Did you know that vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid) is an essential nutrient? An essential nutrient is an important nourishing compound which cannot be produced by the body hence must be obtained from our diet. It can be found in many different vegetables and fruits, notably red peppers, oranges, kiwi fruits, guava, green vegetables, and tomatoes, among others. However, it can be easily destroyed during cooking or by atmospheric oxidation.
Vitamin C is involved in many biological processes which support body growth and development. It is important for the proper function of immune system and is therefore beneficial when fighting against illnesses such as the common cold. It is necessary for collagen formation and in maintaining bones, teeth, cartilages, blood vessels and skin in a healthy condition. There is scientific evidence which indicates that it may also protect the body from diseases such as cancer and heart diseases, probably due to its powerful antioxidant effects.
The normal suggested dose for vitamin C dietary supplements is 50 – 200 mg per day, up to 2000 mg per day for an adult. Generally, vitamin C is regarded as safe even at these high doses. As it is water soluble, excess vitamin C will be eliminated through urine if high doses have been consumed. Nevertheless, very high doses of vitamin C supplements may cause diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, or heartburn. If you notice any of these effects and they persist or worsen, kindly consult your doctor or pharmacist immediately.
Deficiency of vitamin C can lead to scurvy, a disease associated with symptoms of tiredness, muscle weakness, joint pain and teeth loss. Certain individuals might be at an increased risk of vitamin C deficiency:
- Smokers or passive smokers
- Individuals who consume a limited variety of food
- Individuals suffer from malabsorption or certain medical conditions such as cancer or kidney failure
- Infants fed with evaporated or boiled milk
Vitamin C is available in the pharmacy as various dosage forms such as chewable tablets, effervescent tablets (tablets that fizz when dissolved in water), regular tablets and capsules. You may also find vitamin C as a buffered formulation, which appears as calcium or magnesium ascorbate. This buffered formulation helps to reduce the acidity of vitamin C in order to prevent stomach discomfort. Vitamin C may also contain bioflavonoids, which are antioxidants that enhance the action of vitamin C in the body. Vitamin C may also be formulated in a combination with other vitamins or minerals, such as multivitamins.
1. Carr, AC. & Frei, B. 1999. Toward a new recommended dietary allowance for vitamin C based on antioxidant and health effects in humans. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 69(6): 1086 -107.
2. National Institute of Health. 2017. Vitamin C: Fact sheet for health professional. Available at: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-HealthProfessional/ [Accessed on 23 November 2017]