Vitamin C Explained

Ascorbic acid – the scientific name for pure Vitamin C – has been shown to support a vast number of immune mechanisms in your body. For example, your white blood cells are an important component of your immune system. You have several different types of white blood cell, each of which helps to fight off illness-causing viruses and bacteria in a different way. Vitamin C helps to stimulate both the production and function of many of these types of white blood cells. It also helps your body to produce important antibodies: proteins that bind invading microbes to neutralise them. And Vitamin C’s powerful antioxidant properties help to protect certain white blood cells from the toxic compounds they produce in their fight against pathogens. In other words, Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for healthy immune system response.

Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant that can boost your blood antioxidant levels. This may help reduce the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease.

What is Vitamin C

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What Does Vitamin C
Do in Your Body?

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Vitamin C In Foods

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Research Studies

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What is Vitamin C

Vitamin C, also known as L-ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in some foods, added to others, and available as a dietary supplement. Humans, unlike most animals, are unable to synthesize vitamin C endogenously, so it is an essential dietary component.

Vitamin C is one of the safest and most effective nutrients, experts say. It may not be the cure for the common cold (though it's thought to help prevent more serious complications). But the benefits of vitamin C may include protection against immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, prenatal health problems, eye disease, and even skin wrinkling.

Vitamins, including vitamin C, are organic compounds. An organic compound is one that exists in living things and contains the elements carbon and oxygen.
Vitamin C is water soluble, and the body does not store it. To maintain adequate levels of vitamin C, humans need a daily intake of food that contains it.
Vitamin C plays an important role in a number of bodily functions including the production of collagen, L-carnitine, and some neurotransmitters. It helps metabolize proteins and its antioxidant activity may reduce the risk of some cancers.
Collagen, which vitamin C helps produce, is the main component of connective tissue and the most abundant protein in mammals. Between 1 and 2% of muscle tissue is collagen. It is a vital component in fibrous tissues.

The role of vitamin C as an antioxidant also helps repair tissue and reduce damage from inflammation and oxidation.

Recommended Amounts

For adults, the recommended daily amount for vitamin C is 65 to 90 milligrams (mg) a day, and the upper limit is 2,000 mg a day. Although too much dietary vitamin C is unlikely to be harmful, megadoses of vitamin C supplements might cause: Diarrhea. Nausea.. [source]

How does vitamin C affect immune health?

Vitamin C is an essential micronutrient for humans, with pleiotropic functions related to its ability to donate electrons. It is a potent antioxidant and a cofactor for a family of biosynthetic and gene regulatory enzymes.

Vitamin C contributes to immune defense by supporting various cellular functions of both the innate and adaptive immune system. Vitamin C supports epithelial barrier function against pathogens and promotes the oxidant scavenging activity of the skin, thereby potentially protecting against environmental oxidative stress.

Vitamin C accumulates in phagocytic cells, such as neutrophils, and can enhance chemotaxis, phagocytosis, generation of reactive oxygen species, and ultimately microbial killing.

It is also needed for apoptosis and clearance of the spent neutrophils from sites of infection by macrophages, thereby decreasing necrosis/NETosis and potential tissue damage.

The role of vitamin C in lymphocytes is less clear, but it has been shown to enhance differentiation and proliferation of B- and T-cells, likely due to its gene regulating effects.

Vitamin C deficiency results in impaired immunity and higher susceptibility to infections. In turn, infections significantly impact on vitamin C levels due to enhanced inflammation and metabolic requirements.

Furthermore, supplementation with vitamin C appears to be able to both prevent and treat respiratory and systemic infections.

Prophylactic prevention of infection requires dietary vitamin C intakes that provide at least adequate, if not saturating plasma levels (i.e., 100-200 mg/day), which optimize cell and tissue levels. In contrast, treatment of established infections requires significantly higher (gram) doses of the vitamin to compensate for the increased inflammatory response and metabolic demand.

What Does Vitamin C do in your Body?

