By: Xinjuan J. Baldwin
WHAT IS VITAMIN C?
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble nutrient. Some animals can make their own vitamin C in their bodies, but human beings have to get this nutrient from food and other sources. Vitamin C is a necessary nutrient for normal growth and development. Your body can only absorb a certain amount of vitamin C depending on your age, gender and other factors. The excessive portion which can’t be absorbed will leave the body with urine.
HOW CAN YOU GET VITAMIN C?
You can get vitamin C through various sources, such as natural foods and dietary supplements. However, you need to remember that getting vitamin C through natural foods is much better than taking supplements. Among all the foods, fruits and vegetables are the best choices.
The following is a list of foods which are rich in vitamin C:
- Citrus fruits and their juices, such as orange, lemon, grapefruit and lime.
- Other fruits, such as kiwifruit, mango, papaya, pineapple, strawberry, cantaloupe and watermelon.
- Vegetables, such as red pepper, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, baked potato, tomato and spinach.
- Other than naturally occurring vitamin C, some foods and beverages are fortified with vitamin C, such as certain cereals. You can find that information on the product labels.
Dietary supplements typically contain vitamin C in the form of ascorbic acid, but there are other different forms of the vitamin C supplements available, such as sodium ascorbate, calcium ascorbate, and other mineral ascorbates.
The vitamin C content of food may be reduced by prolonged storage and cooking. Since vitamin C is water-soluble, cooking food in water, such as boiling, may lead to vitamin C losses as well. Steaming or microwaving may be better ways to retain vitamin C in food. Fortunately, many fruits and vegetables are usually eaten raw, which allows people to get a good amount of vitamin C out of them.
WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF VITAMIN C ON HEALTH?
Vitamin C has been claimed to have a lot of functions, some of them have been proved by scientific studies, but some of them are still questionable. Here are some commonly claimed effects of vitamin c on human’s health.
The Common Cold
Although vitamin C has long been believed to cure the common cold, research shows that for most people, vitamin C supplements do not reduce the risk of getting the common cold or cure the cold after getting it. However, people who take vitamin C supplements regularly might have slightly shorter colds (about 1 day shorter in duration) or slightly milder symptoms. Using vitamin C supplements after cold symptoms start does not appear to be helpful.
In the body, vitamin C acts as an antioxidant. It helps to protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals, which are formed when your body breaks down food for energy. People are also exposed to free radicals in the environment from cigarette / tobacco smoke, air pollution, ultraviolet light from the sun and radiation. The buildup of free radicals can cause aging and may possibly cause cancer and heart disease.
Cancer Prevention and Treatment
Many population based studies suggest that people with regularly high intakes of vitamin C-rich foods might have a lower risk of getting cancer, such as skin cancer, cervical dysplasia, lung cancer, colon cancer or breast cancer. On the other hand, the foods rich in vitamin C also contain many other beneficial nutrients, so it is difficult to determine the role of vitamin C in preventing cancer. Moreover, vitamin C supplements do not seem to have any effect on preventing cancer.
In addition, it is not clear that taking large doses of vitamin C will cure cancer or help cancer treatment. Also, some doctors are concerned that large doses of dietary vitamin C supplements may interfere with the chemotherapy medications and radiation therapy for cancer.
People who eat lots of fruits and vegetables seem to have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. However, it is still unknown that whether vitamin C is the one that helps prevent cardiovascular disease, such as heart attack or stroke. Vitamin C itself doesn’t lower cholesterol levels or reduce the overall risk of cardiovascular disease, but it may help protect arteries against oxidative damage. Some studies suggest that vitamin C may prevent the progression of hardening of the arteries and the build-up of plaque, which can cause heart attack. Even though the relationship between vitamin C and cardiovascular disease is not very clear, studies suggest that people with low levels of vitamin C may be more prone to have a heart attack, stroke or peripheral artery disease. Still, there is no evidence to prove that taking vitamin C supplements will help or cure these conditions.
Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) and Cataracts
AMD and cataracts are two of the leading causes of vision loss in older people. Some researchers do not believe that vitamin C affect the risk of getting AMD. However, research suggests that vitamin C combined with other nutrients might help keep early AMD from worsening into advanced AMD. Some other researchers believe that a combination of vitamin C, zinc, beta-carotene and vitamin E may benefit people who have advanced AMD.
Taking vitamin C higher than 300 mg/day for a number of years may have a protective effect on cataracts. However, a 7-year controlled intervention trial demonstrates that there is no relationship between vitamin C intake and cataracts prevention or progression. Like other claimed health benefits, more research is needed to clarify the relationship between vitamin C and AMD/cataracts.
Collagen is an important protein and structural component of blood vessels, tendons, ligaments, and bone. Our body requires vitamin C to make collagen. It is also needed to help wounds heal and sometimes used in anti-aging products.
