THE ESSENTIAL VITAMIN C
By Michal Kazmirsky, EUR ING., C. Chem.
There is increasing interest in the natural remedies in the past decades that they are the first choice before taking prescription medications due to fact that prescription drugs have many interactions, side effects, and high costs. Prevention for both minor and chronic health concerns and awareness is the part of taking responsibility for one’s health, and driving the people direction to the power of Natural Medicine in modern health.
Our body needs macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) for proper growth, metabolism, and function, and for energy in large quantities, but the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) are very important as well and they have powerful effects in small amounts.
Micronutrients are essential for health, and a deficiency can lead to health problems and disease. They assist in energy-producing reactions, growth and development, protect against free radical damage, and perform many vital functions.
Why we need natural health products (dietary supplements)?
It is important to have dependable knowledge about vitamins and minerals. We are able to control our destiny to some extent because environmental conditions, principally nutrition, also play a significant role in overall health. Traditional Western medicine is primarily concerned with treating isolated symptoms and diseases rather than promoting the health of the whole person. Although conventional medicine has its place and can do a lot of good – prevention is a far more potent tool and as long as an illness or condition is not life threatening, nutrition should be the first line of defence. Compared with modern Western medicine, the nutritional approach is a safe, nontoxic, effective alternative.
Poor diet, stress, exercise, use of prescription drugs, environmental toxicity, and excessive alcohol intake are factors that cause nutrient depletion. For many micronutrients, deficiency, inadequate intake or nutrient depletion is common relative to RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance). This is why supplements are so important in making up for shortcomings in the diet and preventing deficiencies.
The public is given very little information about how to naturally deal with everyday problems, such as allergies or asthma. Dietary supplements and lifestyle changes can help us live healthier lives.
Many nutritionists still believe that dietary supplements are unnecessary because any individual can obtain all the necessary vitamins and minerals from a healthful diet. But, many good dietary regimes commonly lead to deficiencies in vitamins and minerals, even consuming a “good diet”, the majority of individuals become chromium deficient over time, potentially leading to many disabilities. Such a diet is generally considered to be one where deficiencies in bodily concentrations of vitamins and minerals do not occur. But this avoids the possibility that the human body would do better with higher concentrations of certain vitamins and minerals than expected. And today’s fast-food “diet” doesn’t provide adequate amounts of all the necessary vitamins and minerals.
The reason of the missing nutrients:
- Evidence shows that the food tables that supposedly tell us the nutrient content of the foods we eat probably overstate nutritional value. As a result, the orange you just bought is probably not nearly as full of vitamin C as you may have been led to believe.
- The nutrient content of foods, especially regarding minerals, fluctuates widely, depending on the growing conditions. Without mineral-rich-soils, it is impossible for fruits and vegetables to contain a rich supply of nutrients.
- Artificial fertilizers are widely used to increase crop yields, but, as is often the case, quantity does not necessarily equal quality.
- Fruits and vegetables begin to lose nutrients from the moment they are picked. Most of the fresh fruits and vegetables we buy have actually been picked, and then stored, then shipped, and then stored again-possibly for weeks or months. After we buy them, we store them some more. Then we may cook them, or at least cut or slice them. Or a food may be processed before we buy it. Each of these steps causes further nutrient loss. For example, the vitamin C content of apples may fall by two-thirds after only two or three months. Potatoes may have 30 mg of vitamin C per 100 g when they are freshly harvested in the fall; but by springtime, they have only 8 mg per 100 g; and by summer, they have practically none. Green vegetables suffer even more-they lose all their vitamin C after a few days of being stored at room temperature. Everyone knows that orange juice is high in vitamin C. But few people realize that an orange loses 30 percent of its vitamin C soon after it is squeezed. Non-fortified commercial orange juice has almost no natural vitamin C left.
There are 13 essential vitamins that our bodies need for proper growth, function, and maintenance of healthy tissues. The vitamins are either water-soluble or fat-soluble. The B-vitamins and vitamin C dissolve in water and are easily eliminated from the body. Adverse reactions, even with high-dose supplements, are rare with these vitamins.
Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) – most people don’t realize just how widespread the role of vitamin C in maintaining and restoring optimum health is.
Functions in our bodies:
- Required for synthesis of collagen (structural component of blood vessels, tendons, and bone), norepinephrine (neurotransmitter), and carnitine (amino acid involved in energy production); promote wound healing; supports immune function and gum health; and has antioxidant properties.
- Used to prevent cataracts, macular degeneration, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and cold; improve wound healing and response to stress; reduce bronchial spasms in asthmatics; and prevent lead toxicity.
- Severe deficiencies cause scurvy (bleeding, bruising, hair and tooth loss, joint pain, and swelling).
- Marginal deficiencies are common among the elderly, alcoholics, and those with cancer, chronic illness, or stress. Symptoms include fatigue, easy bruising, poor wound healing and appetite, anaemia, and sore joints.
- Drugs that deplete vitamin C: oral contraceptives, aspirin, corticosteroids, and furosemide.
- The Linus Pauling Institute recommends 400 mg of vitamin C daily, which is higher than the RDA, yet much lower than the UL (Tolerable Upper Intake Level). Most multivitamin supplements provide 60 mg of vitamin C.
- Natural and synthetic forms are chemically identical and have the same effects on the body.
- Vitamin C-rich foods and supplements enhance the absorption of nonheme iron (form of iron found primarily in plants).
- In the role as and antioxidant, vitamin C prevents the free-radical damage that contributes to aging and an entire spectrum of degenerative and aging-related diseases, including cancer and cardiovascular disorders. In addition, ascorbic acid prevents other antioxidant vitamins, including A and E, from being oxidized, thus keeping them potent.
- The major role vitamin C plays in the immune system, where, according to growing evidence, it helps increase resistance to a range of disease, including infections and cancer.
- Studies of both animals and humans have shown that excesses of vitamin C stimulate the production of lymphocytes, an important component of our immune system. Ascorbic acid also appears to be required by the thymus gland (one of the major glands involved in immunity), and increases the mobility of the phagocytes, the type of cell that eats bacteria, viral cells, and cancer cells, as well as other harmful foreign invaders.
- Vitamin C levels in the blood and body tissues decrease with age, and some elderly people who receive vitamin C supplements show enhanced immunity.
- Combined with the ability of vitamin C to boost our immune system’s ability to combat bacteria and viruses, this has implications also for heart disease and gastric cancer, the risk for both of which appears to be increased by bacterial infection.
- Vitamin C plays important role in our ability to handle all types of physical and mental stress. Vitamin C is needed by the adrenal glands to synthesize hormones, and the normally high levels of ascorbic acid in these glands are especially depleted during high-stress occurrences, such as surgery; any kind of illness, including infections and injuries; cigarette smoking; and the use of birth control pills. Research reveals that recovery from injury or surgery can be dramatically accelerated through the use of vitamin C supplementation.
- Another preventive mechanism involves nitrosamines and similar substances. Nitrosamines are proven carcinogens in animals and humans. Our bodies are exposed to nitrosamines in food and cigarette smoke. In addition, we ingest nitrites and nitrates, the precursors of nitrosamines, in food – vegetables and cured packaged meats such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs, and ham, water, polluted air, and cigarette smoke. Vitamin C blocks the process by which the body uses these substances to make nitrosamines and should therefore also block the formation of the tumours that nitrosamines could generate. Studies have correlated a high intake of dietary vitamin C with a reduced risk of cancer of the stomach, colon, bladder, lung, oesophagus, and cervix.
- It is especially important that cigarette smokers take in adequate amounts of vitamin C.
- Cardiovascular disease: a recent study demonstrated that men who consume 300 mg of vitamin C daily, have a 40 percent lower death rate from heart disease and other causes than do those whose intake is less than 50 mg. Vitamin C also acts in many ways to help prevent high blood pressure and atherosclerosis. Both human and animal studies have linked increase levels of vitamin C with a reduction of serum cholesterol. Vitamin C may also help repair damaged arterial walls and so prevent cholesterol deposits from forming. In addition, as an antioxidant, it reduces the oxidation of LDL (low-density lipoproteins, the bad cholesterol), and thus helps prevent any damage from occurring in the cell wall in the first place. Some studies have shown that an increase in vitamin C is associated with higher levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL). Often called good cholesterol, HDL appears to protect the body from heart disease.
