What is Vitamin C?

Natural Healing and Prevention with Dr. Joseph Russo — By on March 1, 2009 12:05 PM

Almost every person in our society who has the ability to read or who has access to a radio or TV has heard of Vitamin C. It is probably the most talked about vitamin in our society and in some respects the most controversial. 
 
It’s importance stems from the fact that unlike animals, we as humans can’t make Vitamin C in our bodies. As a result, Vitamin C becomes an essential vitamin or one that we need to have in order to live. Vitamin C is also known as Ascorbic acid and it is required for the creation of collagen, which is a structural component of our tendons, ligaments and bones. It also plays a role in synthesis of chemicals that help our brains communicate with the rest of our body.  Additionally, Vitamin C is one of the most well known and well studied Antioxidants. As you may remember, an Antioxidant is a substance that protects us from toxins and diseases like cancer.
 
Back in grammar school when we were all learning about history and ship voyages from Europe, the topic of Vitamin C deficiency always came up as the disease “scurvy.”  It was described as bleeding gums, hair and tooth loss, joint pain and swelling along with easy bruising and fatigue. Also, in some of those history books we were told that the British Navy  provided their sailors with oranges and lemons for the long sea voyages in order to prevent this often fatal disease.
 
How much Vitamin C do we need?
 
It is important to note that the RDA for Vitamin C is based on preventing a deficiency rather than preventing disease. The following values are those suggested by the government agencies:
 
 
Adult males: 90mg                 Adult females: 75mg
 
Adult male smokers: 125mg   Adult female smokers: 110mg
 
Children 1 to 3 years: 15mg    Children 4 to 8 years: 25mg
 
Children 9 to 13 years: 45mg  Children  14 to 18 years:  

 males 75mg    and   females 65mg
 
Is there good evidence to support disease prevention with use of Vitamin C supplements?
 
With respect to heart disease, there have been many large and small studies that suggest supplemental Vitamin C in excess of 100mg per day have a large heart protective benefit. Along the same lines, there also is protection against stroke in those persons who have high blood levels of Vitamin C.
 
In a research study involving more than 18,000 women in the Nursing profession called the Nurse’s Health Studywomen with a family history of breast cancer who had a daily intake of 205 mg of Vitamin C from their diet had a 63% lower risk of breast cancer than those women who took in less Vitamin C, such as 70mg of Vitamin C per day. This was an incredible finding!
 
In another long term study, Vitamin C supplementation also appeared to  help those who are diabetic, as well as those who were not.  Results of a  16 year study of 85,000 women, 1600 of whom were diabetic, Vitamin C supplementation of 400mg per day was associated with significant reductions in the risk of heart disease for both  groups.
 
Does Vitamin C help cure and/or prevent the common cold?
 
This question has been asked aggressively for the past 40 years, it has also been the topic of many, many research studies. The results are controversial.
 
Linus Pauling, the scientist that has probably done more research on the effects of Vitamin C on the common cold than any other person alive, concluded that high intake ( 1000mg per day of Vitamin C) could prevent the common cold. Other evidence from different researchers has disputed this claim. However, there appears to be a select group of people that can prevent the common cold by taking Vitamin C supplements. This subgroup consisted of marathon runners and skiers. Also in this group were military soldiers that happen to be training in Artic temperatures. The Linus Pauling research institute found that this group, which received 250 to 1000mg per day of Vitamin C, had a 50% less incidence of the common cold. This was a very unusual finding, which supports Vitamin C use in preventing the common cold.
 
One the other hand, a different and separate review of 30 research trials found that Vitamin C in doses of up to 2000mg per day did not decease the incidence of the common cold. Additionally, further research found that Vitamin C, started after the cold onset, did not decrease the duration or the severity of the cold. Furthermore, an analysis involving 29 research studies, which boasted 11,000 participants, concluded that Vitamin C  (taken in doses of at least 200mg) did not prevent upper respiratory infections/ common cold symptoms. The number and type of research studies are voluminous and for every study that claims Vitamin C prevents the common cold there probably is at least one study that claims there is no benefit.
 
What are good sources of Vitamin C?
 
