What are the health benefits of vitamin C?

Vitamin C helps heal wounds and bruises, supports immune system functioning and plays an integral role in the production of carnitine, the compound that transports fats into the center of your cells so your body can use them for energy. Vitamin C is also an important antioxidant. It protects your cells, including muscle cells, from excess damage caused by free radicals, damaging compounds that are produced in the body and can be absorbed from the environment.

Vitamin C is in citrus fruits (tomatoes, oranges, grapefruit, etc.), green leafy vegetables, potatoes and broccoli. Heat, oxygen and light destroy vitamin C, so those strawberry slices you cut and left sitting on your counter won’t contain the same amount as fresh ones.

Because vitamin C is water­soluble -- it dissolves in water and excess is excreted in the urine each day -- you need to consume it every day. Use minimal water when cooking (unless the water is included in the final dish like it is in soups or stews). If you boil vegetables, you’ll toss out some of your vitamin C along with the water.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Vitamin C helps reduce high blood pressure, prevents cataracts, and promotes wound healing. It improves lung function, preventing aging of the respiratory system. Also, vitamin C really does keep your immune system young. Linus Pauling, a Nobel-Prize-winning chemist, thought vitamin C helped cure colds. We now know it decreases the likelihood of the one ager we all want to avoid, cancer! For example, vitamin C helps prevent infections from the bacterium that causes both stomach and duodenal ulcers and stomach cancer, Helicobacter pylori. Recent data from analysis of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) indicate that those who had the highest vitamin C levels in their blood were more than 70% less likely to be infected by this disease-causing bacterium than those with the lowest levels. The authors of that study speculate that this resistance to dangerous bacteria that promote cancer is caused by the ability of vitamin C to make the stomach more acidic, and thus less favorable for the bacteria. Whatever the cause, it is an additional benefit of vitamin C.

Evidence suggests that vitamin C can stave off the sniffles, particularly in people involved in extreme activities, such as marathon runners and soldiers. Research shows that the incidence of colds in these populations is reduced by 50 percent when subjects consume 250 to 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C per day.

Howard S. Smith
Pain Medicine
Not only is vitamin C -- a water-soluble vitamin that must be replenished -- important to keep your immune system functioning normally, this influential nutrient helps to maintain the strength of collagen, ligaments, and tendons, and can block the effect of inflammatory substances. As vitamin C inhibits the breakdown of cartilage, it may be of help to those suffering from arthritis whose cartilage is often adversely affected. For those who suffer with heavy menstrual bleeding from fibroid tumors, or endometriosis, vitamin C helps your body to absorb iron -- a key mineral that must be replaced in most women of childbearing age. This antioxidant is also important for protecting muscle cells from the damage and pain associated with fibromyalgia syndrome. The Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) is 75 milligrams. You can get 90 milligrams of vitamin C by eating five servings of fresh fruits and vegetables daily. 
Dr. Rovenia Brock, PhD
Nutrition & Dietetics
Vitamin C is important for the health of teeth, bones, gums and blood vessels. It also helps the body absorb iron, and helps with wound healing. It is also vital for the production of collagen, which is important for skin health.

Dariush Mozaffarian, MD
Internal Medicine
Vitamin C is perhaps best known for its one-time reputation for preventing and treating the common cold -- an idea first promoted by Nobel laureate Linus Pauling. But according to a meta-analysis of 30 placebo-controlled trials, taking up to 2 grams of vitamin C per day does not decrease your chances of catching a cold, although it may very slightly shorten the duration of your sniffles.

In the body, vitamin C is crucial for making collagen, which lends structural support to tendons, ligaments, bones, and blood vessels. This vitamin is also a potent antioxidant, which is why smokers, who are exposed to more free radicals because of their habit, are advised to get extra vitamin C.  Foods naturally containing vitamin C are likely good for your health, but there is little evidence that vitamin C supplements or vitamin C fortified foods have health benefits.
Vitamin C is more than an antioxidant. It’s essential to your body’s breakdown and utilization of food, and your body can neither manufacture it on its own nor store it, which means that you need to get a constant supply of vitamin C from food sources, or from supplementation. In the last 25 years, the level of vitamin C deficiency in our population has increased, partly due to our processed food supplies that are low on the nutrient meter. Some studies are now showing that vitamin C may also give your metabolism a boost, increasing your fat-burning capacity by 30 percent! Researchers have demonstrated that vitamin C can reduce age-related weight gain, and that too little vitamin C in the blood correlates with increased body fat and wider waistlines.

From The Mind-Beauty Connection: 9 Days to Less Stress, Gorgeous Skin, and a Whole New You by Amy Wechsler.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.