- Vision: there are very exciting studies using vitamin C and other antioxidants that provide hope for the aging eye. A study funded by the National Eye Institute involved 5,000 people found that a combination of vitamins C and E and beta-carotene reduced risk of vision loss by 10 percent. Another study of older people, conducted in Spain, found that those with the highest blood levels of vitamin C had a 64 percent reduced risk of cataracts.
- Vitamin C has other functions, as well. It is essential for the growth and repair of tissues in all parts of the body. It is needed for the formation of collagen, present in connective tissue, and for the formation of bone and cartilage. It is needed for the repair of fractured bones. Vitamin C causes the gum tissues to heal more rapidly after dental extraction.
- Vitamin C seems to be a valuable adjunct to medical treatment in general. In one study in the Netherlands patients who have recently undergone an operation experience less breathing problems after taking a mixture of vitamin C and E. Breathing problems, which are a side effect of the sedatives and painkillers given to surgery patients, can increase the heart rate and blood pressure and eventually lead to an unexpected heart attack. In another study, people with a hyperactive thyroid were given vitamin C and other antioxidants along with their medication. This group experienced a reduction in symptoms and did better than those who got the medication without the supplements.
- A study published in 2002 found that a high intake of vitamins C and E was associated with a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The theory is that free radicals are involved in this disease, and those at risk should be protecting themselves by increasing their intake of these antioxidants.
- Vitamin C is needed to convert folic acid, a B vitamin, into its active form. It increases our ability to absorb iron from non-animal foods, such as raisins and spinach. It also plays a role in the storage of iron in the bone marrow, spleen, and liver, and improves the bioavailability of selenium.
- The classic deficiency disease for vitamin C is scurvy. Early symptoms of scurvy are subtle and difficult to diagnose: listlessness, weakness, irritability, vague muscle and joint pains, and weight loss. Symptoms of advanced scurvy are bleeding gums, gingivitis, loosening of the teeth, and extreme weakness and fatigue. The RDI established to prevent these overt symptoms of scurvy is 60 mg for men and women. But many experts feel that the RDI is far too low, and that we are at high risk of not getting the amount of ascorbic acid we need. We are incapable of producing vitamin C in our bodies or store it for very long.
For optimum general health, the basic Optimum Daily Intake for vitamin C is:
500-5,000 mg for men and women (along with 500-5,000 mg bioflavonoids).
Based on a scientific review of vitamin C, the following amounts of vitamin C appear to be valuable for:
Allergies or asthma: 3,000-7,000 mg
Bleeding gums: 1,000-3,000 mg
Cancer prevention: 5,000-10,000 mg
Coronary heart disease prevention: 500-4,000 mg
Enhanced immunity: 1,000-5,000 mg
Exposure to cigarette smoke and polluted air: 1,000-5,000 mg
High levels of stress: 1,000-5,000 mg
Surgery, wounds, injuries: 5,000-10,000 mg
Optimum Daily Intake may vary from day to day, depending on various factors, for
example, during times of stress, cold or another type of infection.
There is no proven toxicity for vitamin C. No studies show any relationship between vitamin C and the formation of kidney stones (calcium oxalate) in healthy people. However, if there is a history of kidney problems, vitamin C should be taken only under the guidance of a qualified professional.
Vitamin C is used by the liver to detoxify drugs and other chemicals and appears to protect the body from the side effects that accompany many drugs.
High intakes of vitamin C help detoxify the body, rebalance intestinal flora, and strengthen the immune system. It is especially effective in helping the body rid itself of heavy metal toxins like mercury, lead, cadmium, and nickel.
Michal Kazmirsky, EUR ING., C. Chem.,
Akuna Laboratory and R & D Manager
Member of Akuna Scientific Advisory Board
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