Vitamin C is mostly present in fresh fruits, mainly citrus fruits, e.g. orange, lemon, tomato, pineapple, papaya, etc; fresh vegetables e.g. cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, spinach, green peppers, beans etc.; properly sprouted pulses, germinating grams, etc. potato and seeds are poor sources but rich during germination. Amla is one of the richest sources of vitamin C both in the fresh as well as in the dry condition. Guavas are another cheap but rich source of this vitamin.
Animal sources are generally poor. Cow’s milk, meat and fish contain a little. Milk is the only food for infants, so their diet should be supplemented with a good source of ascorbic acid, e.g. orange juice.
Mg per 100 g
Benefits of vitamin C:
Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant required for 300 metabolic functions in the body, which includes tissue growth and repair, adrenal gland function and healthy gums. Ascorbic acid is related to carbohydrate metabolism. Deficiency production of insulin takes place in ascorbic acid deficiency. It is also essential for the proper functioning of the formative cells of various tissues, such as fibroblasts, osteoblasts etc. it helps in the synthesis of collagen which acts as a connective tissue between the bones. It also helps in the deposition of calcium and phosphates in the bones. It plays an important role in wound repair. It lays down connective tissue, which helps in healing of wounds. It takes part in maturation of red cells. In the deficiency of vitamin C delayed blood clotting, delayed clot retraction and anemia can be seen. It also helps in the production of antistress hormones. In some patients administration of vitamin C also decreases the symptoms of asthma. It also helps to prevent the harmful effects of pollution, to prevent cancer, protects against infection and increases the immunity. It can combine with toxic substances such as certain heavy metals and make them harmless so that they can be excreted from the body. This vitamin also decreased the level of low-density lipoproteins (LDL which are considered harmful for our body) and increases the levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL or good cholesterol). It also helps in lowering the blood pressure and helping to prevent atherosclerosis.
It is not manufactured by our body therefore, it must be obtained through the diet or in the form of supplements. Most of the vitamin C is lost in the urine.
A daily intake of about 100 mgm is adequate to maintain the normal plasma level. Recommended intakes for children are 30 mgm to 80 mgm (adolescents). 75 mgm for adults, 100 mgm during pregnancy and 150 mgm during lactation. Larger doses of vitamin C produce no observable ill effects in normal individuals.
Who need more?
Smoking decreases the level of vitamin C in the body. Therefore smokers, cigar and pipe smokers need more amounts.
Alcohol also reduces levels of vitamin C in the body. Therefore individuals who drink more than two alcoholic drinks a day require comparatively large amount of vitamin C.
As stated earlier canning and prolonged cooking destroys most of the vitamin C. people who eat only cooked fruits or processed fruits and vegetables require greater amount.
Persons who take analgesics, anticoagulants, antidepressants, oral contraceptives require more amount as these drugs reduces vitamin C levels in the body. People who live in polluted areas and second hand smokers as pollution and second hand smoke stress the immune system, thus decreasing the vitamin C levels in the body.
Depression and stress is also known to decrease vitamin C in the body. Thus depressed and stressed individuals also require greater amount of vitamin C.
Deficiency symptoms of vitamin C
Scurvy is the most important disease produced by the deficiency of vitamin C. there is increased fragility of the capillaries causing hemorrhages under the skin, periosteum, intestine, kidneys etc.
The gums show erosion of the mucous membrane at their margins and due to the increased fragility of the capillaries there is frequent bleeding. Malformation of bones and teeth. The osteoblast remains functionless. There is irregular deposition of bone salts and decrease in the density of long bones. There is increased brittleness of bones leading to fracture. Anaemia is also produced due to decrease number of red cells and platelets. Skin eruptions are increased in the deficiency of vitamin C.
There is increased susceptibility to infections and impaired healing of wounds.
There is also disturbance in carbohydrate metabolism.
Patient is easily fatigued and is more prone to cold flu and other infectious diseases.
Patient also shows some weight loss.
Some important tips
If aspirin and standard vitamin C are taken together in large doses, it can cause stomach irritation, possibly giving rise to ulcers. If a patient is taking aspirin regularly, he should use testified form of vitamin C and aspirin and vitamin C should be used separately.
A pregnant lady must not take more than 5,000 milligrams of vitamin C. A growing foetus may become dependent on this supplement and develop scurvy when deprived of the large doses after birth. Chewable vitamin C supplements should be avoided as these can damage the tooth enamel.