Vitamin C, How much do we need?
Unlike our animal friends who can manufacture this vitamin in their bodies, we humans rely totally on our diet as the only source of this vitamin to give us what we need for good health. Good health of course is not just the absence of disease but a feeling of wellbeing and vitality.
Our bodies to help in the manufacture of collagen and the hormones cortisone and adrenalin use Vitamin C. It is also important for maintaining the integrity of our blood vessels and as an immune enhancer and antiviral agent to name but a few. Around 250 years ago it was found that by eating citrus fruit sailors could prevent scurvy, a disease caused by a deficiency of vitamin C. It was not until 1930 that vitamin C was isolated and from that date the attributes of this vitamin have been the subject of many trials and studies.
Many claims have been made over the years about vitamin C's ability to prevent colds and cure cancer. In the 1970's Professor Linus Pauling was one of the first researchers to bring this vitamin to world attention. Linus Pauling published many books and clinical papers about the attributes of this vitamin in clinical medicine.
He stated that by taking vitamin C one could live twenty five years longer, reduce the incidence and severity of the common cold and help prevent cancer. This of course is a claim that is difficult to prove, however, the author of this statement is now well into his 90's and must be taken as living proof of how this longevity can be achieved.
There is no doubt that we all need vitamin C as part of our daily diet, but the burning question is just how much of this important nutrient is needed for optimum health. To help us determine the amount required, we need to examine the vitamin C content of the primitive diet. Pauling estimated that modern man needs a diet with an average of 2,300mg of vitamin C daily to equal the amount of this vitamin found in the average diet of primitive man.
Double blind clinical trials on vitamin C have shown that supplementing the diet with 2,000mg of vitamin C daily can dramatically reduce the symptoms of the common cold. It is probable that vitamin C assists the immune system and acts against disease, especially bacteria and viruses, in an action that is not dependent on the T-cells.
Vitamin C is also a potent anti-cancer agent, for without adequate amounts of vitamin C in the diet, nitrosamines, a carcinogenic (cancer causing) agent would not be neutralised or destroyed.
Further evidence of vitamin C's action against cancer is that leucocyte blood levels are raised when 2,000mg or more of vitamin C or more is taken daily.
Leucocytes (white blood cells) are one of the body's vital components in the immune system and play an important role in the body's ability to fight disease. Particular leucocytes known as lymphocytes are important for immune response to cancer, but these important cancer-killing cells only function effectively if the levels of vitamin C in the body are high.
Studies have also shown that vitamin C can help detoxify the liver by reducing fat accumulation following alcohol consumption, it also helps clear alcohol from the system. This action could be beneficial in the prevention of liver damage in people who consume alcohol. The mechanism of this detoxification seems to rely on vitamin C's ability to promote oxidation of alcohol within the body.
Further benefits of vitamin C were noted following an epidemiological study of 11,348 adults conducted by the University of California which found that men who consumed the most vitamin C had a 42 percent lower death rate from all causes compared to men in the lower vitamin c intake group. This study also found that the more vitamin C taken the better those taking the higher amounts could expect to live 6-7 years longer.
Hardening of the arteries, a major cause of heart attacks and death from heart disease nearly stopped in those patients who supplemented with the antioxidants beta-carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E. Dr. Ishwarlal Jialal, an associate professor at the University of Texas South-Western Medical Centre said, "The results might mean the more vitamins the better.
With all this positive information about vitamin C there is no doubt that we all need to include foods in our diet that are rich in this super nutrient. Eating fresh fruit and vegetables every day will help us maintain good health, however because of the poor nutrient quality of off the tree ripened fruit and the destruction of vitamin C by storing or cooking vegetables and by pollution and cigarette smoke, supplementing the diet with up to 2,000mg of vitamin C daily I feel makes good sense.