Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is water soluble, white crystalline material stable in dry form. Much ascorbic acid is lost in cooking, but the loss can be reduced by cooking quickly in small amounts of water, or steaming foods with the pot covered tightly. Preservation is also accomplished via quick freezing.
Vitamin C has many functions: it can function as a coenzyme or as a cofactor in the body. It appears to be necessary for normal functioning of cellular units and subcellular structures. In metabolism, vitamin C functions to accept and donate hydrogen. Vitamin C also plays an important role in the synthesis of neurotransmitters, compounds which allow nerve impulse transmission between nerve axons.
Production of collagen, a protein substance in fibrous tissue, depends on ascorbic acid. Vitamin C maintains capillary integrity through the production of an intercellular cement substance. This function promotes the healing of wounds, fractures, bruises, some hemorrhages, and bleeding gums. Additionally, it reduces susceptibility to infections.
Vitamin C helps to facilitate the absorption of iron and calcium, and it is essential for the utilization of folacin.
Method of Action
Humans absorb vitamin C in the upper part of the intestine. This is accomplished by simple diffusion, a sodium-dependent active transport mechanism. When megadoses are taken (1.5 to 3.0 grams) the absorption is only 36-49% at intakes of 12 grams, only 16% is absorbed. Unabsorbed vitamin C continues into the lower bowel and causes watery stools or diarrhea.
Intakes of vitamin C above 100 milligrams do not result in an increase of ascorbic acid levels. Immediately after ingesting vitamin C, the serum level is temporarily elevated. The level subsides when the excess is picked up by the tissues that store it, or is excreted. The highest concentration of stored vitamin C is in the adrenal gland; however, the liver stores the largest amount of the vitamin in the body.
Vitamin C is excreted in the urine after enough is resorbed in the kidneys to maintain a plasma level of 1.2 to 1.4 milligrams per 100 milliliter. Vitamin C plays a vital role in the formation of collagen by catalyzing chemical changes allowing lysine and proline to bind together as collagen subunits, adding structural stability to the "complete" collagen fibers.
Vitamin C is important and necessary for the synthesis of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and serotonin. It catalyzes the conversion of dopamine to norepinephrine and the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin.
Properties & Uses
Vitamin C has recently been the subject of controversy. Popular literature suggests large doses (one gram or more) may prevent or cure the common cold or influenza. Scientists are presently conducting studies to establish the validity of this claim. However, little scientific evidence supports the suggestion of taking large doses.
One study demonstrated vitamin C reduced severity of cold symptoms. A subsequent study indicated the result of decreasing symptoms was the result of an increased dosage at the onset of illness and was not due to an increased daily dosage during non-illness. Contradictory findings in a study of children indicated a decreased severity of symptoms with the administration of one to two grams per day. It is important to note these contradictory results may be due to differences in the vitamin C status at the beginning of the studies.
Vitamin C supplementation is beneficial for patients suffering from scurvy and its symptoms. Recommended dosages for these patients are 100 milligrams three times per day, with the alleviation of symptoms usually apparent in five days.
Consequence of Deficiency
Vitamin C deficiency is not common. Populations subject to vitamin C deficiency are alcoholics, people who consume a diet devoid of fruits and vegetables, elderly individuals on limited diets, severely ill individuals under chronic stress, and infants fed exclusively cow's milk.
Deficiency symptoms may appear the first month following deprivation, when the serum level has been reduced to 0.2 mg/dL. Scurvy is caused by severe vitamin C deficiency, with symptoms including: anemia, weakness, poor appetite and growth, tenderness to touch, swollen and inflamed gums, loosened teeth, swollen wrist and ankle joints, and shortness of breath.
Furthermore it may be observed wounds fail to heal or previous wounds break down, and infections develop easily in bleeding areas of the gum and skin. These effects are attributed to problems with collagen formation. It is also hypothesized vitamin C is involved in the blood clotting mechanism.
Psychiatric symptoms of vitamin C deficiency include depression, hysteria and hypochondriacal symptoms.
Smoking acts as an antagonist to vitamin C. Less vitamin C is available in smokers for utilization and storage, and smokers need twice the amount of vitamin C as the nonsmoker to show a comparable blood level.
Massive doses of vitamin C have been implicated in "rebound scurvy," when the condition occurs after the cessation of administration of these massive doses. It has been hypothesized this is due to a high rate of vitamin C catabolism as an adaptation to hypersaturation. After reducing the vitamin C intake, the catabolism does not return to normal levels and this produces a vitamin C deficiency state.
Excess vitamin C excreted in the urine produces a false positive test for glucose. Excess vitamin C has also been implicated in the formation of urate and oxalate stones. However, current evidence suggests large doses (nine grams per day) produce only a small increase in urinary oxalate.
Tobacco speeds the elimination of vitamin C.
Recommended Dietary Allowance
age RDA (mg) RNI (mg) infants/children 0-6 months 30 25 6-12 months 35 25 1-3 years 40 30 4-10 years 45 30 males 11-14 years 50 35 15+ years 60 40 females 11-14 years 50 35 15+ years 60 40 pregnancy 70 50 lactation(1st 6 months) 95 70 (2nd 6 months) 90 70
For over thirty years, Recommended Daily Amounts has existed in the United Kingdom. It has been used to measure the adequacy of an individual's diet. However, in 1991 the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food Policy (COMA) gave forth a whole new set of figures upon the request of the Department of Health's Chief Medical Officer. Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI) is one of these sets collectively known as "Dietary Reference Values." RNI is an amount of a nutrient that is enough for almost every individuals, even someone who has high needs for the nutrient. This level of intake is, therefore, considerably higher than what most people would need. If individuals are consuming the RNI of a nutrient they are most unlikely to be deficient in that nutrient.
Asparagus Beet greens Broccoli Cabbage (raw) Cantaloupe Cauliflower Cherries Chicory greens Collard greens Citrus fruit Dandelion greens Guava Hot chili pepper Melon Mustard greens Onion Orange Papaya Pineapple Potato Spinach Strawberry Tomato Turnip greens
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