The following article is a small excerpt from one of my books. I hope you’ll want to learn more and let me help you to get into the best shape of your life.
Vitamin C, is also known as ascorbic acid, and is probably one of the least understood of all of the vitamins.
Vitamins are organic (carbon containing) molecules that mainly function as catalysts for reactions within your body. A catalyst is a substance that allows a chemical reaction to occur using less energy and less time than it would take under normal conditions. If these catalysts are missing, as in a vitamin deficiency, normal body functions can break down and make a person susceptible to disease.
It is interesting to note that most animals produce their own vitamin C. Humans, primates (apes, chimps, etc.) and guinea pigs have lost this ability. Vitamin C is important to all animals, including humans, because it is vital to the production of collagen. Vitamin C is also important because it helps protect the fat-soluble vitamins A and E as well as fatty acids from oxidation. Vitamin C prevents and cures the disease scurvy, and can be beneficial in the treatment of iron deficiency anemia.
Collagen is the most ubiquitous substance in the body because it is the most abundant of the fibers contained in connective tissue. Connective tissue gives your body form and supports your organs. To give you an idea of how important collagen is, here is a list of the five types of collagen, and where they are used in the body.
- Type 1 – Connective tissue of skin, bone, teeth, tendons, ligaments, fascia, organ capsules
- Type 2 – Cartilage
- Type 3 – Connective tissue of our organs (liver, spleen, kidneys, etc.)
- Type 4/5 – The separating layer between epithelial and endothelial cells as well as between skeletal or smooth muscle cells (basal lamina), kidney glomeruli, lens capsule, and Schwann and glial cells of the nervous system.
As you can see, collagen is everywhere in your body, and vitamin C plays a role in the formation of collagen.
When collagen is produced, there is a complex series of events, some occurring inside of the cell, and some outside of the cell. Vitamin C is active inside of the cell, where it hydroxylates (adds hydrogen and oxygen) to two amino acids: proline and lysine. This helps form a precursor molecule called procollagen that is later packaged and modified into collagen outside of the cell. Without vitamin C, collagen formation is disrupted, causing a wide variety of problems throughout your body.
A deficiency of vitamin C causes the disease Scurvy. Scurvy is rarely seen today except in alcoholics who receive their entire calorie intake from alcohol. Scurvy causes bleeding and inflamed gums, loose teeth, poor wound healing, easy bruising, bumps of coiled hair on the arms and legs, pain in the joints, muscle wasting, and many other problems.
Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits such as oranges, limes, and grapefruit, and vegetables including tomatoes, green pepper, potatoes and many others. Vitamin C is easily damaged during food preparation, such as chopping, exposure to air, cooking, boiling, and being submerged in water. The amount of Vitamin C is high enough in most foods that the quantity that remains after processing is usually more than enough for your daily supply.
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of vitamin C is 60 milligrams per day. As little as 5-7 mg a day will prevent scurvy, and the average American gets about 72 mg a day, more than enough. Also, the liver stores about a 3 months supply of vitamin C as well.
High doses of vitamin C can cause a number of serious health consequences, including:
- A toxic release of inorganic iron, which can be potentially fatal in some people
- Formation of oxalate kidney stones
- Rebound scurvy if the vitamin is abruptly stopped
- Damage to the outer layer of the teeth (enamel) if the tablets are chewed
- Abnormal heart rhythms
One myth about vitamin C is that it is an antioxidant, but that is not completely true. Vitamin C is a redox agent, meaning that it acts as an antioxidant in some cases, and an oxidant in others. Antioxidants are important because they inhibit chemical reactions with oxygen or highly reactive free radicals. These reactions (oxidation reactions), cause damage to cells. Vitamin C only acts as an antioxidant in some circumstances.
Vitamin C is an important part of a healthy diet. It is not a miracle drug, and can cause harm if taken in excess. A well-balanced, varied diet will ensure that you receive more than enough vitamin C to prevent scurvy and other potential health problems.
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