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Importance of Vitamin C for the Human Body Essay (Article)

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The importance of Vitamin C

Vitamin C is also known as the ascorbic acid and is a necessary nutrient for people and other animals. It is among the most essential vitamins for the human health. The nutrient is soluble in water and is not stored in the body of human beings. Vitamin C is an antioxidant which assists in body protection against pollution. It also promotes the development of healthy cells, normal tissues and repairs injuries as well as helping in the absorption of calcium (Institute of Medicine, 1997).

The major function of ascorbic acid is that it assists in synthesizing collagen. This is an essential component of blood vessel, bones and ligaments. Ascorbic acid is also essential for the development of healthy gums and assists in safeguarding against infection. Since it is excreted from our bodies regularly, it becomes very important to supply it at the same rate.

Vitamin C in the diet

Any diet without vitamin C should be considered incomplete as the nutrient serves to prevent a number of diseases and enhance the immune system. These factors are pertinent to the roles played by other nutrients in our bodies. The vitamin can be taken with or without other foods and can be available in supplement form.

In your diet, vitamin C remains the core nutrient to facilitate quick absorption of other nutrients. As noted earlier, ascorbic acid is soluble in water and thus acts as the medium through which some of the insoluble elements with nutritional value can be absorbed in our bodies. In addition, the availability of vitamin C makes it a substitute to other rare vitamins which enhance the same functions in our bodies. Therefore, it enriches the diet through various mechanical and nutritional functions that other vitamins cannot support.

Disease prevention

In prevention of the many diseases related to nutrition, Vitamin C is paramount as the nutrient has served protective role predominantly. In the old days, ascorbic acid was referred to as ‘antiscorbutic factor’ as it assisted in the prevention of scurvy (Carpenter, 1988). In those days when the disease was discovered, vitamin C obtained from lime prevented the gums and skins of sailors from swelling. Even today, ascorbic acid has been the only nutrient that prevents the disease from affecting us.

Moreover, the role of disease prevention played by ascorbic acid extends beyond the gums and skin. The optimal intake of the nutrient is associated with the prevention of cancer, heart diseases, joint ailments and cataracts (El-Sokkary & Awadalla, 2011). The nutrient attains its protective outcome by working as an antioxidant and safeguarding our cells from any damage based on oxygen. Structures of our tissues that contain fat are especially reliant on ascorbic acid for protection.

The nutritional value of vitamin C

These arguments suggest that the nutritional value of ascorbic acid is the development of a healthy body. The nutrient enhances body systems such as the immune system, blood system and the digestion process. Another nutritional value of ascorbic acid is the significant interactions it has with a number of essential minerals in our bodies (Institute of Medicine, 1997). Optimal intake of the nutrient can influence copper metabolism in our bodies.

The nutrient can substantially enhance metabolism and the absorption of iron, even at small amounts. Ascorbic acid also has significant interaction with other vitamins. While vitamin A is less toxic in the presence of ascorbic acid, vitamin E has been identified to work better with vitamin C in its antioxidant effect. Ascorbic acid is the only vitamin that interacts with both the vitamins and minerals for the benefit of our bodies. Interactions of other vitamins with minerals have been associated with toxicity of the human body.

Sources of vitamin C

The major sources of vitamin C are the citrus fruits such as orange, lemon and grape fruit (Fediuk, 2000). Other fruits containing the nutrient are mangoes, kiwi fruit, papaya, strawberries, pineapple, watermelon, blueberries and raspberries. Vegetables are also good sources of the vitamin and include green and red pepper, sweet and white potato, winter squash, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach, turnip greens and cabbage.

Some cereals are also reinforced with vitamin C. However, ascorbic acid can be destroyed easily when preparing, storing and cooking food. The preservation of the nutrient requires the following of some precautions. The fruits and vegetable would serve better if taken in their raw forms. Boiling, steaming or simmering foods in water for a long time can destroy the nutrient.

Prepared fruit juices should not be refrigerated for more than two days. Other sources such as potatoes should be cooked without peeling off the skin. Any fruit or vegetable should not be soaked in water as ascorbic acid is very soluble in water.

Daily requirement of vitamin C

The recommended daily intake of vitamin C for a normal healthy person is 90 milligrams. However, this intake is influenced by other factors such as age, gender and lifestyle. In addition, pregnancy and ailments are also significant factors that can determine the amount of ascorbic acid an individual can take. However, the best way of getting daily requirements of important nutrients including ascorbic acid is to ensure that you take a balanced diet that involves a variety of products. The dietary reference intake for the nutrient is as follows:

Toddlers
Number of months Daily intake (milligrams)
0-6 40*
7-12 50*
Children
Number of years Daily intake (milligrams)
1-3 15
4-8 25
9-13 45
Adolescents
Number of years Daily intake (milligrams)
Girls 14-18 65
Boys 14-18 75
Adults
Number of years Daily intake (milligrams)
Women 19 and older 90
Men 19 and older 90

It is also recommended that individuals who smoke and at any age should take higher amounts of vitamin C approximately by an additional 35 milligrams daily. Moreover, pregnant women or nursing mothers should take the vitamin in higher amounts. While individuals in these categories should take optimal amount of the vitamin to prevent diseases, a balanced diet should provide enough amount of the nutrient for a normal person to be free from diseases.

When we lack vitamin C

When we lack vitamin C, the synthesized collagen becomes too unstable to do its functions and hence risk getting scurvy. This disease is characterized by spongy gums, loose teeth, pale skin, poor healing and bleeding from nose membranes. Other effects include swollen and painful joints, dry and splitting hair, coarse and dry skin.

The symptoms of ascorbic acid deficiency are fatigue, weight loss, powerlessness, weakness and gloominess. Very low levels of the nutrient may result into hypertension, gall bladder ailments, cancer, atherosclerosis and stroke (Kurl et al, 2002). Therefore, high levels of the nutrient could be required when one has a fever or infection.

References

Carpenter, K. J. (1988). The History of Scurvy and Vitamin C. London, UK: Cambridge University Press.

El-Sokkary, G. H. & Awadalla, E. A. (2011). The protective role of vitamin C against cerebral and pulmonary damage induced by Cadmium Chloride in male adult albino rat. The Open Neuroendocrinology Journal, 4(1), 1-8.

Fediuk, K. (2000). Vitamin C in the Inuit diet: past and present. Web.

Institute of Medicine (U.S.) Committee on International Nutrition–Vitamin C in Food Aid Commodities. (1997). Vitamin C Fortification of Food Aid Commodities: Final Report. New York, NY: National Academies Press.

Kurl S. et al. (2002). Plasma vitamin C modifies the association between hypertension and risk of stroke. Stroke, 33(6), 1568-73.

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