Vitamin C: Ascorbic Acid
Vitamin C takes the form of ascorbic acid. It is found in many fruits and vegetables, but it is most highly concentrated in citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons. It operates as a vital antioxidant, helping to protect the body from free radicals. Deficiency of Vitamin C in the diet can cause scurvy a terrible disease that can ultimately result in death.
Vitamin C is a water soluble molecule. There is good and bad to this. The good: it is hard to get too much. In most cases excess amounts consumed are passed out of the body in urine. Part of the yellow component in urine is often excess Vitamin C being expelled by the body. (However, in some people excess amounts can form into oxalic acid which can cause problems with kidney and gall stones.) The downside of its transient nature is that, unlike vitamin B12, it is not stored in the body, so the body needs a constant supply.
A deficiency of vitamin C has both short and long range repercussions. Babies and fetuses that do not get sufficient vitamin C can suffer brain damage.1 A severe deficiency in both children and adults will cause a disease called scurvy. Scurvy is characterized by fragile capillaries, and hemorrhages of various organs. The gums recede and teeth are lost. Bones lose density. The number of red blood cells decrease, and the healing process slows down or even reverses.2 The final result can be death.
On the positive side, vitamin C helps to form collagen which is vital in skin growth and repair, as well as ligaments, tendons, and blood vessels. It is an antioxidant, which means that it helps protect the DNA of cells by combining with free radicals in the body. Free radicals may also be a factor in causing cancer.3
Vitamin C is found in most fruits and vegetables, which form an important part of a healthy, nutritious diet. It is extremely high in citrus fruits. A good way to get the daily requirements is to have a glass every morning at breakfast. Bottled or frozen citrus juice is good, but made from a citrus juicer, and consumed immediately, it is even more nutritious. One glass contains 116% of daily requirements for the average adult.
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- Science Daily
- Health Vitamin Guide
- National Institute of Health