Vitamin C Benefits to Your Health (cont.)

"People who consume more fruit and vegetables will not only have higher [blood] levels of vitamin C, but higher intake of other nutrients potentially beneficial to health, such as fiber and other vitamins and minerals," study researcher Phyo K. Myint said in an email interview.

4. Skin Aging. Vitamin C affects cells on the inside and outside of the body. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined links between nutrient intakes and skin aging in 4,025 women aged 40-74. It found that higher vitamin C intakes were associated with a lower likelihood of a wrinkled appearance, dryness of the skin, and a better skin-aging appearance.

Other studies have suggested that vitamin C may also:

  • Improve macular degeneration.
  • Reduce inflammation.
  • Reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Vitamin C's Role in the Body

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is necessary for the growth, development and repair of all body tissues. It's involved in many body functions, including formation of collagen, absorption of iron, the immune system, wound healing, and the maintenance of cartilage, bones, and teeth.

Vitamin C is one of many antioxidants that can protect against damage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals, as well as toxic chemicals and pollutants like cigarette smoke. Free radicals can build up and contribute to the development of health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and arthritis.

Vitamin C is not stored in the body (excess amounts are excreted), so overdose is not a concern. But it's still important not to exceed the safe upper limit of 2,000 milligrams a day to avoid stomach upset and diarrhea.

Water-soluble vitamins must be continuously supplied in the diet to maintain healthy levels. Eat vitamin-C-rich fruits and vegetables raw, or cook them with minimal water so you don't lose some of the water-soluble vitamin in the cooking water.

Vitamin C is easily absorbed both in food and in pill form, and it can enhance the absorption of iron when the two are eaten together.

Deficiency of vitamin C is relatively rare, and primarily seen in malnourished adults. In extreme cases, it can lead to scurvy -- characterized by weakness, anemia, bruising, bleeding, and loose teeth.

How to Get More Vitamin C in Your Diet

This antioxidant super-nutrient is found in a variety of fruits and vegetables. Yet, according to dietary intake data and the 2005 U.S. Dietary Guidelines, most adults don't get enough vitamin C in their diets. This is especially true of smokers and non-Hispanic black males, according to research done by Jeff Hampl, PhD, RD, and colleagues at the University of Arizona.

The foods richest in vitamin C are citrus fruits, green peppers, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli, white potatoes, and sweet potatoes. Other good sources include dark leafy greens, cantaloupe, papaya, mango, watermelon, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, red peppers, raspberries, blueberries, winter squash, and pineapples.

Here are eight easy ways to work more fruits and veggies into your diet each day:

  1. Add pureed or grated fruits and veggies to recipes for muffins, meatloaf, and soups.
  2. Keep cut-up fruits and veggies on hand so they are ready for a quick snack.
  3. Frozen fruit slices make a cool summer treat.
  4. Include dark lettuce, tomatoes, and shredded broccoli slaw on all your sandwiches and wraps.
  5. Eat raw veggies with hummus, low-fat dips, and salsas.
  6. Add fresh or frozen berries to muffins, pancakes, cereal, and salads.
  7. Throw a handful of dried fruit on top of your cereal or in a baggie with nuts for an easy snack.
  8. Enjoy a glass of vegetable juice as a filling and low-calorie mid-afternoon snack,

The bottom line? "There is no one silver bullet vitamin, mineral, or nutrient," says Sandquist. "It is all about the big picture. And eating a varied diet rich in all the nutrients is the best strategy for good health."

Her advice: Take a daily multivitamin, because most people don't get enough of several nutrients. And if you want to combat colds and flu, wash your hands more often.

Published April 04, 2008


SOURCES: Mark A. Moyad, MD, MPH, senior research associate and Phil F. Jenkins Director, Complementary and Alternative Medicine, University of Michigan Urology Center. Phyo K. Myint, MRCP, department of public health, University of Cambridge, England. Dee Sandquist, MS, RD, director, Center for Weight Management, Southwest Washington Medical Center; spokeswoman, American Dietetic Association. U.S. Department of Agriculture 2005 US Dietary Guidelines. Seminars in Preventive and Alternative Medicine (1) Sept, 24, 2007; 3-1; pp 25-35). Myint, P.K., American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, January 2008; vol 87: pp 64-69. American Journal of Public Health, May 2004; vol 94: pp 870-875. Jeffrey S Hampl, PhD, RD; Christopher A. Taylor, PhD, RD; and Carol S. Johnston, PhD, RD, Vitamin C Deficiency and Depletion in the United States: The Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988 to 1994. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, October 2007; vol 86; pp 1125-31. WebMD Medical News: "Veggie Eaters Have Fewer Strokes."

©2008 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.


Last Editorial Review: 4/9/2008



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