Vitamin C

Vitamin C is water-soluble vitamin, also known as ascorbic acid. Even before its discovery, physicians recognized that there must be a compound in citrus fruits preventing scurvy, a disease that killed many sailors a few hundred years ago. Later research revealed that humans depend on external sources to cover their vitamin C requirements, while most animals are able to synthesize vitamin C in their body (1).

Health functions

Vitamin C is required for the synthesis of collagen, an important structural component of blood vessels, tendons, ligaments, and bone.

Disease risk reduction

The results of most earlier prospective studies indicated that low or deficient intakes of vitamin C were associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases and that modest dietary intakes of about 100 mg/day were sufficient for maximum reduction of cardiovascular disease risk among non-smoking men and women (2).

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Things to know about Vitamin C

  • Other applications

    Treatment with vitamin C has consistently resulted in improved dilation of blood vessels in individuals with atherosclerosis as well as those with angina pectoris, congestive heart failure, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.

  • Intake recommendations

    While in 1993 the European Scientific Committee for Food (36) set population reference intakes (PRI) for vitamin C, European nutrition societies, like the ones in Germany, Austria and Switzerland (62), defined recommended dietary allowance (RDA) values for vitamin C in 2000.

  • Supply situation

    Nutrition surveys in several European countries, such as Austria (37), Ireland (38) and the Netherlands (39), suggest that only close to 50% of the population meet national intake recommendations for vitamin C.

  • Deficiency

    Severe vitamin C deficiency is also known as the potentially fatal disease ‘scurvy’. Symptoms include bleeding and bruising easily, hair and tooth loss, and joint pain and swelling.

  • Sources

    There are several fruits and vegetables with high vitamin C content including strawberries, orange, grapefruit, sweet red pepper, and broccoli.

  • Safety

    Although a number of possible problems (e.g., birth defects, cancer, atherosclerosis, increased oxidative stress, kidney stones) with very large doses of vitamin C have been suggested in case reports.

  • References