Vitamin C is an essential dietary nutrient because it has a number of different biological functions and health-promoting effects. It acts as a co-factor for many important enzymes as well as also being a potent water-soluble antioxidant. Together, this makes vitamin C a necessary and vital dietary nutrient.
Vitamin C is abundantly found in the body and is particularly enriched in the brain, liver and muscles where it acts as a co-factor for many different reactions. This includes the biosynthesis of collagen (structural protein), catecholamines (such as the neurotransmitter, dopamine), and the absorption of iron in the small intestine.
Vitamin C Deficiency
Vitamin C deficiency has been recorded since the 18th century as the disease known as scurvy. This disease was evident on long voyages at sea, with bleeding, easy bruising, inability for wounds to heal, and hair and teeth loss all common characteristics of this disease.
During long voyages at sea, sailors would be subjected to a poor diet that was significantly short on fresh fruit and vegetables. Once the British Navy instated that all ships should carry sufficient citrus fruits on board, the number of cases of scurvy at sea were significantly reduced.
The symptoms of scurvy are related to the weakening of the connective tissues that supports the structure of skin and blood vessels. This is caused by the lack of collagen production, which requires vitamin C in its synthesis.
Vitamin C and Collagen
Vitamin C is required for collagen synthesis by acting as a co-factor for several enzymatic steps. Collagen biosynthesis occurs inside and outside of the cell and involves a number of enzymatic steps.
Collagen is a group of fibrous proteins found in connective tissue that give these tissues their unique strength and flexibility. The formation of mature collagen in the body requires hydroxylation of the amino acids lysine and proline, and this process requires the enzyme prolyl hydroxylase and the enzyme cofactor, vitamin C.
Deficiencies in vitamin C will result in the production of unstable collagen molecules, which are too fragile for purpose. As was shown with sailors on long voyages, vitamin C deficiency causes scurvy. Therefore, vitamin C is necessary for the maintenance of connective tissue.
Vitamin C and its antioxidative activity
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that is the main water-soluble antioxidant found in plasma and in all organs. Vitamin C has been shown to be beneficial at preventing oxidative damage to proteins, lipids (fat), and DNA by directly neutralizing the reactive oxygen species (ROS) that are formed during normal cell metabolism.
ROS, or superoxides, are the byproducts of cellular reactions and are notoriously reactive and toxic. Superoxide species are unstable radicals that are implicated in apoptosis (programmed cell death), inflammatory responses, and various degenerative diseases.
As a defense against oxidative damage, the cell produces two key enzymes, superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase, as well as various small molecules that act as antioxidants. Naturally occurring antioxidants include vitamin E and vitamin C, both of which play major roles in protecting cells and tissues from oxidative damage.
Vitamin C functions as a scavenger of ROS that forms during oxidative stress. In addition, vitamin C protects cell membranes from lipid peroxidation radicals. These reactive species have been implicated in the development of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, neurodegeneration, and type II diabetes.
Vitamin C and Iron
Iron is an important trace element that is absolutely necessary for survival. In the human body the majority of iron is found in red blood cells bound to a protein called hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is essential for transporting oxygen around the body in the blood vessels.
There are two main types of iron, heme and non-heme. Heme comes from meat sources and has good bioavailability (ability to be absorbed) whereas non-heme is usually found in plants and has low bioavailability. However, consumption of vitamin C will improve the absorption rates of plant-based non-heme.
Vitamin C Supplement Health Benefits
There is substantial clinical research into vitamin C supplementation with many scientists believing that a person’s vitamin C status is associated with their health and wellbeing. Many trials have shown the health benefits of vitamin C with significant reductions in the risk of developing disease.
The following list details the health benefits of vitamin C supplementation:
- To prevent vitamin C deficiency
- To maintain good health
- May shorten the severity and duration of the common cold
- To reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease
Vitamin C in acerola
The acerola fruit (Malpighia emerginata DC.) is a type of cherry found in tropical and subtropical regions around the world. Acerola is enriched in vitamin C as well as other compounds such as bioflavonoids, polyphenols and other phytonutrients.
Vitamin C from acerola fruit provides significant benefits over more conventional vitamin C because the bioflavonoids present not only enhance vitamin C absorption but are also highly effective at helping sustain vitality and health.
