Worried about getting a chilly or the flu? For many people, the knee-jerk motion is to take a giant dose of each day vitamin C. For a few years, C has been the vitamin with the largest advertising and marketing funds (thanks partially to the citrus trade). Now, within the period of COVID-19, with many people making an attempt to determine eat to greatest help our immune techniques, let’s separate reality from hypothesis. Can vitamin C actually assist to stop colds, flus, and different viral infections? How does vitamin C work within the immune system, and is it value contemplating taking a each day vitamin C complement? And if that’s the case, which of them are greatest?
What is Vitamin C?
Vitamin C, also referred to as L-ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin and a strong antioxidant. Unlike fat-soluble nutritional vitamins like A and E, water-soluble nutritional vitamins aren’t saved within the physique. Whatever you don’t use at the moment is excreted by urine, so regardless of how a lot you are taking at the moment, you could get extra tomorrow and daily after that.
While most animals can synthesize their very own vitamin C, people can’t. Other exceptions embody apes and different primates, guinea pigs, fruit-eating bats, bugs, fish, sure reptiles, and a few chicken species. Since we are able to’t make it, and it’s important for our well being, we should eat meals that incorporates vitamin C. This, plus the truth that vitamin C is the least steady vitamin, is why it’s a vital nutrient to eat (or complement).
Benefits of Vitamin C
Vitamin C has an a variety of benefits and makes use of in human well being.
As a potent antioxidant, vitamin C reduces oxidative stress in your physique. Extensive analysis exhibits that diets wealthy in each day vitamin C are related to a decrease threat of many power illnesses, akin to coronary heart illness, sure cancers, eye illnesses, and neurodegenerative situations that have an effect on cognitive well being. Vitamin C also can regenerate different antioxidants, akin to vitamin E, by reducing free radicals fashioned when vitamin E scavenges oxygen radicals.
White Blood Cells
Vitamin C might also assist to advertise the manufacturing and safety of white blood cells, which assist your physique combat off infections. This could be particularly related to COVID-19 as a result of many contaminated sufferers have a low white blood cell depend after they contract the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Vitamin C is a part of your exterior protection system as properly, because it performs a main position within the well being and integrity of your pores and skin. This is as a result of each day vitamin C is required to supply collagen, essentially the most considerable protein in your physique’s connective tissue. It helps strengthen your pores and skin’s boundaries, which is vital to combat the unfold of COVID-19 and different viruses in addition to defend your pores and skin with the entire hand-washing you’re doing. (You are washing your palms rather a lot, proper?)
Vitamin C boosts iron absorption, which might help forestall iron deficiency. For occasion, consuming a mix of tomatoes and lentils, or tomatoes and beans, on the similar time, can improve how a lot iron you take in. A examine revealed within the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition discovered that including 100 mg of vitamin C (as ascorbic acid) to meals boosted iron absorption by 67%.
Chronic Disease Prevention
Studies have discovered vitamin C to play a task in stopping coronary heart illness, primarily by managing blood stress. It’s additionally protecting towards oxidative stress within the mind, particularly relating to illnesses like Alzheimer’s and dementia. Your eyes can profit from each day vitamin C too, which can even assist sluggish age-related illnesses like cataracts. It might also assist enhance fertility in males, primarily by enhancing sperm high quality.
How Much Daily Vitamin C Do You Need?
The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of vitamin C varies between 15 mg-120 mg per day. Pregnant and lactating ladies, and the aged, ought to intention for the higher finish of that vary. The common grownup requires 75-90 mg of each day vitamin C, which you’ll simply acquire from a wholesome, plant-centered food regimen. For reference, one giant orange incorporates roughly 100 mg of vitamin C. Truth in promoting from the Florida Department of Citrus!
When you eat vitamin C in average quantities (say, 30-180 mg per day), your physique absorbs round 70-90% of it. When you begin taking greater than 1,000 mg per day (practically unimaginable to do with out supplementation), absorption charges lower to lower than 50%. Leftover vitamin C passes out of your physique in urine.
What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Vitamin C?
Not getting sufficient each day vitamin C has well-established adverse well being results. The main consequence of vitamin C deficiency is scurvy, a illness by which individuals expertise fatigue, pores and skin rash, open and unhealing sores, bleeding gums, and bruising. If untreated, it will probably result in demise.
The Discovery of Scurvy
The discovery of vitamin C and scurvy occurred on the similar time, within the 1920s, when vitamin C deficiency was a critical and pretty widespread situation. Sailors on lengthy sea voyages who subsisted on fish, dried meats, and exhausting tack (a fundamental biscuit or cracker), with no entry to contemporary or preserved produce, steadily skilled signs of scurvy, a illness characterised by the breakdown of connective tissues.
