Ok, so we all have heard it over and over. Vitamin C is important. It comes from fruit products. But why is it so important? What benefit does it have and what happens if we don't get it?
Like many oCredit: thedailygreen.comther vitamins, Vitamin C is a coenzyme or cofactor in our metabolism. This means that without this nutrient, certain enzymes and chemicals are unable to do their job, or convert into the usable forms they are meant to be in. Some of the chemicals synthesized as a result of this nutrient are Collagen and Carnitine. Collagen is used in the maintenance of scar tissue and blood vessels, while carnitine helps fatty acids into cells to fuel them.
Another benefit is that Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant. If you're like me, you may know that that's good, but why? How does it work? When our body is doing its thing, keeping us alive, some of the waste we leave in our body are known as free radicals. They are unbalanced molecules that, when in contact with our cells, can cause damage to the DNA in the core and can cause cancer. This is known as oxidation. These free radicals are unbalanced due to lacking an electron in the atom. Antioxidants work by 'donating' an electron to the free radical without becoming a free radical themselves, and thus eliminate the problem.
Some other benefits include being linked to the immune system, seeing as how Vitamin C is found in high quantities in our immune cells, and when we are sick, these are drained quickly, though we aren't yet sure why. Another benefit is antihistamine properties, which is good news if you're allergic to everything that grows or walks like me.
This vitamin can be taken in huge doses with few adverse effects, which are usually short lived. This is because of its water soluble properties, which means that any excess is excreted rapidly and not absorbed. There are some therapies involved these 'megadoses' and are a subject of their own.
Deficiency results in a disease called scurvy. When I think of scurvy, I think oCredit: vitamincbenefits.orgf pirates or sailors. The relationship is that while at sea on month long voyages, they often did not bring plant foods, thus resulting in little if any intake of the nutrient.
Scurvy's symptoms start at lack of energy or lethargy, followed by spots on the skin (mainly legs and thighs), bleeding from the gums and mucous membranes, and eventually, open wounds, loss of teeth, and death. It wasn't until the 1900's that solid proof of the existance of Vitamin C was established and linked to scurvy, though treatments have existed since prehistory (some effective, some not so much). Lime Juice and Saurkraut anyone?
There are other less severe symptoms of deficiency, like Anemia and dry skin. Luckily, since fortified foods and fruits with tons of Vitamin C are hard to avoid, symptoms like these are rare.