why do we need vitamin c in our diet
Pictured Recipe: Vitamin C burst into prominence back in the 1970s, when Nobel Prize-winning scientist Linus Pauling claimed that high doses could stop cancer and might be the long-sought cure for the common cold. Alas, neither claim has quite held up under scrutiny. Vitamin C doesnБt prevent colds. Nor does taking large doses slow or stop cancer. But PaulingБs instincts were not entirely wrong. There are still many sound reasons to get plenty of C. Researchers have long known that vitamin C is an essential building block of collagen, the structural material for bone, skin, blood vessels and other tissue. Failing to get enough vitamin C causes inflammation of the gums, scaly skin, nosebleed, painful joints and other problems associated with scurvy. In addition, many studies show that eating foods rich in C can reduce the risk of developing cancer, particularly cancers that strike the mouth and digestive tract, according to Jane Higdon, a nutrition scientist at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant, able to neutralize unstable oxygen molecules that might otherwise damage DNA. Recent findings suggest it may also protect against Helicobacter pylori, bacteria linked to both stomach cancer and ulcers. A 2003 study at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center reported that people with high blood levels of vitamin C are less likely to test positive for infection by H. pylori. The vitamin appears to inhibit bacterial growth. Vitamin C is also proving to be friendly to the heart and arteries.
Analyzing data from more than 85,000 women in the Nurses Health Study, researchers at ChildrenБs Hospital, Boston, reported in 2003 that those with the highest intake of C had the lowest risk of heart disease over a 16-year period. Here, too, the antioxidant effect may be at work, preventing damage to artery walls that can promote cholesterol buildup. But vitamin C seems to protect in other ways as well. In 2004, scientists from the University of Oslo reported that after volunteers ate two or three vitamin-C-rich kiwis a day for 28 days, platelets in their blood were less likely to clump together and form small blood clots that can jam arteries and lead to heart attack or stroke. Eating kiwis also lowered triglycerides, or fats in the blood, by 15 percent, an effect that scientists credit to kiwisБ vitamin C, E and polyphenol content. Getting plenty of C may be especially important for pregnant moms and infants. Last year a study in Seoul, South Korea, reported higher birth weights among babies born to mothers with high vitamin C levels. This year a report in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that vitamin C in breast milk may reduce the risk of allergic dermatitis in predisposed infants. The current recommended daily intake for men is 90 mg and for women it is 75 mg. БDonБt waste your money on megadoses of vitamin C,Б says Higdon. A National Institutes of Health study showed that the body can only absorb a maximum of about 400 milligrams a day; more than that simply washes out of the system (the upper tolerable limit for vitamin C has been set at 2,000 milligrams per day).
Follow the latest advice to eat between five and nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day and chances are youБll get all you needБespecially if you choose several foods high in C. Virtually everything in the produce section boasts some vitamin C. Excellent sources (per 1/2 cup serving) include:
turnip greens, cooked = 20 mg sweet potato, baked with skin = 20 mg okra, cooked = 13 mg Related: Why do we need Vitamin C? Vitamin C is important for the synthesis of collagen. This protein is the main component of connective tissue in mammals. Vitamin C has therefore been found to maintain health of connective tissue, providing support to joints. Additionally, it helps to speed recovery from wounds. It is also vital for a range of metabolic reactions, which helps the body glean energy from the food that we eat. This means that the immune defences are strengthened against infections, and your cells are healthy and working well. The immune defences are also improved with absorption of iron, something which Vitamin C has also been found to help with. The iron helps to transport oxygen around the body, keeping cells healthy and fighting fit. It should be possible to get all the vitamin C you need from your diet, unless you are on a ship with limited resources for several months at a time, in which case you may need to plan a bit more carefully.
Very little vitamin C can be stored in the body, so it needs to be consumed each day. Typically, adults require 40-100mg of vitamin C each day, though up to 1000mg a day is unlikely to cause any problems. Certain foods have been found to be particularly good sources of vitamin C, such as vegetables and citrus fruit. Vitamin C deficiency is no longer a common problem in the UK, with most people having an intake of above 100mg each day. However, as the body cannot store much vitamin C, if it is entirely removed from the diet, symptoms can rapidly develop. Initial symptoms are often fatigue, skin problems, decreased resistance to and recovery from bugs and infections and sore joints. After as little as a month on a vitamin C free diet, symptoms of scurvy can develop, such as brown spots on the skin, particularly legs, soft, swollen and bleeding gums and bleeding from the mucous membranes. If left untreated, scurvy may eventually end in death. Vitamin C deficiency is easily treated, and resuming an adequate level of vitamin C in the diet will quickly resolve the symptoms. If taking an excess about of vitamin C, such as 1000mg daily, this may begin to irritate the digestive tract, and you may experience symptoms such as stomach pain, diarrhoea and excess wind. Some people may also experience headaches. In general, however, the body excretes what it does not use, so instances of overdosing on vitamin C are rare. Restoring an adequate level of this vitamin into the diet should quickly reverse symptoms.
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