Nutrition Glossary




Amino acid: One of the building blocks of protein. The term "amino acids" dates to the middle of the 19th century. The idea that amino acids are "Bausteine" (building stones) came from the Nobel Prize winning German biochemist Albrecht Kossel (1853-1927).

Vitamin C, an essential nutrient found mainly in fruits and vegetables. The body requires it to form and maintain bones, blood vessels, and skin. Like other vitamins, ascorbic acid is an organic compound. An organic compound is a substance that (1) occurs in living things, or organisms (hence, the word "organic") and (2) contains the elements carbon and oxygen (hence, the word "compound," meaning combination of elements).

Ascorbic acid is a water-soluble vitamin, one that cannot be stored by the body except in insignificant amounts. It must be replenished daily.

Purpose and Benefits
Ascorbic acid helps produce collagen, a protein needed to develop and maintain healthy teeth, bones, gums, cartilage, vertebrae discs, joint linings, skin and blood vessels. Ascorbic acid also does the following: Promotes the healing of cuts, abrasions and wounds; Helps fight infections; Inhibits conversion of irritants in smog, tobacco smoke, and certain foods into cancer-causing substances; Appears to dilate (widen, enlarge) blood vessels and thereby lessen the risk of developing high blood pressure and heart disease; Helps regulate cholesterol levels; Prevents the development of scurvy, a disease characterized by weakness, fatigue, anemia, swollen joints, bleeding gums and loose teeth. Scurvy was common aboard ships in earlier times because crews traveled for long periods without eating fresh vegetables or fruit. Many sailors died of the disease. Scurvy is rare today; Appears to lower the risk of developing cataracts, clouding of the lens of the eye that impairs vision; May help protect diabetics against deterioration of nerves, eyes and kidneys;  May (or may not) inhibit the development of colds and decrease the intensity of cold symptoms. (This is highly controversial.); Aids iron absorption; and May reduce levels of lead in the blood.

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