Vitamin C is one of many vitamins our bodies need to stay healthy. This vitamin has many functions, including:

  • Supports the production of interferons: Vitamin C Is an Essential Factor on the Anti-viral Immune Responses through the Production of Interferon-α/β at the Initial Stage of Influenza A Virus (H3N2) Infection (Source).
  • Enhances the function of phagocytes.: Vitamin C stimulates neutrophil migration to the site of infection, enhances phagocytosis and oxidant generation, and microbial killing. At the same time, it protects host tissue from excessive damage by enhancing neutrophil apoptosis and clearance by macrophages, and decreasing neutrophil necrosis and NETosi
  • Supports the cellular immune response: There are 2 main ways that the body can respond to a pathogen: antibody immunity and cellular immunity. The cell-mediated response refers to the activation of macrophages, natural killer cells, and antigen-specific T-lymphocytes that attack anything that is perceived as a foreign agent.
  • Enhances cytokine production by white blood cells: It has been suggested that vitamin A deficiency may increase your risk of developing acne, as it causes an overproduction of the protein keratin in your hair follicles (Role of Diet in Dermatological Conditions, Phrynoderma: A Manifestation of Vitamin A Deficiency?... The Rest of the Story). This would increase your risk of acne by making it more difficult for dead skin cells to be removed from hair follicles, leading to blockages.
  • Supports Bone Health: eating enough vitamin A is also necessary for proper bone growth and development, and a deficiency in this vitamin has been linked to poor bone health. In fact, people with lower blood levels of vitamin A are at a higher risk of bone fractures than people with healthy levels (The Effect of Vitamin A on Fracture Risk: A Meta-Analysis of Cohort Studies). Additionally, a recent meta-analysis of observational studies found that people with the highest amounts of total vitamin A in their diet had a 6% decreased risk of fractures.
  • Promotes Healthy Growth and Reproduction:

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Vitamin C in Foods

Ready-made retinol, the active form of vitamin A, only comes from animal sources. Plant-based foods contain carotenoids, antioxidant forms of vitamin A. These are converted to retinol in the body.

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Dark green leafy vegetables, for example amaranth (red or green), spinach and chard
  • Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Squashes/pumpkins
  • Yellow maize
  • Mangoes
  • Papayas
  • Animal sources
  • Liver, eggs, milk (including breast milk)
  • Oils
  • Red palm oil or biruti palm oil

Research on Vitamin C

Medical Reseach Studies on Vitamin C

  • Role of Vitamin A in the Immune System. Vitamin - IVitA has bothpromoting and regulatory roles in both the innate immune system and adaptive immunity; therefore,it can enhance the organism’s immune function and provide an enhanced defense against multipleinfectious diseases. Currently, the VitA’s effect on immune function has been studied at the molecularlevel, and more research is ongoing about the therapeutic effects of VitA on preventing and curingvarious infectious diseases. Research
  • Effects of Vitamin A Supplementation on Immune Responses and Correlation with Clinical Outcomes - Vitamin A supplementation to preschool children is known to decrease the risks of mortality and morbidity from some forms of diarrhea, measles, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, and malaria. These effects are likely to be the result of the actions of vitamin A on immunity. Some of the immunomodulatory mechanisms of vitamin A have been described in clinical trials and can be correlated with clinical outcomes of supplementation. Research
  • A Review of Micronutrients and the Immune System–Working in Harmony to Reduce the Risk of Infection: Cell-mediated processes of innate immunity, such as cell proliferation, differentiation, function, movement, and the ability to mount an effective oxidative burst, rely on adequate amounts of vitamins A, D, C, E, B6, and B12, folate, iron, zinc, copper, selenium, and magnesium. Similarly, chemical responses such as activation of the complement system and the release of proinflammatory cytokines requires certain vitamins and minerals (in particular, vitamins A, D, and C, zinc, iron, and selenium). The inflammatory response bridges the gap between innate and adaptive immunity, and is regulated by vitamins A, C, E, and B6, as well as iron, zinc, and copper. Adaptive immune responses encompassing cell-mediated and humoral immunity depend again on the presence of a variety of micronutrients at all stages (i.e., lymphocyte proliferation, differentiation, and function, and humoral- and cell-mediated immune processes) .  Research

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