VITAMIN C: FOR SKIN, IMMUNITY AND BRAIN FUNCTION
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a vital nutrient for health, it helps form and maintain bones, healthy skin, blood vessels and cartilage. It is also an antioxidant. According to the NHS, Vitamin C also plays a significant role in healing wounds, protecting cells and keeping them healthy:
- It helps the body produce collagen.
- It is an antioxidant that protects against cell damage caused by oxidative stress (e.g. excessive exercise and tissue trauma)
- It helps the body absorb iron, a mineral our body uses to make red blood cells which carry oxygen to all parts of our body.
- It boosts the immune system which protects us from viruses and more.
- It enhances wound healing.
- It reduces dementia risk. Low vitamin C levels have been linked to an increased risk of memory and thinking disorders like dementia, while a high intake of vitamin C has been shown to have a protective effect on thinking and memory as you age.
Because Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, it cannot be stored in the body and must be obtained from the diet or supplements. The EU recommended daily intake (NRV) for vitamin C is 80mg.
WHAT DO THE STUDIES SHOW?
Vitamin C is involved in many body functions, including formation of collagen, absorption of iron, the proper functioning of the immune system, protection of cells, wound healing, and the maintenance of healthy skin, cartilage, bones, and teeth. Furthermore, scientific studies show that Vitamin C can help reduce dementia risk, support sexual function, guard against chronic disease, manage high blood pressure and prevent anaemia.
Let’s delve into some of the science below:
One of the most compelling arguments for a vital role for vitamin C in skin health is the association between vitamin C deficiency and the loss of a number of important skin functions. In particular, poor wound healing (associated with collagen formation). Studies have shown when we are deficient in vitamin C, the collagen produced by fibroblasts is unstable, so tissue repair is less efficient, and wounds take longer to heal.
Studies have also shown that taking Collagen with Vitamin C (which plays an essential role in collagen synthesis in our bodies) helps maintain healthy cartilage (the tissue that covers the surface of our joints, protecting them from wear and tear) and helps with the healing of tendons bone and ligament grafts
Studies relating to fracture healing have shown that taking a vitamin C supplement may help speed up bone healing following a fracture, increase collagen synthesis, and reduce oxidative stress in the body.
It’s well established that vitamin C contributes to the normal function of the immune system. For example a meta-analysis found that Vitamin C supplements could help us recover more quickly from a common cold and a review found vitamin C supports the immune system by protecting against oxidative stress, aids in microbial killing and decreases the potential for tissue damage. The review also found that vitamin C deficiency results in impaired immunity and higher susceptibility to infections.
Oxidative stress reduces testosterone synthesis. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant which protects the body against oxidative stress and can improve hormone profiles. For example a study involving over 300 infertile men found that ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is associated with higher testosterone levels and improved androgenic status in infertile males.
Research also suggests that vitamin C might play a role in certain biochemical pathways that support erectile function. For example a review noted that vitamin C is one of several vitamins and minerals that support the biochemical pathway that leads to the release of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide (NO) is generally viewed as the principal agent responsible for relaxing the tissue inside the penis and allowing blood to flow in and create an erection.
Studies suggest that oxidative stress and inflammation near the brain, spine, and nerves (altogether known as the central nervous system) can increase the risk of dementia. Vitamin C contributes to the protection of cells from oxidative stress and low vitamin C levels have been linked to an increased risk of memory and thinking disorders like dementia, while a high intake of vitamin C has been shown to have a protective effect on thinking and memory as we age. For example a systematic review found higher vitamin C concentrations in cognitively intact study participants compared with those with the cognitively impaired participants (i.e. those with dementia including Alzheimer’s disease).
Vitamin C helps reduce tiredness and fatigue and it also helps the body absorb iron. Symptoms of iron deficiency include tiredness. Studies have found links between insufficient vitamin C and fatigue.
The bottom line: Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that must be obtained daily from diet or supplements.
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