Vitamin C: A Crash Course

What is vitamin C and what does it do?

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that plays a key role in several bodily functions and processes, including:

  • Supporting a healthy immune system

  • Normal nervous system function

  • Normal collagen formation for healthy bones, teeth, skin and gums

  • Normal energy metabolism

Other functions of this versatile vitamin include helping to protect cells from oxidative stress, increasing the absorption of iron and reducing tiredness and fatigue so it’s safe to say this superstar vitamin does plenty for us! So, if we don’t have enough of it in our diet, the chances are it may show in a few different ways.

What happens if I don’t get enough vitamin C?

Insufficient amounts of vitamin C can cause:

  • Fatigue

  • Iron deficiency anaemia

  • Painful joints 1,2

Severe or prolonged vitamin C deficiency can result in a commonly known condition called scurvy which is characterised by swollen limbs, red spots on the skin, bleeding gums and in some cases, tooth los s.1,2

Groups at risk of becoming deficient often include those with a limited diet, particularly those lacking in fruits and vegetables. Smokers, those with alcohol dependency and those who suffer from absorption issues and chronic diseases such as renal disease, for example.1

How much vitamin C do I need?

While 40 mg a day is recommended by the NHS for those aged between 19 and 64,other sources recommend a higher dose of around 90mg a day.As vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, this means we can’t produce or store it in our bodies and must get it from our diet every day. There are lots of good sources of vitamin C, making it relatively easy to get enough from a balanced diet. Some of these are:

  • Citrus fruit

  • Peppers

  • Strawberries

  • Broccoli

  • Brussels sprouts

  • Potatoes 3

It is worth bearing in mind that some vitamin C is lost during cooking therefore intakes from cooked sources may be lower than that of uncooked sources.

Should I be taking a vitamin C supplement?

If an individual struggles to get enough from diet alone, or suffers from absorption issues for example, a good option could be a dietary supplement. A couple of things to look out for when choosing a supplement are the form of vitamin C used in the product and its absorbability. A non-acidic form of vitamin C (such as calcium ascorbate) is gentler on the stomach and can be a better option for those with digestive issues.

Good absorption is the golden rule when it comes to choosing any supplement and for vitamin C, looking for a formula that withstands stomach acid is key in ensuring you’re getting a high level of absorption.

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