Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is found in lots of fruit and veg and serves many functions within the body, ranging from cell protection to wound healing.
Where do I find Vitamin C?
Vitamin C is found in oranges and orange juice and in many fruits and vegetables such as: red and green peppers, strawberries, limes, lemons, kiwi, dark leafy greens, tomatoes, broccoli, berries, melon, brussels sprouts, apples and potatoes.
Vitamin C cannot be stored or produced in the body so you need to acquire it from your diet. Adults need 40mg of Vitamin C a day.
Why do I need Vitamin C?
Vitamin C is essential as it helps to keep our cells healthy and is known to be a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants block some of the damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are associated with many diseases including cancer.
Vitamin C also maintains the health of our connective tissue which give structure to our body’s tissue and organs. In addition, Vitamin C contributes to wound healing and the formation of scar tissue. It is also important for the repair and maintenance of bones, cartilage and teeth.
Many people take Vitamin C when they have a cold. However, the research does not support the idea that taking Vitamin C will prevent you getting colds or even help once a cold has started. It is possible that people who take Vitamin C regularly may have shorter or milder colds but more research is needed to validate this.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Vitamin C
New reports are emerging from hospitals in New York that when doctors administer very high doses of Vitamin C to patients, their symptoms are 'significantly improved.' Individuals with COVID-19 who are treated with Vitamin C are noted to be 'doing much better than those that aren't.'
At present, there have been no studies into the effects of Vitamin C on COVID-19, so these reported benefits aren't proven but there is anecdotal evidence that doses of more than 16 times the daily dietary vitamin allowance of Vitamin C may improve the symptoms of COVID-19.
How will I know if I am lacking in Vitamin C?
Too little Vitamin C can also lead to anaemia, bleeding gums, scaly skin, painful joints, weakened tooth enamel and a decreased ability to fight infections and heal wounds.
A serious Vitamin C deficiency can lead to scurvy. Symptoms will usually develop after three months of Vitamin C deprivation. Signs include fatigue, pains in the limbs, small red-blue spots on the skin and irritability. Left untreated it can cause jaundice, oedema (swelling) and heart problems.
Scurvy is often associated with the sailors from the 16th to 18th century who would develop the disease after being deprived of Vitamin C during long periods at sea. In 1795 the British navy adopted lemons and limes as standard issue to combat the problem.
Can Vitamin C ever be harmful?
Yes. Too much Vitamin C (more than 1000mg per day) can cause stomach pain, diarrhoea and flatulence. Very high doses of Vitamin C (over 2000mg daily) can lead to kidney stones and gastritis. A Vitamin C overdose is rare given that the body cannot store Vitamin C and most excess gets passed out in urine.