Vitamin C

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Health Advisor

06 August 2015

Why do we need Vitamin C?

Vitamin C is important for the synthesis of collagen. This protein is the main component of connective tissue in mammals. Vitamin C has therefore been found to maintain health of connective tissue, providing support to joints. Additionally, it helps to speed recovery from wounds.

It is also vital for a range of metabolic reactions, which helps the body glean energy from the food that we eat. This means that the immune defences are strengthened against infections, and your cells are healthy and working well.

The immune defences are also improved with absorption of iron, something which Vitamin C has also been found to help with. The iron helps to transport oxygen around the body, keeping cells healthy and fighting fit.

Natural sources of Vitamin C

It should be possible to get all the vitamin C you need from your diet, unless you are on a ship with limited resources for several months at a time, in which case you may need to plan a bit more carefully. Very little vitamin C can be stored in the body, so it needs to be consumed each day.

Typically, adults require 40-100mg of vitamin C each day, though up to 1000mg a day is unlikely to cause any problems. Certain foods have been found to be particularly good sources of vitamin C, such as vegetables and citrus fruit.

Food source Vitamin C content (milligrams, mg)
Medium red pepper 342
Kale, 100g 120
1 kiwi 64
Broccoli, 100g 89.2
Strawberries, 100g 58.8
1 orange 69.7
Tomato, 100g 22.8
Mange Tout, 100g 60

Vitamin C deficiency

Vitamin C deficiency is no longer a common problem in the UK, with most people having an intake of above 100mg each day. However, as the body cannot store much vitamin C, if it is entirely removed from the diet, symptoms can rapidly develop.

Initial symptoms are often fatigue, skin problems, decreased resistance to and recovery from bugs and infections and sore joints. After as little as a month on a vitamin C free diet, symptoms of scurvy can develop, such as brown spots on the skin, particularly legs, soft, swollen and bleeding gums and bleeding from the mucous membranes. If left untreated, scurvy may eventually end in death.

Vitamin C deficiency is easily treated, and resuming an adequate level of vitamin C in the diet will quickly resolve the symptoms.

Too much vitamin C

If taking an excess about of vitamin C, such as 1000mg daily, this may begin to irritate the digestive tract, and you may experience symptoms such as stomach pain, diarrhoea and excess wind. Some people may also experience headaches. In general, however, the body excretes what it does not use, so instances of overdosing on vitamin C are rare. Restoring an adequate level of this vitamin into the diet should quickly reverse symptoms.


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