What is Vitamin C?
Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is a vitamin that is water-soluble. This is a nutrient that is not produced by the body. Instead, people obtain this vitamin and satisfy their nutritional needs by eating food rich in it. Ascorbic acid is a monosaccharide redox found in both plants and animals. However, as primate evolution occurred, the human body doesn’t have the capacity to make its own ascorbic acid, and therefore must acquire it through consumption of food that is rich in it. On the other hand, other animals are capable of producing this nutrient in their bodies, making it unnecessary to add it to their diets.
Ascorbic acid is necessary to convert procollagen to collagen by the oxidation of proline debris to hydroxyproline. This vitamin reduces and eventually neutralizes hydrogen peroxide and other reactive species of oxygen. Vitamin C is abundant in every part of plants.
For humans, vitamin C is needed for the repair and growth of all body tissues. Collagen is an important protein that is needed to make many of the body’s important parts such as cartilage, skin, blood vessels, ligaments and tendons. This vitamin helps in making collagen. Also, ascorbic acid is needed to heal wounds faster and maintain the good condition of the teeth and bones.
As an antioxidant, vitamin C, together with beta-carotene and vitamin E, prevent damage that comes from free radicals. Free radicals damages the body’s DNA. Building up of free radicals lead to faster aging of the body as well as contribute to development of serious diseases such as cancer, arthritis and heart disease.
Vitamin C deficiency is a very rare case among humans despite them being dependent on consumption of food to obtain the vitamin. Also, although deficiency of the vitamin is rare, there are evidences showing that a lot of people have low levels of the same vitamin. Cigarette smoking, for example, lowers the level of vitamin C in the body.
This suggests that smokers have lower levels of the vitamin.
Signs of deficiency of ascorbic acid in the body are as follows:
- Dry hair with split ends
- Gingivitis with bleeding gums
- Dry skin, sometimes scaly and rough
- Longer period of wound healing
- Easier bruising
- Frequent nosebleeds
- Lower rate of fighting infection
Vitamin C deficiency
A serious case of ascorbic acid deficiency is called scurvy. But besides the above symptoms, deficiency of ascorbic acid may also be associated with some illnesses and conditions such as:
- Gallbladder illnesses
- Certain cancers
The building up of blood clots that may eventually lead to stroke and heart ailments. To decrease the symptoms and illnesses associated with vitamin C deficiency, eating vegetables and fruits rich in the vitamin are recommended. However, there is no guarantee that having enough ascorbic acid in the body totally prevents the diseases caused by low levels of the vitamin.
There are many forms of the vitamin available to be consumed by people. They can eat fruits, especially citrus fruits, vegetables, or take ascorbic acid supplements sold at a local drugstore.