Water-Soluble Vitamins: Vitamin C

What does Vitamin C do?  

Vitamin C is required for the synthesis of collagen; the synthesis of norepinephrine (a neurotransmitter involved in our fight or flight response); synthesis of carnitine (which transports fat into the inner mitochondria (powerhouse of our cells) to convert fat into energy); protecting cells against oxidative stress as an antioxidant; normal functioning of the immune system; regenerate other antioxidants including Vitamin E; and helps us to increase iron absorption.  

What happens if you’re deficient?  

Probably one of the most famous deficiencies known, a vitamin C deficiency, can lead to scurvy, which happens if you don’t get enough vitamin C for at least 3 months. Symptoms include, loss of teeth, sore spongey gums with bleeding, poor wound healing, swollen joints and muscle pain, easy bruising, coiled hairs, anaemia, and petechiae haemorrhage (capillary blood vessels bursting). Scurvy used to be a common occurrence; however, incidences have decreased. You only need 10mg a day to prevent scurvy, and 20mg a day for optimum wound healing.  

You may have heard of the name “limey” given to British people; this was actually due to a requirement that all British sailors were given a daily lime ration to prevent scurvy when sailing. However, limes actually have a lower vitamin C content than lemons.  

What are sources of Vitamin C?  

  • Citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, and limes) 
  • Red and green peppers 
  • Tomatoes 
  • Berries (strawberries and blackcurrants) 
  • Green vegetables (broccoli and Brussels sprouts) 
  • White potatoes 

How much do I need?  

Adults aged between 19-64 years need around 40mg of vitamin C a day. However, if you are a smoker it is recommended that you get 2x the amount recommended (so aim for 80mg a day). You should not need to supplement with it, but if you do, taking over 1,000mg per day can cause stomach pain, diarrhoea, and gas. Also remember, as it is a water-soluble vitamin, we can’t store any excess, so you will get rid of any excess in your urine.  

Will Vitamin C reduce my cold? 

A study that looked at multiple studies found that in the general population a vitamin C supplement of 1,000mg did not reduce the frequency of the common cold. It did, however, reduce the duration by 8% (which is roughly half a day) but you would need to be taking this before symptoms of the cold started. In those doing intense physical exercise, vitamin C did have a protective effect against colds. It was concluded that vitamin C supplementation is not necessary for the general population.   

 

You can read about the B vitamins here

 

Daisy, MSc PGDip ANutr, is a Registered Associate Nutritionist with a Master's Degree in Public Health Nutrition, and a Post Graduate Diploma in Eating Disorders and Clinical Nutrition, both of which are Association for Nutrition (AFN) accredited. She, also, has a BSc degree in Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience; and has completed an AFN accredited Diet Specialist Nutrition course.

Daisy has worked for an NHS funded project, the Diabetes Prevention Programme; and shadowed a nutritionist in Harley Street. 

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Any information provided by us is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease. We always recommend referring your health queries to a qualified medical practitioner.

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