what does vitamin c do

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What Does Vitamin C Do?

What Does Vitamin C Do?

You’ve probably been told that vitamin C boosts your immune system (true). You may even have been told that vitamin C cures the common cold (false). Did you know that vitamin C may help an anemic? Or that it is so chemically similar to sugar that the confusion can cause problems for your immune system? Read on and find out the truth about vitamin C.

Vitamin C 101

First, what is vitamin C? It's is an essential nutrient, meaning it must be eaten because your body cannot make it--the human body, that is. Several animals can make ascorbic acid, but not humans, guinea pigs or bats. We must take it. It was one of the first essential nutrients to get identified, thanks to a widespread health problem in a specific population.  Millions of sailors died from scurvy-- more than shipwrecks, storms or pirate encounters-- simply because they did not have access to fresh fruits and vegetables while at sea. They finally staved off the disease by eating limes (hence “limey,” slang for a British person), but not without further difficulty--limes have about half as much vitamin C as lemons, and when they would boil it into a tea the delicate vitamin got inactivated. The, well-documented, symptoms of scurvy provided some insight into the function of vitamin C. The diseased would first develop extreme lethargy, experience mental confusion, bruise easily, and ultimately bleed from lesions as well as their gums until dying quite painfully. Vitamin C, it turned out, is essential for blood vessels (epithelial tissue), for the immune system,  and for the reduction of uric acid in the bloodstream (an overabundance of uric acid causes gout, a devastating inflammatory condition). Symptoms of vitamin C deficiency include:
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Mental fog
  • Depression
  • Frequent illness
  • Wounds not healing, or not healing well
  • Easily bruising
  • Gingivitis (bleeding gums)
Taking vitamin C can also help with some surprising health conditions.

Benefits of Vitamin C

Vitamin C fuels the immune system. Vitamin C can help protect cells as well. This combined effect helps the body get rid of current infections, but also helps prevent the oxidative process (the process which harms or destroys cells). These types of nutrients are known as antioxidants and are crucial for a healthy brain, even helping to prevent dementia. Vitamin C has also been shown in studies to improve blood pressure and lower cholesterol. As a result, vitamin C may help reduce the risk of heart attack and heart disease. Vitamin C also does such a great job of improving the absorption of iron, that a study of anemic young people found that taking vitamin C alone reduced iron deficiency. Vitamin C works so well, it is even used topically in many serums to prevent oxidation (damage and aging) of the skin.

Risks of Vitamin C Intake

How much vitamin C is too much?  Since it is a water-soluble vitamin, any excess is excreted through urine. That means that you can safely supplement with Vitamin C. However, most extracts are ascorbic acid, just the largest, active part of the vitamin C. When you get it from a whole food source, you get all of the biological compounds needed for the absorption and use of this essential vitamin. There’s another risk with this vitamin: it’s chemically similar to sugar. That means that if you eat sugar, it interferes with the body’s absorption of vitamin C. If you want the benefits of taking vitamin C, you should also reduce or eliminate your intake of refined sugars.

Optimize Your Health with Vitamins

Since vitamin C is so vital to the health and function of everything from your immune system to your brain, you should supplement with vitamin C as part of your nootropics regimen.

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