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Vitamin C and your health

The most famous of all vitamins, vitamin C (ascorbic acid in its basic form), has been discovered in 1928, and soon after identified as as the nutrient whose absence was resulting in a mysterious and deadly seaman's disease - scurvy. During the later part of the century, health promoting abilities of vitamin C were widely popularized by the Nobel prize laureate Linus Pauling.

The key roles of vitamin C in the body are: 

(1) strengthening of all connective tissues (skin, bones, muscles, tendons, capillaries, etc.),

(2) preventing oxidation of other nutrients (vitamins A, E and most B-complex vitamins) and body tissues,

(3) supporting adrenal and thyroid function,

(4) fighting carcinogenic cell mutations by obstructing conversion of nitrates and nitrites into carcinogenic nitrosamines and nitrosamides, and

(5) helping protect the body from free radicals and toxins (heavy metals, plasticizers, pesticides, drugs, etc.).

While vitamin C is widely present in a variety of foods, the likelihood of its insufficient intake is very high, and in addition compromised by it being: (1) very fragile (easily destroyed by heat, light, oxygen, also by cooking in copper and iron utensils), and (2) by being quickly lost from the body. Your body not only needs a continuous intake of vitamin C, it also needs much more of it when under any kind of stress or trauma. Most animals don't have to worry about it, since they have the ability to synthesize their own vitamin C. Only apes, guinea pig and a very few other species - including us - can't, and depend on their food intake.

It is not surprising that the list of possible symptoms of vitamin C deficiency is long. It includes easy bruising, anemia, fatigue, suppressed immune-system function, impaired detox system function, gastrointestinal problems, depression, increased risk of cancers, impaired hormonal functions, scurvy, and others.

On the other hand, side effects of even very high doses of vitamin C normally range from mild to none (varies individually). Common sign of exceeding upper tolerance limit of vitamin C intake is diarrhea. Rare possible effects of the excessive intake are abdominal cramps, insomnia, irritability, joint pain and reduced estrogen.

Vitamin C DRI (Dietary Reference Intakes, the most recent set of dietary recommendations set by the government) for an average healthy adult female is 75mg a day, and 90mg for a male. In pregnancy and lactation the intake is increased to 85mg and 120mg a day, respectively. These intake levels are seen by many as insufficient for optimum health - worse yet, resulting in the

widespread sub-clinical deficiency of vitamin C.

This is especially dangerous in situations when the body is exposed to stress, trauma or disease. It is known that animals capable of producing C vitamin increase production up to a hundred times, or more, during traumatic situations. Having grossly insufficient levels of C vitamin in such emergencies - which is, for instance, every time that you find yourself under stress, physical trauma or exposed to toxic surges - is very likely to inflict damage to the body and compromise your health.

Unofficial educated optimum C vitamin intake recommendation vary, depending on the source, from 400mg to as much as 12,000mg a day. For most folks, optimum vitamin C intake is likely to be in the 2,000mg-5,000mg a day range.

Best natural food sources of vitamin C are fruits and vegetables.