Vitamin C helps our bodies absorb iron from plant-based foods and helps the immune system work properly to protect the body from disease. Some studies also suggest that taking vitamin C along with vitamin E may help prevent pre-eclampsia (a common cause of premature births) in women who are at high risk. Vitamin C may also reduce effects of sun exposure, such as sunburn or redness.
HOW MUCH VITAMIN C DO YOU NEED?
The amount of vitamin C you need depends on your age, gender and other factors, such as smoking pregnancy. Below is the Dietary Reference Intakes for vitamin C:
•0 - 6 months: 40* mg/day
•7 - 12 months: 50* mg/day
*Adequate Intake (AI)
•1 - 3 years: 15 mg/day
•4 - 8 years: 25 mg/day
•9 - 13 years: 45 mg/day
•Girls 14 - 18 years: 65 mg/day
•Boys 14 - 18 years: 75 mg/day
•Women age 19 year and older: 75 mg/day
•Men age 19 and older: 90 mg/day
•14 - 18 years: 80 mg
• Over 18 years: 85 mg
•14 - 18 years: 115 mg
•Over 18 years: 120 mg
Smokers or those who are around secondhand smoke at any age need an additional 35 mg per day. For most people, a healthy and balanced diet should provide an adequate amount of vitamin C you need, so there is no need to take excessive vitamin C supplements.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Xinjuan J. Baldwin is the Senior Editor of Educational Fitness Solutions Monthly Nutrition Newsletter and is a graduate of the State University of New York with a B.S. in Nutrition and a minor in Personal Training. During college Xinjuan focused on working with children, older adults, the general populace, and families in need of nutrition and fitness consulting. Currently she is focusing her time on more specific nutrition related issues, such as proper sports nutrition implementation and how to manage weight via better eating habits. She also spends her time concentrating on posture and body alignment analysis and correction implementation within a fitness setting.
Foods Implicated in Migraines
By: Melissa Halas-Liang
- Citrus Fruit
- Alcohol (mainly red wine and beer)
- Tyramine or Phenylethylamine -two amino acids found in chocolate, aged or fermented cheese, (including cheddar, Blue, Brie, and all hard and “moldy” cheeses), soy foods, all nuts and most seeds, citrus fruits, vinegar (both red and white) and some vegetables. Fermented foods also contain higher levels of histamines, another possible migraine trigger.
- Some Leftovers- Since tyramine content increases over time, migraine sufferers may find relief by avoiding leftovers. Always practice safe handling of leftovers by discarding any foods not stored promptly at proper temperatures. Track and trend which leftovers are more likely to trigger migraines in your journal.
- Nitrates: processed meats including hot dogs, bacon, ham, salami, pepperoni
- Sulfites: dried fruits (prunes, figs, apricots)
- MSG (also called maltodextrin or hydrolyzed vegetable protein) found in Chinese foods & some soy sauce. Many restaurants avoid MSG as noted on the menu.
- Aspartame- Nutrasweet or Equal
- Food Dyes- found in sweets, pickled foods?
- Caffeine- including coffee, tea, cola
- Dairy Products- including yogurt
Other potential trigger foods, though less researched at present time include:
- Caffeine – Can help relieve headache pain for many, yet for some individuals, consuming caffeine on a regular basis appears to make them more susceptible to migraine triggers. Individuals with occasional migraines may find it beneficial to limit caffeine intake to no more than two days a week
- Tannins-Tea, red-skinned apples and pears, apple juice and cider, and red wine all contain tannins
- Gluten, found in wheat, barley and rye- Celiac disease may be associated with migraine
- Ice cream- some individuals have a cold sensitivity
Migraines, as a reaction to eating certain foods, generally occur within 24 hours of consuming the offending food or beverage. One Migraine attack can last for eight hours, several days, or even weeks. To determine whether a food or environmental trigger is responsible, start documenting with a food diary for once a week. You will be able to identify potential culprits in your diet and make changes to prevent future attacks!
If you still have difficulty identifying your migraine trigger, and you suspect food is the cause, you may want to consult a registered dietitian regarding following an elimination diet. Although this is not substantiated by clinical studies, anecdotally (in some cases) it has been shown to help.
For more information on food and migraines, visit www.migraine.com
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Melissa Halas-Liang, MA, RD, CDE is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator and wellness coach with a Masters in Nutrition Education. She is the coordinator for several nutrition courses, including Functional Family Nutrition that provides the latest research on eating attitudes, super foods, food behaviors and earth-friendly eating. She is founder of SuperKids Nutrition Inc where she is "saving the world, one healthy food at a time." Discover how nutrition can help you live your best life through on-line nutrition courses at www.nutritioned.net.