Function of Vitamin C
Also known as L-ascorbic acid, Vitamin C is water soluble vitamin and an essential component in the diet of humans as we cannot make Vitamin C. Vitamin C has many functions including facilitating protein metabolism, the regeneration of antioxidants and wound healing. Vitamin C is more commonly known for its role in immune function. As an antioxidant Vitamin C fights free radicals (unstable cells that cause damage and ageing) which may delay the onset of certain diseases.
Vitamin C Requirements
In the UK the amount of Vitamin C you require daily depends on your age. See the table below for guidance;
Women in the last trimester of pregnancy require at least their age requirement plus 10mg. For many women that will be 50mg/day. Women who are breastfeeding require their age requirement plus 30mg/day which for most is 70mg/day.
Sources of Vitamin C
Fruit and vegetables naturally contain Vitamin C. Some foods such as juices are fortified with Vitamin C however, consuming large volumes of juices may increase your sugar intake and therefore the consumption of whole fruit and vegetables is preferable. Below are some examples of foods and how much you would need to consume to reach your daily Vitamin C requirements.
Factors Affecting Vitamin C status
Everyone is at risk of inadequate Vitamin C intake, however there are groups of people who are at a higher risk of insufficient intakes. These include; smokers and passive smokers, individuals with little food variety and those who have intestinal malabsorption disease, cachexia, cancer and renal disease. If you are concerned about your Vitamin C status contact your GP or healthcare professional. They can assess you and advise you on your needs.
Consequences of Vitamin C deficiency
Acute Vitamin C deficiency results in scurvy. It may take up to three months for symptoms to develop but this will vary on the Vitamin C stores an individual has. Individuals with low Vitamin C stores and consistently low intakes may see symptoms as early as 1 month. Early symptoms of scurvy include fatigue, inflammation of the gums and a malaise (a feeling of general unwellness and discomfort). Advanced scurvy can cause depression, poor wound healing, joint pain, loose teeth, tooth loss as well as skin problems such as purpura and ecchymoses. It is important to note that untreated, scurvy can be fatal but is rare in developed countries and it can be treated.
Hopefully this article has informed you of the important role Vitamin C plays in health, how much you need and how you can achieve adequate intakes!