Historians estimate that between the primary voyage of Columbus and the rise of the steam engine within the mid-19th century, over two million sailors perished from the illness. Shipping firms and governments assumed that half of the sailors would die from scurvy on any given voyage.
After experimenting with ineffective and sometimes harmful remedies like vinegar, “elixir of vitriol” (a very alarming cocktail of sulfuric acid and alcohol), and numerous potent laxatives, seamen lastly found an answer within the mid-1700s. When a badly broken British naval fleet made their option to Juan Fernández Island (off the coast of what’s now Chile) with just some hundred males left alive out of the unique 1200, they (seemingly) miraculously reversed their scurvy as soon as they started consuming the meals available on the island: oats, clover, radishes, sorrel, and different vegetable meals wealthy in vitamin C.
While greens have been impractical to sail with, citrus fruits might be taken on board and saved and distributed to sailors to maintain them wholesome. Once the sailors obtained contemporary vegatables and fruits, scurvy might be reversed and prevented. Navies and delivery firms started taking oranges, lemons, and limes on these voyages to deal with and forestall the sailors’ illness. The tie is so sturdy that “ascorbic” within the chemical title for vitamin C really means “anti-scurvy.”
Scurvy Risk Today
Today, scurvy could be very uncommon, particularly in case your food regimen is wealthy in fruits and veggies. Most scurvy instances are related to a vitamin C consumption of lower than 10 mg per day. Some persons are extra in danger, nevertheless, together with those that smoke, infants fed evaporated or boiled milk (as this may destroy vitamin C), individuals who eat diets of restricted selection, and people who’ve absorption issues.
Can You Get Too Much Vitamin C?
If your physique simply removes extra vitamin C daily, is it potential to get an excessive amount of of it? The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for vitamin C is 2,000 mg, that means that that is the quantity that has been established as the very best quantity usually tolerated with out adverse results for most individuals.
The most typical uncomfortable side effects of vitamin C, related to extreme consumption, are digestive disturbances — like diarrhea, nausea, and cramping — primarily attributable to unabsorbed vitamin C sitting within the gastrointestinal tract.
For a smaller variety of individuals, extreme vitamin C can result in extra important issues. For occasion, these with hereditary hemochromatosis might be in danger for iron overload leading to tissue harm as a result of absorptive-boosting results of vitamin C on iron. People with renal issues might also have a heightened threat for uncomfortable side effects if their vitamin C consumption is in extra of 1,000-2,000 mg per day. Kidney stones can kind because of excessive quantities of vitamin C from supplementation, inflicting an elevated excretion of oxalate in your urine. Though that is uncommon amongst wholesome individuals with average vitamin C intakes.
Vitamin C might also have the potential to intrude with sure medicines, like cholesterol-lowering statins, Adderall for ADHD, and warfarin, which is used to stop blood clots.
For most individuals, nevertheless, a average quantity of vitamin C (2,000 mg or much less per day) appears to be pretty properly tolerated.
Vitamin C-Rich Foods
Fruits and greens are excellent sources of each day vitamin C. However, trendy agricultural practices have depleted soil high quality around the globe, that means that the soils by which crops are grown have far fewer vitamins than they used to.
An evaluation of nutrient knowledge from the Kushi Institute, carried out between 1975 and 1997, discovered that the common quantity of vitamin C in crops had decreased by 30%. We can assume that much more depletion has occurred within the practically 25 years because the completion of that examine.
Optimizing Your Dietary Vitamin C
How do you optimize your vitamin C consumption from meals? Start with selecting good sources of vitamin C (see listing under). Then, take note of the way you put together these meals. Certain preparation strategies can decrease the quantity of vitamin C in a meals. Boiling can considerably scale back the content material, whereas microwaving, surprisingly sufficient, preserved essentially the most. In common, the longer and the warmer the cooking methodology, the extra vitamin C was destroyed.
Storage strategies additionally play a task. Fresh and frozen produce tends to have extra vitamin C than canned. The longer you retain that contemporary produce in your fridge or in your counter, the much less vitamin C you find yourself with. Frozen produce is an efficient choice because the freezing course of can destroy among the enzymes that finally degrade vitamin C.
Though not properly documented, the quantity of vitamin C in fruits and veggies might also differ considerably relying on the place they’re grown, how they’re grown, how lengthy they sit after harvest, what season it’s, and the way they’re saved. Even fruits grown on totally different branches of the identical tree can differ of their nutrient content material!
The greatest option to meet vitamin C wants is to include a wide range of vegatables and fruits into your food regimen regularly. Good sources of vitamin C together with their approximate vitamin C content material, are listed under. Note that a few of these are additionally discovered on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen listing, that means that they’re usually excessive in pesticides when grown conventionally. So it’s a good suggestion to purchase natural produce at any time when potential.
