What is vitamin C and what is good for ?
The (water-soluble) vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, is probably the best known of all vitamins. It is mainly found in fresh vegetables and is involved in many metabolic processes and protects the cells from free radicals.
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Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that the body can not produce itself and therefore needs to be absorbed through the diet. It occurs mainly in citrus fruits and fresh vegetables. For many processed products, such as sausages and meat products, vitamin C is added as an additive (E300 to E304, E315 and E316). It makes it more durable and maintains the original color.
What is Vitamin C good for? Many processes in the human body require vitamin C. For example, the vitamin has an effect on the optimal functioning of the immune system. The most well-known deficiency symptom in connection with vitamin C is scurvy.
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In addition to the positive influence on the immune system and against scurvy, ascorbic acid promotes the absorption and utilization of iron from plant foods. It is important to make bile acids and catecholamines such as norepinephrine and adrenaline, and it catches toxic substances in the body (free radicals caused, for example, by UV radiation, nicotine or medications).
Vitamin C is needed to build connective tissue (collagen), helps with wound healing, tuberculosis, and can prevent the formation of cancer-causing nitrosamines (substances found in tobacco smoke or salt-cured meat and sausage products).
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For the immune system to work, we need vitamin C. But you can still get a cold, even with an extra portion of the vitamin. It has not been scientifically proven that high-dose vitamin C supplements can prevent colds or treat them.
However, heat does not tolerate ascorbic acid very well. Vegetables should therefore be heated gently. However, heat does not tolerate the ascorbic acid very well. Therefore, vegetables should only be heated carefully. Even in the preparation of the hot lemon that is so popular with cold, the hot water quickly reduces the vitamin C content. After all, the hot steam moistens the mucous membranes.
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Some studies indicate that vitamin C improves the outcome of chemotherapy or radiotherapy while reducing side effects. In addition, fewer cancer medications appear to be needed, and vitamin C is also administered. Cancer prevention should also include high-dose vitamin C infusions. However, this is not yet scientifically proven.
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The recommended intake for vitamin C is between 90 and 110 milligrams per day for adolescents aged 15 and over and adults.
How much vitamin C you need a day varies according to age and gender, energy needs and many other factors, such as environmental or mental stress or disease. During breastfeeding, the daily intake of vitamin C may be increased.
Smokers often have a larger daily requirement. Vitamin C is less concentrated in their blood, because they have higher metabolic losses than non-smokers. Therefore, experts recommend intake of 135 milligrams per day for smoking women and 155 milligrams for smoking men.
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A vitamin C deficiency is unknown in healthy people who eat well. Such a deficit exists practically only in some developing countries. From the 16th to the 19th century, vitamin C deficiency was prevalent among sailors.
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Vitamin C deficiency is very rare in industrialized countries. The daily amount of around 100 milligrams of vitamin C for healthy adults recommended by experts. Already two kiwi or the juice of two oranges cover the daily requirement.
However, lifestyle factors such as smoking or the use of certain medications such as oral contraceptives (the “pill”), acetylsalicylic acid (ingredient in aspirin) as well as the sulfonamides used as antibiotics and antidiabetics have an influence on vitamin C status. Similarly, a vitamin C deficiency can be triggered by a far too low intake of fresh fruits and vegetables.
According to the Austrian Nutrition Report 2012 active smokers have a lower plasma concentration of vitamin C, even if there is sufficient supply of this vitamin.Therefore, smokers are recommended to have a 50 percent higher daily intake of vitamin C.
In addition to smokers, people with diabetes as well as older people are among those groups of people who are often insufficiently supplied with antioxidants or are more exposed to oxidative stress. By oxidative stress is meant that the normal detoxification and repair mechanisms of a cell are overwhelmed and thereby cell damage.
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Severe vitamin C deficiency results in the rare “mariner disease” scurvy. The name “maritime disease” refers to the fact that sailors in the past used to be affected by this disease. Since there was hardly any way to consume fresh fruits and vegetables during the weeklong voyages, the vitamin C deficiency arose. Scurvy initially manifests itself in relatively nonspecific symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, muscle aches and immunodeficiency.
Typical symptoms of advanced vitamin C deficiency are:
- Inflamed and bleeding gums
- Delayed wound healing
- Joint pain
- Decreased ability to form collagen
The latter circumstance can easily lead to bleeding in the skin, mucous membrane, internal organs and muscles, especially in the thigh.
In scurvy patients, the cross-linkages between the chains of collagen molecules are also unstable. In very severe cases of scurvy, bleeding can occur in the conjunctiva of the eye, in the retina and in the brain. In addition, the disease can cause bone and joint changes.
Bleeding caused by a vitamin C deficiency differs from other causes of bleeding by the following characteristics:
- Simultaneously both large and punctate bleeding
- Bleeding on the hair roots
- Tooth loosening caused by gum inflammation
These symptoms allow a safe clinical diagnosis, which can be confirmed by a determination of vitamin C status in the body.
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According to the German Society for Nutrition, the recommended daily amount of vitamin C during pregnancy and lactation is about 105 milligrams, which is no higher than the “normal” average daily requirement of adults (95 to 110 milligrams / day).
In the case of breastfeeding, there may be a vitamin C deficiency, because the demand increases to 125 milligrams, but this can be minimised by the addition of vitamin C for the risk of vitamin C deficiency.
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Vitamin C overdose is not harmful to a healthy person – and often does not even occur. Too much vitamin C (also called ascorbic acid) is simply excreted by the body in the normal case. In people with certain diseases, an overdose of vitamin C can be quite risky.
From a scientific point of view, it is very difficult to determine a vitamin C overdose, because it is not clear if the measurement of the vitamin C value really brings anything. Basically, the concentration of vitamin C is determined from the blood. The normal values are not clearly defined, there are only reference values and recommendations, so it is difficult to correctly assess the level of vitamin C levels.
The normal value is 5 to 15 mg / l, measured in the blood. Thus, both a vitamin C deficiency and a vitamin C overdose can be determined. However, the latter almost never occurs in healthy people, as vitamin C is water-soluble and ascorbic acid is normally excreted in the urine. However, if you take high-dose vitamin C for a long time, for example in tablet or powder form, there may be a vitamin C excess, especially in people with metabolic disorders.
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Normally, vitamin C overdose is not dangerous for healthy people. People who are sensitive to vitamin C may experience indigestion and diarrhea.
However, as the way out of the body through the kidneys, there is a more serious risk of overdose in people with kidney function. High concentration of vitamin C may increase the production of oxalic acid, which increases the risk of kidney stones.
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An allergy to vitamin C occurs quite often, but it is often not recognized as such, because the reaction of allergy sufferers can also come from other ingredients that still contain foods in addition to vitamin C. Often these are, for example, preservatives that have been used to treat fruits and vegetables, or the so-called chlorogenic acid, a natural substance found in many plants. Allergy sufferers respond to citrus fruits, kiwis, oranges, cabbage, potatoes and / or peppers. Often, the allergic reaction occurs only after several days.