Vitamin C: Functions, Deficiency, People at risk, Natural Sources
Vitamin C: Functions, Deficiency, People at risk, Remedy and Natural Sources
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin also called ascorbic acid or L-ascorbic acid. It is a dietary supplement. The vitamin is present in numerous natural foods. For example, potatoes are very rich in the vitamin and serve as one of the major sources of vitamin C for the British who eat potatoes a lot.
Functions of Vitamin C
Vitamin C plays very important roles in the body:
- Vitamin C is required in the body for collagen formation: collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies; It is found in muscles, bones, skin, blood vessels, digestive system and tendons; collagen gives our skin strength and elasticity; It helps in replacing dead skin cells; around our joints and tendons, collagen is the ‘glue’ that holds our body together. Factors that would normally cause depletion of collagen are ageing, eating a diet high in sugar, smoking and high amounts of sun exposure. You can also get this vital protein from bone broth. 1
- The vitamin helps in hormone formation: hormones are chemical messengers that are responsible for processes such as mood, growth and development, reproduction, sexual function, and metabolism (how body derives energy from the foods we eat).
- It is involved with the production of amino acids: the proteins in our bodies are built of amino acids.
- It is very much involved with wound healing and recovery from burns.
- It contains antioxidant properties which are essential in maintaining healthy connective tissues and the integrity of cell walls. Antioxidants help to prevent the process of chain reactions capable of damaging the cells in our bodies.
- Vitamin C aids absorption of iron: iron is well needed to carry oxygen along in the blood to parts of the body where it is needed. Iron simply bind to the haemoglobin (red pigment in red blood cell) of the blood to perform this task. Rich sources of iron include spinach, red meat, liver, kidney bean etc.
- It helps with carnitine formation: carnitine is involved with energy metabolism (helps the body produce energy), it is important for heart and brain function, muscle movement. 2. It also protects the power house of body cell called mitochondria.
Signs & Symptoms of Vitamin C Deficiency
Arguably, scurvy is often the first thing that comes to mind when the issue of vitamin C deficiency is mentioned. Well we need to know that the deficiency of vitamin C comes with many signs. In fact scurvy only occurs in the case of persistent or prolong (months of) vitamin C deficiency.
Early but often less noticeable signs of the vitamin include:
- *Easy bruising
- *Swollen gums
- *Bleeding gums
- *Slow wound healing
- *Gingivitis (inflammation of the gums)
- *Dry and splitting hair
- *Dry red spots on the skin
- *Rough, dry, scaly skin
- *Weakened immune system
- *Digestive disorders like leaky gut and autoimmune disease
- *Possible weight gain because of slowed metabolism
- *Swollen and painful joints (3)
Severe, more noticeable signs of Vitamin C deficiency include: occurring due to long term low level of vitamin C
- High blood pressure
- Gallbladder disease
- Certain cancers
- Atherosclerosis (3)
Group of People at risk of Vitamin C Deficiency:
- Drug addicts and alcoholics who may not adopt proper or balanced diet in their lifestyle.
- Nursing mothers and pregnant women need higher amounts of vitamin C because of their condition.
- Low income earners who buy less of food items with high vitamin C content.
- Smokers and second second hand smokers, smoking impairs absorption of vitamin C.
- People with medical conditions that impair absorption of vitamins e.g ulcer patients who also tend to eat less because of pain in the stomach.
- People who take in less varied foods e.g older people who could care less about balanced diet.
One can treat vitamin C deficiency by taking diets rich in the vitamin and by using vitamin C supplements. The help of a dietitian may be required to apply expertise knowledge to achieve a better result.
Natural Sources of Vitamin C
Our bodies do not make vitamin C and also our bodies do not store any excess of vitamin C consumed. In fact, we excrete any excess of it and so we are not at risk of it overdose. Although we should watch out for daily limit of 2000mg when consuming the vitamin to avoid stomach upset and diarrhoea. Here are good sources of this vital vitamin:
* guava, mango, pineapple, pawpaw (papaya), potato, common orange, red and green peppers, peas, grapefruit, blackcurrant, broccoli.