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When we think of vitamin C, an orange or lemon may immediately come to mind. We know that vitamin C can help boost the immune system, but there is a multitude of other benefits that vitamin C has for our body which helps it to function.

Vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid) is a water-soluble vitamin that cannot be produced by our body, meaning that we can only obtain it through the food we eat or supplements we take. It has powerful antioxidant properties and helps to maintain the body’s connective tissue, along with improving skin health. Vitamin C has been found to be a valuable ingredient for collagen production (which is an important component of blood vessels, bones, and ligaments) as well as other compounds such as L-Carnitine and neurotransmitters.

Health benefits of vitamin C:

1)  Powerful antioxidant properties: Antioxidants have been found to be important for fending off disease-causing free radicals and preventing oxidative stress.

2)  Boosts immunity: Studies have found that vitamin C may aid in reducing symptoms and shortening the duration of respiratory tract infections. It may also help to minimise the occurrence of other diseases such as pneumonia, malaria, and diarrhoea.

3)  May help prevent anemia: Vitamin C has been found to help increase the absorption of iron. Anaemia is a condition that occurs due to a lack of healthy red blood cells which can be a result of poor absorption of vitamin B12 and iron in the body. The symptoms of anaemia include fatigue, chest pain, and weakness. Studies have found that vitamin C can increase iron absorption by 67 percent when taken with a meal.

4)  Improves heart health: Studies have found that vitamin C may help to improve your heart health and prevent heart disease. A study found that supplementing with 500 milligrams of Vitamin C a day decreased LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

5)  May help reduce the risk of gout: Vitamin C has been found to help protect against gout as there has been a variety of studies that show that a higher intake of vitamin C leads to a lower risk of gout developing. The reasoning behind this is that vitamin C helps to lower the uric acid levels in the blood, which aids in reducing gout incidences.

6)  Gives skin a beautiful glow: Vitamin C is involved in collagen production and as a result, it can help delay the aging of the skin, along with helping to protect against skin damage. Ascorbic acid is a notorious ingredient found in many cosmetics and skin care products due to its wonderful antioxidant properties.

Sources of Vitamin C in foods

Vitamin C is found in an assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables, which can be easily incorporated into our daily meals. The list below contains the fruits and vegetables with highest Vitamin C content:

  • Black Currants, Camu Camu, Acerola Cherry
  • Kiwi fruit, Guava, Oranges, Strawberries, Blueberries
  • Papaya, Pineapple, Mango, Grapefruit
  • Red Peppers, Broccoli, Kale
  • Brussels Sprouts, Tomatoes, Spinach

Vitamin C supplements:

Vitamin C can also be taken in the form of a daily supplement. There are a variety of different types of vitamin C supplements available on the market and many people wonder what the differences are. Here is a simplified breakdown explaining the different types so that you can make an informed decision when purchasing a vitamin C supplement:

1)  Ascorbic Acid: Ascorbic acid is derived from sugar dextrose and is white in colour. As the name suggests, it is acidic in nature. It has a polyhydroxy function which gives it its antioxidant properties. It is a natural water-soluble vitamin. Ascorbic acid is the most common and most affordable version of a vitamin C supplement.

2)  Buffered vitamin C: This form of vitamin C is less acidic but still has the same nutritional benefits as standard vitamin C supplements. Buffered vitamin C is often combined with minerals such as magnesium, potassium, and calcium. The reason that it is combined with these minerals is so that it does not cause gastrointestinal irritation and it allows for higher doses of vitamin C to be taken. Additionally, minerals such as magnesium, potassium, and calcium reduce the rate at which vitamin C passes through the gastrointestinal system, therefore, providing more time for optimal absorption. This form of vitamin C is great for those who suffer from gastrointestinal issues, those who exercise regularly, and those who need hormonal balancing.

3)  Ester-C: A non-acidic (neutral pH) form of vitamin C. The main component of this form of vitamin C is calcium. This makes it much easier to digest. The metabolites (dehydroascorbic acid and calcium threonate) inside Ester-C help to create higher retention of vitamin C in cells.

4)  Vitamin C Magnesium Ascorbate: Magnesium ascorbate is another non-acidic form of vitamin C. Ascorbic acid and magnesium are synthesized in order to form magnesium ascorbate. It is also gentler on the digestive tract, making it a great option for those who are acid-sensitive. Magnesium ascorbate has wonderful benefits, such as helping to support heart, bone, and muscle health as well as the immune system. It can also help with reversing the effects of excess calcium.

5) Vitamin C Sodium Ascorbate: Sodium ascorbate is a more bioavailable form of vitamin C, and like that of magnesium ascorbate, it is also easier on the digestive tract as it is less acidic and is more suitable for those with gastrointestinal issues.

6) Liposomal vitamin C: This form of vitamin C uses liposomal technology, which creates an increase in the absorption of nutrients. It is the most expensive version of vitamin C, as liposomal technology is used to capture the active ingredients inside these protective membranes known as liposomes, which consists of bi-layers of phospholipid molecules. These phospholipid molecules are similar to our own body’s cell membranes which protect contents thus allowing it to pass through the digestive juices without experiencing gastrointestinal distress and then delivering the vitamin C directly to the cells. Liposomal vitamin C ensures almost 100% bioavailability as it delivers more vitamin C into the bloodstream.

Symptoms of Vitamin C deficiency:

Many people have heard of scurvy, the condition which caused the deaths of many British sailors during the 1700s. Scurvy is the result of the disturbance of the synthesis of collagen and connective tissues due to lack of Vitamin C in the body. Nowadays, scurvy is very rare condition, but studies have found that people who have digestive disorders or smoke are more susceptible to vitamin C deficiency. Some of the symptoms of vitamin C deficiency include:

  • Bleeding gums
  • Fatigue
  • Easy bruising
  • Dry, scaly skin
  • Swollen joints
  • Dry, splitting hair
  • Weakened immune system
  • Gingivitis

There can also be negative side-effects from taking too much vitamin C, for example, you may experience diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal cramps. In addition, excessive amounts of vitamin C can cause kidney stones (more prominent in men), insomnia, and an accumulation of iron. Nonetheless, vitamin C has low toxicity and excess amounts of vitamin C in the body are excreted. The tolerable amount of vitamin C for adults is 2000mg daily, which far exceeds the amount of vitamin C that you will get from your daily diet.

Vitamin C is a really powerful vitamin and is so essential for our bodies to function well. The best source of Vitamin C is from whole foods such as Camu Camu, berries etc. Some alternative health practitioners advice on taking mega doses with Vitamin C to keep cold, flu and viruses at bay.