Vitamin C Supplement
A vitamin C supplement is a good way to meet essential dietary needs and can help to ensure the body functions at its best. While vitamin C is available in many foods, it is neither made nor stored inside the body as it is water-soluble Interestingly, humans, guinea pigs, and some other primate species are the only creatures on Earth not capable of converting glucose (blood sugar) into ascorbic acid (vitamin C). (1) As a result, humans must search out specific kinds of food to satisfy our daily vitamin C requirements.
Despite the body’s inability to produce vitamin C, thousands of biological systems rely on it. In fact, vitamin C is thought of as the essential antioxidant, because it supports the structure and integrity of cells when exposed to metabolic waste, environmental toxins, and free radicals. Vitamin C is also described as the compound that holds the body together, because of its vital role in the production of collagen.< /P>
Vitamin C supports these and thousands of other processes in the body. While we understand the importance of vitamin C today, it wasn't until the early 1900s that scientists first discovered its molecular structure. Since that time, we began to better understand why it is a necessary part of our diet.
The History of Vitamin C
In the early 1930s, Dr. Albert Szent-Györgyi discovered the molecular structure of ascorbic acid. (2) Before its discovery, several scientists had proposed its existence and were able to link its deficiency to several diseases, but they were never able to validate their claims.
Interestingly, early Egyptian scrolls written in 1500 BCE, identify a range of symptoms that today we know to be associated with the disease known as scurvy. The term scurvy was first coined in the 1500s by the British to explain the symptoms that sailors suffered during long voyages. Prior to refrigeration and canning of foods, sailors largely subsisted on salted meats and bread during long voyages. (3) These dietary habits would prove fatal to thousands as humans circumnavigated the globe.
Later, as governments discovered that consuming fruits and vegetables could quickly reverse the effects of scurvy, they ordered changes to rationing. But fruits and vegetables spoil quickly and have a much lower caloric value than bread and salted meats, and were as a result infrequently used. It wasn’t until the end of the 1700s that the British Navy finally adopted a mixture of rum, water, sugar, and lemon juice. The vitamin C in this drink proved to be the best way to prevent scurvy. This led to the modern day term of ‘Limeys,' which British sailors today have adopted to show affection for one another, as it was the discovery and use of lemon juice that would go on to save millions of lives.
Potential Benefits of Vitamin C
Vitamins C enters the body through the stomach and digestive system. Once in the bloodstream, it circulates through all of the systems of the body. When needed, vitamin C enters cells where it supports the body in many ways.
Vitamin C has been shown to provide antioxidant support in the body by inhibiting the oxidation that occurs when oxygen reacts with specific kinds of molecules. (4) In the body, oxidation primarily occurs during the metabolism of stored foods. To make the nutrients available to the body, foods need to be broken down. This process results in the creation of free radicals that interact with and disrupt healthy cells. This can cause a domino effect that causes healthy cells to oxidize and create even more free radicals.
The effect that free radicals have on cells is known as oxidative stress. While free radicals will always be present as a result of metabolism and other factors, the ability of the body to detoxify and remove free radicals as they are created may be key for maintaining optimal health. (5)
Antioxidants from Vitamin C May Support:
- Brain (6)
- Eyes (7)
- Pregnant women (8)
- Fetal development (9)
- DNA replication (10)
- Heart, arterial, and vessel health (11)
- Blood pressure and cholesterol already within the normal range (12)
Vitamin C primarily supports balance in the body in two way. First, vitamin C is shown to help limit the action of free radicals by trapping radicals in a younger phase. When stuck in this state, they can reach the membranes of healthy cells but will not trigger a reaction (oxidation). Second, vitamin C has an activating effect on vitamin E (tocopherol), a lipid soluble antioxidant that helps to support the cellular development and the central nervous system.
To better understand the role of vitamin C and antioxidants, a research group at Oregon State University performed a study with 22 young adults. This study measured the changes in lipid peroxidation product metabolites (the chemical byproduct of oxidation) found in urine after receiving a 500 mg vitamin C supplement twice daily for 17 days. (13) Researchers note that concentrations of oxidative products in urine amounted to 20-30%, and that this "supports the notion that vitamin C supplementation exerts antioxidant effects and reduces oxidative stress."
Vitamin C is believed to support the immune system in several ways, but the exact relationship is not entirely understood. In a study looking at vitamin C levels in the body of patients with the common cold and pneumonia, it was determined that vitamin C levels found in leukocytes (white blood cells) halved. (14) This is possibly the result of an alteration in the metabolism of vitamin C that is necessary to help balance free radicals that result in oxidative stress caused by disease. Therefore, supplementing the amount of vitamin C in the body may have a positive result on immune system metabolism.
Research has also found that vitamin C, along with other vitamins and micronutrients, support regulating factors in the body. These include support for "proinflammatory cytokines, which maintain an effective immune response; inhibiting the excessive activation of the immune system to prevent tissue damage, and supporting antibacterial activity, stimulating natural killer (NK) cells." (15) Currently, the administration of vitamin C in patients that have been diagnosed with chronic or severe diseases is ongoing. Some research points to positive results, but the data remains inconclusive.
Collagen Production and Skin Health
Collagen is a type of protein that forms the fibers in connective tissue. (16) This soft tissue is what makes the skin stretch, allows the muscle to expand and contract, and forms cartilage and the soft tissue in bones before undergoing calcification. These and other processes are essential to the normal function of the body, but none of this would occur without the hydrogen and oxygen molecules that vitamin C adds to amino acids found in collagen. (17) This process is known as hydroxylation, and it is necessary for the stabilization of cellular structures before forming connective tissue.
