through our nutrition.
It is also often used as a preservative because it works as an antioxidant or as an acidifier.
What is the demand of Vitamin C?
Depending on the age, health and lifestyle the daily demand for an average and healthy adult for the essential vitamin C is
90 milligrams (mg) per day.
Where can you get Vitamin C from (Top foods)?
Here are the Top foods, which are rich in vitamin C:
1. Cherry (up to 2000 mg/100g)
2. Cassis, cale (up to 200 mg/100g)
3. Broccoli, pepper, kiwi (up to 100 mg/100g)
4. Oranges, strawberry (up to 80 mg/100g)
5. Lemon (up to 50 mg/100g)
There are some other very rare, regional and exotic fruits, like the camu-camu or the billygoat plum, which can reach up to 3000 mg/100g. That would be 30 times the factor of the daily demand of vitamin C.
What are the functions and benefits of Vitamin C?
As we already learned in the first paragraph of this blog post, vitamin C is a crucial component in our oxidation protection. It helps us to reduce potential cell damage due to oxidation processes. Let´s have a look on other important functions of vitamin C in our body.
Antioxidant, who catches free radicals
Vitamin C helps us to reduce oxidative stress by catching free radicals like reactive oxygen species and nitrogen monoxide.
Function as a (co)enzyme
Among other things vitamin C works as a coenzyme and helps within the biosynthesis of collagen to maintain a tight connective tissue.
Vitamin C also helps to build the amino acid lysine within an enzymatic reaction and glycoproteins, which are structural proteins, that are also components in collagen.
Hormone and protein metabolism
Vitamin C is present at the formation of several essential hormones like the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and therefore noradrenaline. Serotonin and dopamine are there so that we are able to feel happiness. Noradrenaline helps our body with signals in the central nervous system to be prepared for stress reactions.
Also within the production of the hormone melatonin, which regulates our day and night rhythm, vitamin C is needed.
Lastly, vitamin C comes in place when it comes to a good working protein metabolism. An example is the formation of the amino acids carnitine and tyrosine. The last one is there to produce dopamine and the pigment melanin. Carnitine is important for the energy metabolism and the transport of fat. For the production of carnitine, it is also necessary that the B vitamins B3 (niacin) and B6 (pyridoxine) are present.
Iron and Calcium resorption in the gut and other functions
Vitamin C is found in high doses in the sperm, as it is used by the sperm cells, but the process is not quite clear yet.
And last but not least there are several studies, which show, that vitamin C promotes the fat metabolism and lets fat burn faster.
Vitamin C also works as a detoxifier. For example it helps to bind toxic molecules like cyanide, aldehyde (degradation product of alcohol, which is chemically an alcohol by itself) and nicotine.
What deficiency symptoms of Vitamin C exist?
A hypovitaminosis of vitamin C is possible, but not so easy to achieve. There are some risk factors like a one sided diet, overweight, high blood pressure and inflammations, which need high amounts of vitamin C. One of the well-known diseases, caused by a lack of vitamin C is scurvy, which only occurs on long-term deficiencies of two to three months. Typical symptoms are a bleeding and tender gum, a sore mouth and a bad immune system. Moreover, the symptoms of a milder deficiency can be as followed:
- swelling legs
- bad, dry skin
- bad wound healing
- joint pain
- chronic lung damage
- a weak immune system
What overdose symptoms of Vitamin C exist?
A hypervitaminosis of vitamin C is possible through supplementation with very high doses of more than 15 g per day on a regular basis. Surplus vitamin C is normally excreted through the kidneys and the urine. Short time symptoms of an overdose may be gastrointestinal problems and as long time symptoms kidney stones may occur.
What else may you have to consider about Vitamin C?
Value in our body
Vitamin C in an amount up to 5.000 mg can be stored in our body. Just after about three months without the intake of any vitamin C the storage in the body is completely depleted and symptoms of scurvy can occur.
Antagonists and Advice
A high amount of sugar, namely glucose, which is grape sugar, can decrease the absorption of vitamin C in the gut.
Natural vitamin C, like that of cherries or seabuckthorn is easier to process for us. So we should avoid the synthetic form of vitamin C, which is mostly found under the chemical name ascorbic acid.
Discovery and Use
Vitamin C was discovered and isolated around 1928 by the Hungarian biochemist Szent-Györgyi.
The word ascorbic acid comes from the Latin word “a – scorbutus”, which means against scurvy.
Today we had the opportunity to get to know the most famous essential vitamin. And we learned that vitamin C is not for nothing in this prominent position.
Being a strong antioxidant is probably the most important function of vitamin C, which prevents free radicals to get to our body cells in order to cause damage, which possibly can lead to harmful diseases like cancer, arteriosclerosis and lastly to scurvy. And as we have so many good options to supply our body with enough vitamin C, it is easy to be in good health with a normal level of vitamin C. Specifically high in vitamin C are fruits like cherries (acerola) and cassis and vegetables like broccoli, cale and pepper.
Futhermore, vitamin C fulfills several other important functions in our body, such as its enzymatical effect on the protein metabolism. This causes the production of collagen for a firm connective tissue and the formation of hormones, which let us feel good, like serotonin and dopamine.
Let us know what you think about this topic? Was this blog post helpful for you? What else do you know or want to know about ascorbic acid? Please leave a comment below.