The single fruit or vegetable, which contains the largest source of Vitamin C, is the Papaya. For those of you that haven’t been on a Caribbean cruise recently, a papaya is that funny looking green fruit with the pink interior found in the breakfast and lunch buffet lines on Caribbean cruise ships.
 
Other very good sources of Vitamin C are:
 
Orange Juice                    1 cup                    124mg
Grapefruit Juice                 1 cup                    80mg
Orange                             1                          70mg
Grapefruit                         ½                          44mg
Strawberries                     1cup                      82mg
Tomato                            1 medium               23mg
Sweet red pepper              ½ cup raw             141mg
Papaya                            1                           188mg
Broccoli                            ½ cup                    58mg
 
Additionally, Vitamin C is available as a dietary supplement in commercially prepared forms.
 
People always ask me which form is the best. My answer is that there is little scientific evidence that any one form is better absorbed, more effective, or more bioavailable than any other.
 
Are there any draw backs to taking large doses of  
Government organizations have suggested that the largest dose of Vitamin C supplement that one should take in a day is 2000mg. Any amount over this could cause diarrhea and/or intestinal irritation. There has been some talk that high doses of Vitamin C can encourage kidney stones. The current scientific research presents conflicting views. However, if one takes less than 1500mg per day there does not appear to be any kidney stone report in the research literature.                                           
 
What is the “skinny” concerning Vitamin C supplementation?
 
It appears that Vitamin C clearly has antioxidant benefits (decreased incidence of heart disease, stroke and some cancers) when taken as a supplement to one’s regular diet. Information from the National Institutes of Health suggest that the human body can absorb up to 400mg of Vitamin C per day before we humans become fully saturated. Also, most of the antioxidant research studies were undertaken with at least 93mg of Vitamin C per day, which by the way happens to be the RDA of Vitamin C for men.
 
For most vitamins and minerals, I usually suggest that eating a balanced diet and taking a daily multivitamin is sufficient. (Most multivitamins contain between 60 and 100 mg of Vitamin C.) However in the case of Vitamin C, there is such an abundance of convincing evidence that the vitamin works as an antioxidant that I am going to have to break tradition and recommend a daily Vitamin C supplement. The Linus Pauling Institute, in Oregon, recommends an intake of 400mg of Vitamin C per day. If you consume at least 5 servings (approximately two and one half cups) of fruits and vegetables daily, you will most likely take in 200mg of Vitamin C. If you take a supplement of 100mg, in addition to the fruits and vegetables you eat each day, along with a multivitamin, then you should reach the recommended 400mg amount. That is the Vitamin C goal that I strive to reach each day.
 
If you are a person who does not eat fruits and/or vegetables very much, then I would suggest a daily supplement of 300mg of Vitamin C, along with a multivitamin.
 
 
 papaya boat
 
TROPICAL FRUIT SALAD BOAT with PAPAYA:
Serves two.
 
After an exercise in Spanish translation, I obtained this recipe from a beachside fruit vendor while I was on a surfing expedition near the Mexico-Guatamala border some years ago. It has been with me ever since.
 
1 ripe Papaya chilled
1 coconut or ¼ cup shredded coconut
1 ripe pineapple
1 banana
1 tbsp honey
1 lime
 
Slice pineapple in half longways. Remove core and with a melon scoop, scoop out fresh pineapple until there is a bowl shape in the pineapple half. Set pineapple chunks aside.
Peel banana and slice into chunks.
Slice papaya in half, remove seed and scoop out contents with melon scoop.
Crack coconut and remove shell and skin from approximately ¼ of coconut meat. Shred coconut with food processor or cheese grater.
If you do not have a big native instinct in you, you can substitute with preshredded coconut and avoid the hassle of cracking a coconut yourself. If you’ve had a bad day I suggest going with the fresh coconut.
Vitamin C?
Combine the banana, papaya and pineapple in the pineapple shell. Sprinkle the shredded coconut on top, drizzle with honey and squeeze a very small amount of juice from the lime over the fruit. Enjoy.
 
I know that I promised to provide an age old, tried and true great recipe for oyster soup. However, the person who has the recipe has not been willing to divulge it. I am aggressively pursuing the recipe, it should be in my possession by the next edition. Apologies.
 
Until next time, fly low and avoid the radar.
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