Vitamin C Why you need it?

12 Min Read

People today try to get extra vitamin C in their diets for just about anything and everything that does or might ail them: to treat or prevent colds, heart disease, cancer, flu, arthritis, infertility and cataracts; to build up their immune systems; or if they’ve been exposed to pollutants or toxins. You name it; someone is making an attempt to get vitamin C for it, whether in a side dish of broccoli or a supplement.

Is it worth it to focus your attention on foods rich in vitamin C? Scientific studies seem to say yes.

O-o-o-h! Don’t eat that. It causes cancer

We’ve all heard that about almost everything we eat, and we dismiss it and keep on eating, or worry about it . . . and keep on eating. After all, cancer’s all around us, right? And no one’s actually proven a link between cancer and what we eat, right? Wrong! There is conclusive proof that nitrites and nitrates, used to preserve many processed meats, especially pork and beef products, are transformed in our own mouths and stomachs into potent cancer-causers (carcinogens).

Like the Lone Ranger, vitamin C rides again. It hates tumors like that masked man hated stagecoach robbers. A British study found that oral supplements of vitamin C significantly reduced cancer-causing activity in stomach juices.

And at least five studies on three continents have shown a lower incidence of stomach cancer when the diet includes plentiful fresh fruits and vegetables containing vitamin C.

There’s a catch: Vitamin C has to be in your tummy at the same time as the nitrites. You’ve got to eat your C-rich fruits and vegetables or take your daily C supplements just before or at the same time you gobble your nitrites. Vitamin C can’t unmake the cancer-causers once they’ve been formed. Fortunately, manufacturers are now adding vitamin C to their nitrite-preserved foods.

No smear campaign

A research team at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the Bronx Municipal Hospital Center unexpectedly found that all 46 women in their study who had positive or suspicious Pap smears were ingesting low or deficient amounts of vitamin C. A follow-up study found significantly lower vitamin C levels in women with cervical lesions.

It’s everywhere, it’s everywhere!

Pollution, that is. And vitamin C. It’s now widely accepted that C markedly affects the toxic and cancer causing properties of more than 50 common pollutants in our air, water and food. The vitamin can affect the toxicity of the pollutant, or the pollutant can affect levels of vitamin C in the body.

Get to the heart of the matter

Guess what? Vitamin C may help your heart stay healthy, help prevent atherosclerosis and cut cholesterol levels. And there’s evidence that this work- horse vitamin reduces triglycerides, blood fats now considered to be as important as high cholesterol in the development of heart disease.

In one experiment, 1 gram of vitamin C also helped reduce blood clots in healthy men after consuming 73 grams almost 3 ounces! of artery clogging butter. Such clotting is called thrombosis, and it can lead to a heart attack or stroke. The researchers at Tagore Medical College and Hospital in India said vitamin C may prove to be an effective anticlotting agent without the possible serious side effects of current drugs.

Researchers at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, at ‘Tufts University, studied almost 700 people over age 60. They found that a higher level of vitamin C in the blood correlated with a higher level of HDL cholesterol (the protective kind). But the level of total cholesterol was not higher, an indication that LDL cholesterol (the kind that blocks arteries) was reduced by vitamin C. (When the researchers checked vitamin C intake instead of blood levels, they found the same effects.) Studies by other researchers with other age-groups have shown similar results.

In the Tufts study, the effect of vitamin C was strongest in people between 60 and 69 years old, and decreased gradually in older people. The researchers aren’t sure why, but they think it may be because the older people had higher HDL levels to begin with.

The researchers estimate that an intake of about | gram (1,000 milligrams) of vitamin C per day could increase HDL by 8 percent. “Given the magnitude of effect observed in the current report, the potential impact on a large population in terms of [coronary heart disease] is quite significant,” they say. “An added benefit is the relative ease and safety with which [vitamin C levels] can be raised.”