Vitamin C is also studied for its ability to support the synthesis of new collagen to replace old skin cells. (18) To replace old cells, new cells are produced in the bottom layer of the skin, also known as the dermis. These cells push upward as new cells growth underneath. Cells on the outside of the skin (epidermis) begin to flake off and reveal the new cells underneath. From start to finish, this process takes around 27 days.
Research into this process reveals that vitamin C promotes the development of new cells, including support for the proliferation rate of fibroblasts, which are secretions of extracellular matrix proteins that give skin its structure. (19) As a result, the increase in vitamin C is believed to support the look, feel, and appearance of skin. These potential benefits may also continue during normal aging, and may help to support skin hydration, texture, and tone.
Vitamin C also supports the body in other ways. From acting as a catalyst in smaller reactions that support the synthesis of essential amino acids, to supporting the development and maintenance of bone during normal aging, vitamin C serves many diverse and important functions inside the body.
Vitamin C May Also Support:
- Bone maintenance
- B vitamin activation
- Tendons, muscles, and cartilage
- Synthesis of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins
- Folic acid uptake
- Conversion of cholesterol to bile acids
- Conversion of tryptophan to serotonin
- Absorption of nonheme iron (iron found in plants)
- The synthesis of amino acids (glycine, proline, lysine carnitine, catecholamine)
- Red cell production
- Oxygen transport and cellular respiration
To maintain the support for these systems, vitamin C levels in the body need to be maintained. Over time, vitamins are pulled from the blood as it filters through the liver. If the vitamin C in the body is not replaced, disruptions to the normal functions of the body may occur. To counteract this, vitamin C supplementation may be necessary to help meet daily dietary needs.
Vitamin C Dosage Recommendations
The Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) for vitamin C was developed by the Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. (20) When looking at the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) of vitamin C, the intake levels represent the amount of vitamin C that is sufficient for at least 97% of individuals.
Recommended Dietary Allowances For Vitamin C
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The National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements suggest that “consuming five varied servings of fruits and vegetables a day can provide more than 200 mg of vitamin C.” Citrus fruits or juices, broccoli, tomatoes, or beverages fortified with vitamin C may be ideal when trying to meet daily dietary needs. To maintain the nutritional content of food, avoid exposing food to excessive heat. Microwaving or steaming is believed to help retain more nutrition when compared to an open flame or baking.
Several groups of people are at risk for falling short of recommended daily intakes of vitamin C. Smokers, those that breathe secondhand smoke, infants fed evaporated or boiled milk, the elderly or indigent, food faddists, those that abuse alcohol or drugs, and those with a mental illness are most at risk. Individuals that fall into any of these categories may need to a vitamin C supplement to meet their dietary needs.
Tolerable Upper Intake Levels For Vitamin C
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However, too much vitamin C might be a bad thing depending on the individual The tolerable upper intake levels for vitamin indicates the amount that the body can safely handle, according to the Food and Nutrition Board. Never exceed the recommended allowance of vitamin C unless directed by a medical professional. Some drugs and medical therapies have been shown to interact with vitamin C so that dosage recommendations may differ. According to the Mayo Clinic, exceeding recommended vitamin C intake (‘megadosing') may lead to serious health problems such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, abdominal bloating, cramps, headache, insomnia, and kidney stones. The form of vitamin C may also make a difference as to potential interactions, for example ascorbic acid versus liposomal or food-based vitamin C from citrus fruit. (21)
Types of Vitamin C Supplements
When a diet alone doesn’t provide the vitamin C necessary to maintain feelings of health and wellness, a vitamin C supplement can help to fill nutritional gaps. But not all vitamin C supplements are the same. In its natural form, vitamin C is available as ascorbic acid. But over the years researchers have formulated new varieties of the vitamin. These forms of vitamin C may provide optimal bioavailability, promote abdominal comfort, or support vitamin C utilization in the body.
Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is a six carbon compound that is similar to glucose and typically derived from fruits and vegetables. In supplements, vitamin C as ascorbic acid is derived from natural or synthetic sources and is common as it is typically more affordable when compared to other forms of vitamin C.
Liposomal Vitamin C
Liposomal encapsulation is a way to surround vitamin C molecules in fatty walls with a middle aqueous layer. The liposomal membrane fuses with the cellular wall to allow the vitamin C to directly enter the cell as opposed to ascorbic acid that has to cross the cellular membrane. While this form of vitamin C supplement is believed to promote optimal bioavailability, research is inconclusive as to whether it provides additional health benefits.
Ester-C is a patented form of vitamin C that undergoes a process to neutralize ascorbic acid with calcium carbonate. This process yields calcium ascorbate while maintaining the important metabolites of vitamin C. In laboratory models, this process is believed to promote the uptake and retention of vitamin C in the body. Additionally, this form of vitamin C may promote abdominal comfort when compared to ascorbic acid.
Vitamin C With Bioflavonoids From Citrus
Bioflavonoids are biologically active compounds found in any food that also contains vitamin C. They are most abundant in citrus fruits. Some vitamin C supplements advertise added bioflavonoids and are believed to support the antioxidant actions of vitamin C.
Importance of Vitamin C Supplements
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient in our body. While getting enough from fruits and vegetables may be easy enough, a vitamin C supplement can help to fill nutritional gaps that may occur as a result of internal or dietary challenges. Thankfully, the understanding and importance of vitamin C have spread, and now there are many different ways maintain healthy levels in the body, and to provide extra support when needed.