- 1 medium guava = 126 mg
- 1 medium crimson bell pepper = 152 mg
- 1 medium orange = 70 mg
- 1 cup of uncooked broccoli = 40 mg
- 1 small lemon = 30 mg
- 1 small papaya = 95 mg
- 1 cup of uncooked Brussels sprouts = 75 mg
- 1 cup of uncooked strawberries = 60 mg
- 1 kiwi fruit = 64 mg
- ¾ cup of diced pineapple = 48 mg
- 1 cup of frozen cauliflower florets = 21 mg
- 1 cup of uncooked cantaloupe = 57 mg
- 1 giant tomato = 25 mg
Should You Take Vitamin C Supplements?
If you’re trying to increase your each day vitamin C consumption properly past the RDA, you’ll be able to both eat a really great amount of vitamin C-rich meals like oranges, guavas, and crimson bell peppers, or chances are you’ll need to take into account supplementation. And whereas getting vitamins from meals is sort of all the time greatest, there are some compelling research to again up the notion that for some individuals, vitamin C supplementation might be useful. Perhaps particularly within the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vitamin C supplementation has been discovered to scale back severity and shorten restoration time from diseases, together with viral infections like chilly and flu. It can help your physique’s pure defenses and combat irritation. And there’s some proof from animal analysis and case research in people that top dose, or IV vitamin C, can scale back lung irritation in extreme respiratory diseases brought on by H1N1 (“swine flu”) or different comparable viruses.
Vitamin C for COVID-19
What about COVID-19? Some scientists imagine that vitamin C supplementation might be useful in calming the cytokine storms that usually accompany this sickness. Cytokines are proteins launched by cells that ramp up your immune response. In some individuals, an overactive immune system will get caught in a loop and releases so many cytokines that the lungs change into infected. Severe lung irritation with COVID-19 can lead to respiratory misery and even demise. Until now we have research that check using supplemental vitamin C within the remedy of COVID-19, particularly, we gained’t know if it helps to scale back cytokine storms or not. But it appears believable that it might.
Research is at present underway in China, as a number of research search to search out out if excessive doses of IV vitamin C can shorten COVID-19 restoration time. So far, researchers have famous that it could scale back ICU size and shorten time on ventilators. Based on preliminary analysis, the Shanghai Medical Association endorsed using excessive dose vitamin C as a remedy for hospitalized individuals with COVID-19. However, extra examine is critical to know with confidence, whether or not and the way a lot vitamin C is useful.
Best Vitamin C Supplement
One option to get very excessive doses of vitamin C is thru intravenous, or IV, remedy. However, this may be very pricey and isn’t practically as handy or accessible as oral vitamin C.
On the opposite hand, typical oral vitamin C dietary supplements, usually within the type of vitamin C capsules, lozenges, or gummies, can have some drawbacks. For occasion, they may comprise extremely processed substances, synthetic fillers, and “natural” flavorings. Some additionally comprise added sugars.
Additionally, digestive points can accompany giant quantities of vitamin C through dietary supplements. Ascorbic acid — the supplemental type of vitamin C — has a really low pH, that means that it’s extremely acidic. When a complement doesn’t adequately buffer the ascorbic acid, it will probably result in cramping, diarrhea, and different stomach-related points in some individuals.
Liposomal Vitamin C
Liposomal vitamin C is an alternative choice to contemplate. This kind is encapsulated in liposomes or double-layered, protecting fats bubbles that ship vitamins to cells in your physique. Research exhibits that liposomal vitamin C is simpler and bioavailable than typical oral vitamin C dietary supplements.
Liposomes defend the vitamin C micelles from environmental threats and absorption boundaries discovered within the human digestive system. As they undergo your intestinal tract, the liposomes gently peel away, regularly releasing the vitamin C micelles and depositing them close to the intestine lining the place they’re higher absorbed.
Support Your Immune System with Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a identified antioxidant, is present in among the healthiest meals on the planet, and appears to be good for immune well being too. Eating vitamin C-rich vegatables and fruits in regular portions has no obvious draw back. And taking vitamin C dietary supplements could have some constructive advantages, although there’s extra to study.
Whether or not supplemental vitamin C is helpful within the prevention or remedy of COVID-19 is an open query. But there’s little doubt that consuming a food regimen that’s considerable in vitamin C-rich meals is sweet for your well being — pandemic or no pandemic.
Tell us within the feedback:
- What are a few of your favourite vitamin C-rich meals?
- Have you heard of IV vitamin C as a remedy for viral illnesses like COVID-19? What do you concentrate on that?
- Do you are taking each day vitamin C? Why or why not?
Feature picture: iStock.com/Chinarius