Vitamin C also appears to keep blood vessel walls intact. If there’s not enough C, the cells in the walls break loose and LDL cholesterol the “bad” kind gets a toehold and invites more LDL to join the clogging party. High blood pressure, stroke or heart attack can be the outcome of this party. Diabetics are especially prone, says University of Mississippi heart researcher Anthony Verlangieri, Ph.D. His large three-year study using monkeys (like humans and guinea pigs, monkeys can’t make their own vitamin C) supports his previous findings of C’s beneficial effect on blood vessel walls.

Immune squad, front and center!

This elite squad comprises a specific group of white blood cells, scientifically known as lymphocytes. They are the body’s first line of defense against infection; some carry around, and others produce, antibodies that fight infection. And guess what? They’re chock-full of vitamin C 40 to 60 times the concentration in the blood plasma itself. When disease or trauma strikes, they lose much of their vitamin C. With clues like that, it’s no wonder researchers study the vitamin’s role in immunity. Here’s what they’re finding.

  • Though not everyone agrees, it now seems clear that vitamin C lessens the severity of the common cold, and maybe the frequency, duration and complications.
  • Large doses of vitamin C have been shown to inhibit the flu virus’s ability to prevent the growth of lymphocytes into infection fighters.
  • A number of studies have shown vitamin C can increase the movement of hungry little bacteria killers called neutrophils. This effect is both upon neutrophils’ random movement as they scour the countryside, as it was, sniffing for a scent of bacteria, and upon their ability to home in like bloodhounds on a bacterial trail.
  • Vitamin C has been found to be an infection fighter due to its ability to enhance the immune system.
  • Vitamin C is also known to stimulate production in miceof what was touted a few years ago as the body’s own wonder drug, interferon. This is actually a messenger sent out by cells under viral attack, warning other cells to man the barricades before the enemy arrives.
  • Benjamin V. Siegel, Ph.D., professor of pathology at Oregon Health Sciences University, says vitamin C also activates T-cells, which are believed to be the best cancer-cell killers our bodies possess. These T-cells have multiple duties, including regulation of the immune response itself.

The eyes have it

Vitamin C, that is. It’s highly concentrated in eye fluids and lenses. Eyes, especially those that have seen many years, can cloud over with cataracts, which are caused by oxidation. Studies with laboratory animals and human lenses in test tubes show vitamin C’s powerful antioxidant properties may help prevent or delay the onset of cataracts.

Moving on to your mouth

Vitamin C has been shown to alleviate bleeding gums in the early stages of gingivitis. Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums which, if left unchecked, can lead to periodontal disease. It is due to the poor dental hygiene that your dentist never tires of warning you about.

With all that biting and chomping going on, the gums need a constantly replenished supply of collagen, that omnipresent supportive protein, which is dependent upon vitamin C for its production. While a C deficiency hasn’t been found to cause periodontal disease (which can result in tooth loss), good vitamin C nutrition can help keep early stages of the disease at bay.

Love your liver

A University of Michigan study found that guinea pigs on a diet of guinea pig chow, alcohol and low vitamin C developed liver damage resulting from an infiltration of fatty acids and/or death of liver cells both steps that can lead to cirrhosis while those on a diet high in vitamin C didn’t.

Wounds heal faster

One study showed that bedsores healed faster when patients were given high doses of vitamin C. Physician Anthony N. Silvetti, M.D., from Melrose Park, Illinois, puts a blend of C, amino acids and complex sugars right onto bedsores, and he says it works well, even in wounds that hadn’t healed for 30 years.

Also, because postoperative patients have been found to have low levels of vitamin C, some researchers feel that supplementation can help guard against complications in surgical wounds. One researcher reported that at least 200 milligrams a day is needed to maintain normal levels of the vitamin.

In studies of both humans and mice, large doses of vitamin C helped burns heal. In humans, vitamin C alleviated pain, shortened the healing period and reduced the time interval needed for grafting.

Also, at least in the human studies, levels of C have to be very low indeed for the wounds to heal improperly. The stress of injury, however, could be enough to drop those levels to the point where supplementation is needed.

If you smoke …

You probably need more vitamin C. Smokers have lower levels of the vitamin in their blood. No one knows why, but the implication is that their bodies need more C and thus are using more.

Share this Article