Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin that is essential for human health.
It is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect the body from damage caused by free radicals, which are molecules that can harm cells and contribute to aging and diseases such as cancer.
Vitamin C is also necessary for the growth, development, and repair of all body tissues, and is involved in the production of collagen, an important protein that helps maintain healthy skin, bones, and joints.
The discovery of vitamin C can be traced back to the 18th century when a Scottish naval surgeon named James Lind discovered that citrus fruits could help prevent and treat scurvy, a disease that was rampant among sailors at the time.
Lind conducted an experiment in which he divided a group of scurvy-stricken sailors into several groups and gave each group a different remedy.
He found that the group that received citrus fruits, such as lemons and oranges, recovered from scurvy much more quickly than the other groups.
Lind’s findings were initially met with skepticism and it wasn’t until over a century later that the active ingredient in citrus fruits, vitamin C, was identified.
In the 1930s, Hungarian biochemist Albert Szent-Györgyi discovered that a substance he had isolated from peppers, which he called “hexuronic acid,” was the same ascorbic acid found in citrus fruits.
Szent-Györgyi was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1937 for his work on vitamin C.
Since then, scientists have made many important discoveries about vitamin C and its role in human health.
For example, they have found that vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, which means it helps protect cells from damage caused by harmful molecules known as free radicals.
They have also found that vitamin C can help boost the immune system, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and even improve skin health.
One of the most well-known benefits of vitamin C is its role in supporting the immune system. The vitamin helps to increase the production of white blood cells, which are crucial for fighting off infections.
It also helps to produce collagen, a protein that is important for the health of skin, blood vessels, tendons, and ligaments.
Vitamin C is also essential for the absorption of iron from plant-based foods, making it an important nutrient for vegans and vegetarians.
A deficiency in vitamin C can lead to a condition called scurvy, which is characterized by symptoms such as fatigue, muscle weakness, and easy bruising
Vitamin C is also important for the health of the eyes. It helps to protect against cataracts, a condition where the lens of the eye becomes cloudy, and age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in older adults.
Vitamin C is found in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, including oranges, lemons, limes, kiwi fruit, strawberries, raspberries, pineapples, papayas, and cantaloupe. It is also available as a dietary supplement in the form of tablets or capsules.
While vitamin C is generally considered safe, it is possible to consume too much of it. High doses of vitamin C can lead to side effects such as diarrhea, nausea, and stomach cramps. It is important to talk to a healthcare professional before taking any dietary supplements.
Recommended intake of vitamin C
The recommended intake of vitamin C can vary based on a person’s age, sex, and other factors. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin C for adults is:
• 90 milligrams (mg) per day for men
• 75 mg per day for women
• 85 mg per day for pregnant women
• 120 mg per day for breastfeeding women
However, the NIH also notes that some individuals may require more or less vitamin C depending on their specific health needs.
For example, smokers are advised to consume an additional 35 mg of vitamin C per day due to increased oxidative stress in their bodies. Individuals with certain medical conditions, such as malabsorption disorders, may also require higher doses of vitamin C.
It’s also worth noting that while vitamin C is considered safe, high doses can cause gastrointestinal distress and other side effects. The upper limit for vitamin C intake is 2,000 mg per day for adults, according to the NIH.
It’s generally recommended to get your vitamin C from a balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits and vegetables rather than relying solely on supplements
Examples of foods that are good sources of vitamin C and their approximate vitamin C content:
• One medium-sized orange: 70 mg
• One medium-sized kiwi: 64 mg
• 1/2 cup of red bell pepper, chopped: 95 mg
• 1/2 cup of cooked broccoli: 51 mg
• 1/2 cup of cooked Brussels sprouts: 48 mg
• 1/2 cup of cooked kale: 27 mg
As you can see, it’s possible to meet the daily recommended intake of vitamin C through a balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits and vegetables.
For example, consuming one medium-sized orange, one medium-sized kiwi, and a serving of red bell pepper in a day would provide more than the recommended daily intake of vitamin C for women.
Of course, dietary requirements can vary depending on age, gender, and other individual factors, so it’s always a good idea to consult with a healthcare provider or registered dietitian to determine the appropriate amount of vitamin C for your specific needs.