Vitamin C is perhaps the most publicized vitamin. The primary function of vitamin C is the manufacture of collagen. Vitamin C is involved in the joining of the amino acids lysine and proline to form hydroxylysine and hydroxyproline. The result is a very stable collagen structure. Since collagen is an important protein in the structures that hold our body together, including cartilage, connective tissue, ligaments, and tendons, vitamin C is vital for wound repair, healthy gums, and the prevention of easy bruising.
In addition to its role in collagen manufacture, vitamin C is also critical to immune function, the manufacture of certain nerve transmitting substances and hormones, and the absorption and utilization of other nutritional factors. Vitamin C is also a very important nutritional antioxidant.
Numerous experimental, clinical, and population studies have shown increased vitamin C intake to result in a number of beneficial effects, including reducing cancer rates; boosting immunity; protecting against pollution and cigarette smoke; enhancing wound repair; increasing life expectancy; and reducing the risk of developing cataracts. Many claims have also been made about the role of vitamin C in enhancing the immune system, especially regarding the prevention and treatment of the common cold. However, despite numerous positive clinical and experimental studies, for some reason this effect is still hotly debated. From the biochemical viewpoint, there is considerable evidence that vitamin C plays a vital role in many immune mechanisms.
Vitamin C has been shown to increase many different immune functions, including enhancing white blood cell function and activity; and increasing interferon levels, antibody responses, antibody levels, secretion of thymic hormones, and the integrity of ground substance, the basic material that causes cells to adhere together. Vitamin C also possesses many biochemical effects very similar to those of interferon, the body's natural antiviral and anticancer compound. The high concentration of vitamin C in white blood cells, particularly lymphocytes, is rapidly depleted during infection, and a relative vitamin C deficiency may ensue if vitamin C is not regularly replenished.