Vitamin C supplements: their uses and limitations

When cold and flu season rolls around, many people turn to a well-known defense: vitamin C in pills, powders, and all the other popular forms. This nutrient is part of a variety of supplements, from vitamin A to zinc. People who wish to boost their immune system and overall health take this medication regularly. But vitamin C is also probably one of the most commonly used vitamins.

Vitamin C does help strengthen the immune system and is an important part of a healthy diet, but its benefits are sometimes overstated. This has led many people to take large amounts of this nutrient, which, while not usually dangerous, can be a waste of time and money.

Vitamin C’s super reputation was really established in the 1970s by chemist Linus Pauling. The esteemed two-time Nobel laureate promoted the misconception that megadoses of vitamin C (3,000 milligrams a day) were the secret to eradicating the common cold and fighting more serious illnesses like heart disease and cancer, allowing people to live longer. Longer and healthier.

But Pauling’s claims about vitamin C have never withstood rigorous investigation. “There is no consistent scientific evidence to support the idea that high doses of vitamin C are effective in preventing and treating the common cold,” explained Stefan Pasiakos, director of the Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health.

However, scientific research has advanced since Pauling’s time, giving us a greater understanding of the true health benefits of vitamin C.

Most studies show that drinking orange juice or taking supplements does little to prevent the common cold. In fact, in general, taking doses several times above the recommended daily intake (in Spain, 60 mg per day for adults, with women increasing during pregnancy and breastfeeding) is unlikely to make most people healthier . This is because when the dose exceeds 1,000 mg, the body cannot absorb vitamin C effectively and excretes excess vitamin C through urine.

“Except for people who are vitamin C deficient or who engage in strenuous physical activity, high doses of vitamin C have no benefit in preventing the common cold or reducing its symptoms,” says Christopher Duggan, a professor of nutrition at Harvard University and Boston Children’s. Hospital School of Public Health and Director of the Nutrition Center. Citing a large body of evidence accumulated through many clinical trials.

However, timely vitamin C supplementation can help shorten the pain slightly. Research shows that people who take 1 to 2 grams of vitamin C per day may have a shorter cold, feel better about 8% earlier in adults, and 14% in children.

While vitamin C is certainly not a panacea, it is definitely an essential nutrient with important health benefits. “It has many functions in the body,” Dugan said.

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is known for its important support of the immune system. “Vitamin C supports the production of proteins (called interferons) that protect cells from viral attack,” Pasiakos explains. “Vitamin C can also improve the function of white blood cells, especially phagocytes, which help engulf pathogens and stimulate the activity of other immune cells to fight infection.”

The body also uses vitamin C to form collagen, an important protein that helps strengthen bones, muscles, and blood vessels and prevents heart disease and stroke. Collagen is also important for skin as it is a building block of connective tissue that heals wounds and scar tissue and prevents sagging, wrinkles, dark spots and acne. This is why vitamin C is often used in skin care products. There is some evidence that vitamin C can even help protect against the harmful effects of the sun when used with sunscreen.

Vitamin C plays an interesting role as an antioxidant, a compound that neutralizes free radicals in the body. Free radicals are unstable molecules with an odd number of electrons that tend to steal electrons from molecules in the blood, skin and other cells, damaging them and potentially contributing to the development of diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Because vitamin C and other antioxidants also have an odd number of electrons, they can absorb the unpaired electrons of free radicals to prevent them from causing cell damage.

Humans must obtain vitamin C because the body does not produce or store this nutrient. Severe vitamin C deficiency can lead to scurvy, a notorious sailor’s nightmare. “Severe vitamin C deficiency can cause fatigue, poor growth, easy bleeding, excessive bruising, and dental problems,” says Cory Fisher, MD, a family medicine physician at Cleveland Clinic (United Hospitals). status); “This is yet another reason why a balanced, whole-food diet is so important.”

Fortunately, most people get plenty of vitamin C from the foods they eat. “Fruits and vegetables are the best natural way to get vitamin C,” says Jesse Bracamonte, a family medicine specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona. “Foods such as citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits, lemons), peppers, tomatoes, and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower) are all excellent sources.” This nutrient is even found in fortified foods like breakfast cereals middle.

In the United States, a normal diet should be sufficient to meet the recommended daily intake. “Ideally, one orange or a bowl of strawberries will provide enough vitamin C for a day,” says Bracamonte. Smokers need an additional 35 milligrams per day because this habit depletes the body’s ability to absorb vitamin C.

Vitamin C can also be obtained from a variety of nutritional supplements, which is especially useful for people who don’t eat many fruits and vegetables, or who are at risk for vitamin C deficiency due to excessive drinking or smoking, or due to a medical condition. Health conditions, such as people on dialysis. While supplements provide the body with vitamin C, they may not contain all of the other nutrients found in healthy foods.

The upper limit of vitamin C for adults is 2,000 mg per day. Most people can tolerate too much, but people with kidney problems should be careful, while others may experience unpleasant stomach problems and diarrhea, even in rare cases, with certain medications (such as prescription statins) effectiveness will be reduced. .

While vitamin C also strengthens gums, it may have adverse effects on oral hygiene: chewable vitamin C supplements are acidic and can cause tooth decay if left in the mouth for too long.

Duggan explains that while it’s important to get enough vitamin C, it doesn’t make much sense to get too much. “Unless you are at risk for vitamin C deficiency, most people can meet their dietary needs through food,” he said. “Overall, eating a balanced diet can optimize health and nutrition compared to relying on supplements.”

Source link

Leave a Comment