Vitamin C: A powerful weapon in the prevention of degenerative disease.



What is it?

Vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid) is a water-soluble vitamin. Unlike most mammals, humans don’t have the ability to make their own vitamin C, so we must get it from what we eat.

Why do we need it?

And make no mistake: vitamin C is a vital part of the diet. It’s particularly important for the adrenal glands because they are among the organs with the highest concentration of vitamin C in the body.

It’s also needed in the production of collagen, an important ingredient of skin, gums, teeth, tendons, blood vessels, bone and ligaments, because it acts in partnership with eight enzymes involved in collagen formation.

Vitamin C: The super vitamin

It also plays an important role in the synthesis of a neurotransmitter that’s vital for brain function, and in addition, it’s very necessary for producing energy in the body’s cells.

Recent research also seems to show that it may affect blood cholesterol levels and the incidence of gallstones. Not bad for one vitamin alone!

Its a powerful antioxidant

But that’s not all it does. Vitamin C is also a highly effective antioxidant that can neutralize harmful free radicals in the process of oxidative stress. Even in small quantities, it protects the body’s lipids (fats), proteins, nucleic acids (RNA and DNA), and carbohydrates from damage by free radicals and oxidative damage, because it gives the body a way to get rid of toxins produced during normal metabolic processes, as well as from chemicals we ingest, and from pollution.

Vitamin C may also be able to regenerate other antioxidants such as vitamin E.

Vitamin C has a long history in health benefits

Even before the discovery of vitamin C in 1932, the British navy worked out that something in citrus fruits could prevent the fatal disease scurvy, a disease that killed millions of sailors up until the 19th century.

Symptoms include bleeding and bruising easily, hair and tooth loss, joint pain and swelling; all of which are related to the weakening of blood vessels, connective tissue, and bone, which contain collagen.

Preventing degenerative diseases

The amount of vitamin C needed to prevent chronic degenerative disease seems to be more than the amounts needed for preventing scurvy, but nevertheless, it certainly seems to help.

For example, conditions such as cataracts can be more easily avoided if your vitamin C levels are higher.

Cataracts are a good example, because they’re a leading cause of visual impairment throughout the world.

They occur more frequently and become more severe as people age, but if you have higher vitamin C levels in the lens of your eye, you’re less likely to suffer from the severe form of cataracts.

A double Nobel prize winner can't be wrong!

Vitamin C is also well known for its possible role in reducing symptoms of the common cold.

The work of Linus Pauling (A double Nobel prize winner) stimulated public interest in the use of large doses (greater than 1 g/day) to prevent cold viruses, and the results of experiments carried out in the last 30 years seem to show that it reduces the duration of colds by about 8% in adults and 14% in children.

Its effects are probably a result of the huge boost it gives the immune system.

Vitamin C and heart disease, stroke and Diabetes

Vitamin C might also have a beneficial effect on those with conditions more likely to be fatal.

For example current studies on the effects of vitamin C on heart disease show a range of different results, but one important experiment shows the risk of death from cardiovascular diseases was 42% lower in men and 25% lower in women who consumed more than 50 mg/day of vitamin C and who regularly took vitamin C supplements.

Several other studies show that vitamin C supplementation lowers blood pressure, which helps prevent both heart problems and stroke.

Cardiovascular diseases (heart disease and stroke) are also the leading cause of death in people with diabetes. Once scientists realised that diabetes is a condition of increased oxidative stress, they discovered hat higher intakes of antioxidants like vitamin C, could help lower cardiovascular disease risk in diabetics.

In support of their new theory, a 16-year study of 85,000 women, 2% of whom were diabetic, found that vitamin C supplement use (400 mg/day or more) did significantly reduce the risk of coronary heart disease in the whole group, not just the diabetics.

Regarding stroke in particular, a study that followed more than 2,000 residents of a rural Japanese community for 20 years found that the risk of stroke in those with the highest levels of vitamin C was 29% lower than in those with the lowest levels, particularly when the people involved were eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

Cancer

In fact, a vast amount of research has shown that increasing your consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables will probably reduce your risk of getting most types of cancer, too. If you have a higher intake of vitamin C, you are less likely to get cancers of the mouth, throat and vocal chords, oesophagus, stomach, lung and colon-rectum.

A chemical called nitrosamine might be responsible for producing carcinogenic substances in the stomach, and vitamin C seems to prevent these forming in the first place.

In this day and age, we don’t have to worry too much about conditions like scurvy. But we should be concerned about the high levels of cardiovascular disease and cancer found in the world today. Increasing your levels of fruit and vegetables, and combining those with a high-quality vitamin C supplement can only help your chances of avoiding these kinds of problems, while increasing your likelihood of having a more healthy and happy life.

Medical references 79,80,81,82

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