Submitted by Carolyn Devin of Serenity of Body and Mind, CT, USA
The third in a series of talks about the importance of vitamins.
Vitamin C is an interesting vitamin because most of the animal kingdom can synthesize it themselves. Humans, guinea pigs and fruit bats are some of the very few species that need to supplement it in their diets. This vitamin is also known as ascorbic acid and we mostly associate it with citrus fruits such as; grapefruits, lemons, limes and especially oranges. While citrus fruits do contain quite a bit of vitamin C, guava fruit and red peppers actually contain much more. Half a cup of red pepper contains 160% of our daily recommended amount, half a cup of guava is 310%. Half a cup of orange juice is less than 75%. Green vegetables are also a great source of vitamin C but this vitamin is very heat sensitive and is easily destroyed in the cooking process.
Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant in the body, helps in collagen production and helps with the synthesis of other biological compounds needed in the body. Collagen production is very important in wound healing as it is critical to the skin’s structure. Another important role of vitamin C is the assistance to non-heme iron (non-animal form of iron) to be absorbed in the body. And lastly, vitamin C does assist with immune system functions; it does this by binding to free radicals in the body to prevent damage and illness.
Generally, vitamin C deficiency is rare, less than 15% in America. Vitamin C is fortified in many processed food such as juice and cereal so most people do have access to enough. Smokers, woman taking oral contraceptives and burn victims need more than the normal daily recommended amount because of oxidative stress and tissue regeneration. Severe vitamin C deficiency is called scurvy. It was prevalent in sailors hundreds of years ago because their sea voyages would last for months with no access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Many sailors died before a British doctor discovered the connection between citrus and the sailor’s sicknesses and deaths in the mid-1700s. After that British fleets were stocked with limes (as they kept for long periods). This is why the British sailors were called Limeys.
Scurvy is a nasty disease. It starts with fatigue and small red spots around with hair follicles which are called pinpoint hemorrhages. As the connective tissue in the body continues to break down, larger hemorrhages begin to appear, bone pain and diarrhea. Scurvy is fatal if not treated. This disease is generally associated with poverty but is rare in the United States. Poor vitamin C status is more common in populations of smokers, alcoholics and those with extremely poor diets.
There are studies currently going on to see if there is a correlation between intake of vitamin C and the prevention of some cancers and heart disease, however, there have been no definitive results.
Carolyn Devin is a Health and Wellness Coach practicing in Glastonbury, CT, USA. She helps individuals who are looking to lose weight, gain energy or just to feel better by teaching about nutrition and lifestyle changes.
“I don’t advocate “dieting” or quick fixes. I feel that everyone has the right to be happy and healthy, which means that I don’t propose radical changes to your lifestyle or starvation diets. I want to guide you on a path to healthier living.”