Vitamin C – Why do I need vitamin C

Vitamin C is one of many antioxidants. Vitamin E and beta-carotene are two other well-known antioxidants. Antioxidants are nutrients that block some of the damage caused by free radicals, which are by-products that result when our bodies transform food into energy.
Vitamin C is required for the growth and repair of tissues in all parts of your body. It is necessary to form collagen, an important protein used to make skin, scar tissue, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels. Vitamin C is essential for the healing of wounds, and for the repair and maintenance of cartilage, bones, and teeth.

The build up of these by-products over time is largely responsible for the aging process and can contribute to the development of various health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and a host of inflammatory conditions like arthritis. Antioxidants also help reduce the damage to the body caused by toxic chemicals and pollutants such as cigarette smoke.

What happens if you don’t get enough?

Severe vitamin C deficiency is rare in the United States and industrialized countries. Long-term, severe deficiencies could lead to scurvy. Symptoms of scurvy include inflamed and bleeding gums, impaired wound healing and excessive bleeding. At one time scurvy was common in sailors on long trips. When its cause was discovered, limes and other citrus foods were packed aboard on long journeys and effectively put an end to the problem. Bringing limes aboard is purported to be the reason sailors came to be called “limeys.”

Individuals who smoke require an additional 35 mg of vitamin C daily compared to nonsmokers. Scientists have not been able to identify the specific reason that smokers need more, just that blood levels in smokers are lower than in nonsmokers eating similar amounts of the vitamin and that smokers’ bodies tend to use up and metabolize more vitamin C. Nonsmokers regularly exposed to tobacco smoke are encouraged to ensure they meet the RDA for vitamin C.
Vitamin C Food Sources
Vitamin C is found in foods such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, strawberries, bell peppers, and broccoli. Eating well-balanced meals and foods rich in vitamin C is the best way to get your required intake. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables may also be beneficial in helping to prevent some types of cancer.

How much do I need?

Recommended daily dose for vitamin C
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin C varies greatly by gender and age.

0-6 months: 40 mg per day
7-12 months: 50 mg per day
1-3 years: 15 mg per day
4-8 years: 25 mg per day

Males (ages 9-13): 45 mg per day
Males (ages 14-18): 75 mg per day
Males (ages 19 and older): 90 mg per day

Females (ages 9-13): 45 mg per day
Females (ages 14-18): 65 mg per day
Females (ages 19 and older): 75 mg
Pregnant females (ages 19 and older): 85 mg
Lactating females (ages 19 and older): 120 mg
What happens if I take too much?
Taking large amounts of vitamin C can cause stomach pain, diarrhoea and flatulence. But these symptoms should disappear once you stop taking the supplements.
Side Effects
Vitamin C toxicity is very rare, because the body cannot store the vitamin. However, amounts greater than 2,000 mg/day are not recommended because such high doses can lead to stomach upset and diarrhea.
Too little vitamin C can lead to signs and symptoms of deficiency, including:
•    Dry and splitting hair
•    Gingivitis (inflammation of the gums)
•    Bleeding gums
•    Rough, dry, scaly skin
•    Decreased wound-healing rate
•    Easy bruising
•    Nosebleeds
•    Weakened tooth enamel
•    Swollen and painful joints
•    Anemia
•    Decreased ability to fight infection
•    Possible weight gain because of slowed metabolism
A severe form of vitamin C deficiency is known as scurvy, which mainly affects older, malnourished adults.