Vitamin C must be obtained either through diet or supplementation as unlike most animals and plants, humans have lost the ability to synthesize this nutrient.  Vitamin C is water-soluble which means that only a certain amount is used and can’t be stored.  Given that any excess is excreted, continually restoring vitamin C is required to ensure adequate intake.

Vitamin C is an essential component of collagen, the most abundant protein in the body that is essential for building new bone, cartilage, tendon, skin and other connective tissue.  As a result, vitamin C plays an important role in wound healing by supporting the development of new tissue and blood vessels.

Vitamin C works as an antioxidant to quench free-radicals in the aqueous or watery part of cells. It also regenerates other antioxidants and works in concert with vitamin E (which works in lipid environments).

Vitamin C may play a role in the prevention and treatment of cancer, cardiovascular disease, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts and the common cold.  Epidemiological studies suggest that high intakes of fruits and vegetables are associated with lower risk of most types of cancer and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.  However, the evidence is inconsistent whether dietary vitamin C intake affects cancer risk or reduces cardiovascular disease morbidity or mortality.  Studies indicate that vitamin C may slow the progression of AMD and higher intakes may reduce the risk of developing cataracts.

Under certain conditions, the requirement for vitamin C is increased.  Smokers, those exposed to second hand smoke, older persons and those under stress have a greater need for this vitamin. 

Major Functions of Vitamin C

  • Vitamin C contributes to normal energy metabolism processes.
  • Vitamin C contributes to the normal functioning of the nervous system.
  • Vitamin C contributes to maintaining a normal psychological function.
  • Vitamin C contributes to the normal functioning of the immune system
  • Vitamin C contributes to the protection of cells against oxidative stress
  • Vitamin C contributes to reducing fatigue and fatigue.
  • Vitamin C contributes to the regeneration of the reduced form of vitamin E.
  • Vitamin C enhances the absorption of iron.

Vitamin C contributes to normal collagen formation and thus contributing to:

  • Maintaining normal blood vessels and function.
  • Maintaining normal bone.
  • Maintaining the normal state and function of cartilage.
  • To maintain the normal state of the gum.
  • Maintaining normal skin condition and function.
  • To maintain the normal condition of the teeth.

Bioflavonoids

Any food that contains vitamin C also contains bioflavonoids.  Bioflavonoids are required for absorption of vitamin C and both work together in the body.  Although bioflavonoids are not considered a vitamin, they are sometimes referred to as vitamin P.

Bioflavonoids are found abundant in citrus fruit rinds and pulp. Common bioflavonoids include citrus flavonoids found in citrus fruits; rutin in buckwheat; epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) in green tea; anthocyanidins in bilberry; naringenin in grapefruit; oligomeric proanthocyanidins in grape seeds and skins and quercetin in onions, tea, and apples.

Food Sources

Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of vitamin C. With 2,000 mg/100 grams, rose hips have one of the highest concentrations of vitamin C. Other plants that are good sources include peppers (red pepper, hot chillis); berries (black currant, loganberry, elderberry, goji, cloudberry, strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, cranberry); citrus fruits (orange, lemon, grapefruit, tangerine, lime); green vegetables (parsley, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach) and other fruits (guava, kiwifruit, papaya, melon).

The vitamin C content of foods is reduced with cooking, freezing and then unthawing. Higher temperatures and longer cooking times magnify this effect. Fresh cut fruits do not lose significant vitamin content when stored in the refrigerator for a few days. Eating fruits and vegetables at their peak ripeness in their raw state is the best way to maximize vitamin C intake.

A little history of vitamin C

At the end of the 1920s Albert Szent-Györgyi found an unknown substance in the adrenal glands. He found its composition(C6H8O6) first named hexuronic acid and later ascorbic acid.

Later, in Szeged (a city in Hungary), he discovered how to make this organic acid in larger volumes. Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) = A-(negative prefix, meaning “without.”) + scorbuticus (meaning scurvy) 

Ascorbic acid degrads quickly – example: exposing to heat – as it is a very fragile compound. So, if you cook/bake the vegetables and fruits then you practically destroy the vitamin C content.

„Fun” fact: The current recommened dose of vitamin C is is 90 mg and for adult women is 75 mg. As a matter of fact, this is way below what a human body needs. The minimum amount depends on the body wight, life style, diet etc, but as a general guide (according to Albert Szent-Györgyi and other researchers): 30mg / kg (a person who is 100 kg needs 3000 mg vitamin C. Albert Szent-Györgyi took 6000-8000 mg a day. He was 93 when he passed away.