Why Do I Need Vitamin C?

Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) may be the most well-known nutrient to the general public, perhaps because it is associated with chewable vitamins and orange flavor.  Your parent may have given you a chewable Vitamin C, or perhaps you requested it as a child because you thought it was a treat.  The importance of Vitamin C and what it does in your body was discovered just over 100 years ago and the research continues to unlock more understanding of the essential activity of Ascorbic Acid in your body.

What does it do?

Vitamin C is often identified as an “anti-oxidant” – its main action in the body.  A simple way to describe this is that vitamin C is able to transfer energy and help the reaction in your cells to continue on as normal.  Like a new battery put into your electronic device to make it work, vitamin C is the “battery” for numerous enzymes in the body to keep going and not develop a “short circuit.”  The vitamin C replaces the lost energy packet, which helps the enzyme to continue its job.

 Scurvy Hand

Scurvy Hand

Collagen is connective tissue that holds you together, so without it you begin to fall apart.  It is a protein your body constructs to produce bone, make skin, and generate connective tissues with the aid of vitamin C.  Sailors who were isolated from fresh foods containing vitamin C could begin to develop sores in their mouth and skin when they became deficient in Vitamin C.  If the ship did not get to a port with fresh food, many sailors would die at sea from scurvy, a disease of vitamin C deficiency.  Vitamin C assists the enzyme that builds collagen from proteins in the body by supplying an additional energy packet to the enzyme.   No vitamin C, then no collagen, and the body begins to fall apart.

Neurotransmitters, like Seratonin, are not produced in the body to appropriate concentrations without vitamin C as the required activator to keep the enzymes going.  Seratonin is an important signaling molecule between nerves that is related to general well-being and happiness.  Individuals who are prescribed medication to assist their response to serotonin may be helped by increasing their vitamin C intake.  Vitamin C helps the body convert amino acids into the active serotonin molecule that is associated with positive moods.

Immune strength is related to the health of your white blood cells, which have the highest concentration of vitamin C in the body.  Perhaps your parent gave you vitamin C when symptoms of a cold were developing.  The white blood cells that fight the cold virus or related germs is dependent on vitamin C to be able to activate the defense systems of the body.   Taking vitamin C on a regular basis has been shown to reduce the duration of colds in about 10% of adults.  Regular intake of vitamin C has also been associated with decreased risk of cancer of the digestive tract, lung, and breast.  A measure of the vitamin C concentration within a white blood cell is a good standard for measuring adequate vitamin C intake.

All ages benefit from daily intake of vitamin C.   The growing child with an immune system that is learning how to defend the body should have at least 15 mg / day.  The athlete developing muscle tissue and repairing connective tissue would benefit from 300 – 500 mg /day.   The senior citizen will benefit from 500 mg / day as well to keep the immune system strong and help strengthen the collagen of the bone.

In the next post,  "Your Prescription Medications and Vitamin C"  will be reviewed.

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