In recent years, dietary bioactive compounds from acerola fruit have been shown to possess anti-inflammatory properties particularly in fat tissues. Furthermore, acerola fruit may have the ability to restore normal metabolic pathways and assist in significant weight loss.
- Packed with powerful bioflavonoid antioxidants
- Enhanced cardiovascular health
- Supports a healthy immune system
Vitamin C in Camu Camu
Camu camu (Myrciaria dubai) is a berry from a low-growing bushy tree found near the Amazon River. The camu camu berry is substantially enriched in minerals and vitamins as well as a range of bioactive phytonutrients such as bioflavonoids, anthocyanins, and polyphenols.
Camu camu is a natural source of vitamin C, which along with the other potent phytonutrient antioxidants, make camu camu a powerful bioactive supplement. Research shows that camu camu is an effective antioxidant with substantial anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and antiviral properties.
In one particular study, researchers wanted to find out whether daily supplementation with camu camu could significantly aid weight loss in cases of diet-induced obesity. The authors showed that cholesterol and triglycerides levels were all significantly reduced as well as significant reductions in weight loss.
In another study on habitual smokers, camu camu extracts were tested to see whether it could reduce oxidative stress. It was shown that camu camu had powerful anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects that came from the high vitamin C content and other anti-oxidative substances present.
- Naturally enriched in vitamin C
- Could help with weight loss
- Reduces oxidative stress
- Anti-inflammatory properties
Vitamin C in Baobab
The baobab fruit (Adansonia digitata L.) is found throughout Africa and is a leafy vegetable that provides an essential source of nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. The baobab fruit is high in fiber and rich in vitamin C, B1 and B2 as well as minerals such as potassium, magnesium, zinc, calcium and iron.
Baobab fruit powder is packed with insoluble and soluble fiber, which can help digestion and stabilize blood sugar levels, respectively. Increased dietary fiber intake comes with many significant health effects. Studies show that increasing dietary fiber can improve insulin sensitivity in diabetic and healthy individuals.
In addition, nutritional research into baobab has shown it to also to be naturally enriched in antioxidant compounds known as polyphenols. Polyphenols have been shown to benefit human metabolic processes such as glucose metabolism. In fact, the baobab fruit can significantly reduce the glycemic response after the consumption of a meal.
- Helps maintain stable blood sugar levels
- Aids digestion
- Increases energy levels
- Boosts the immune system
- Supports heart and artery health
- Supports bone and skin health
Vitamin C in Amla berries
Amla, or Indian gooseberry (Emblica officinalis), is an important Ayurvedic medicine that has been used for generations to treat a number of different ailments. Common usages include treatment of the common cold, liver tonic, restorative tonic, anti-inflammatory, and as a digestive remedy.
Multiple clinical studies have since shown that the Indian gooseberry has potent antioxidant and immune health enhancing properties. It has also been shown to be beneficial at protecting the heart, kidneys, stomach, liver, brain and blood vessels from oxidative stress and chronic inflammatory processes.
Indian gooseberry is enriched in various minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, iron as well as vitamin C, B-vitamins and phytonutrients such as carotenoids and secondary polyphenols. Together, these health-giving constituents are what give the Indian gooseberry its therapeutic properties.
- Naturally enriched in vitamin C
- Packed full of natural phytonutrients
- Immune-health enhancing
- Potent antioxidant
Who should use Vitamin C Supplements?
- People who may have nutrient deficiencies
- People looking to maintain optimal health
- People looking to prevent chronic diseases
Vitamin C Combinations
- Vitamin C is often included with other vitamins such as vitamin E and vitamin B complexes
- Vitamin C is often combined with other naturally potent antioxidants such as bioflavonoids and polyphenols
Why take Vitamin C?
Vitamin C supplementation comes with a broad range of health benefits beyond its essential reasons as a vitamin.
Supplementation with vitamin C can help the following:
- Vitamin C deficiency
- To improve iron absorption in the gut
- To improve age-related macular degeneration (vision loss)
- To combat high blood pressure related to cardiovascular disease
- To treat the common cold
- To enhance physical performance and muscle strength
- To optimize collagen production particularly in the joints and skin
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- Langley P, Pergolizzi J, Taylor R, et al., Antioxidant and associated capacities of camu camu (Myrciaria dubai): a systematic review. J Altern Comp Med. 2015; 21(1): 8-14