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Vitamin C, Refresher
Take a closer look at an old friend.
In the natural health world we constantly champion the latest thing to hit the shelves. But, let’s not forget the best of the basics like vitamins A, B and C.
Vitamin C is often thought of as simply an immune-supportive vitamin, and that’s one area where it does an admirable job. But boosting immunity is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s worth considering vitamin C for a range of conditions, as well as for overall good health.
The Common Cold
The impact of vitamin C for warding off the common cold has been hotly debated. Large, well-designed studies continue to show, while vitamin C supplements may not prevent an infection, they do help reduce the duration of cold symptoms by an average of 8 percent in adults and 14 percent in children.
Those with more serious respiratory challenges also may benefit from vitamin C. Children with asthma who were given 250 mg of vitamin C were less reactive to environmental asthma triggers. Adult asthmatics benefitted too; they needed 1,000 mg daily and were able to reduce the frequency of their use of rescue inhalers.
Powerful Heart Protection
One of vitamin C’s lesser-known superpowers is its ability to protect heart health. Vitamin C may reduce the risk of developing coronary artery issues by strengthening blood vessel walls, improving the ability of the heart’s arteries to open up, and providing a surface in the blood vessels that’s less prone to injury. Vitamin C is needed for the production of collagen and elastin, the connective tissues that give skin its elasticity and keep the surfaces of blood vessels slick and resistant to damage.
Vitamin C is a Powerful Antioxidant
Oxidative stress is one of the drivers of heart disease—oxidation of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, for example, makes cholesterol more likely to injure the lining of the blood vessels. This may lead to the formation of plaques that make the blood vessels stiff and ultimately create blockages leading to a heart attack. With vitamin C onboard, your blood vessels become inhospitable to plaque. Large studies show that people with the best vitamin C intake have less risk of cardiovascular disease, and those with the lowest vitamin C levels have the highest incidence of mortality from stroke.
In a trial of healthy men, those who were given 2,000 mg of vitamin C showed a significant reduction in arterial stiffness and platelet aggregation. Relaxed blood vessels and less clotting are very good findings for heart health. In women, the health of the large, elastic arteries in the abdomen and chest declines with age, and menopause plays an important role in the increased prevalence of cardiovascular disease in postmenopausal women. Supplemental vitamin C at a dose of 1,000 to 3,000 mg daily improves the elastic nature of these blood vessels as well as that of the carotid arteries in older women.
Vitamin C also offers benefits for blood pressure. In a study of people aged 45 to 70, one month of supplemental vitamin C at the relatively small dose of 500 mg daily lowered arterial blood pressure and improved arterial stiffness in patients with type 2 diabetes. Since strict blood pressure control reduces cardiovascular risk in people who are diabetic, vitamin C supplementation offers inexpensive and effective protection.
Vitamin C’s benefits for blood vessels extend to the eyes, including the delicate capillaries in the retina. Studies suggest that long-term consumption of vitamin C may reduce the likelihood of developing cataracts, the clouding of the eye’s lens that happens naturally with age. Researchers examined data from more than 1,000 pairs of female twins and found that women who consumed more vitamin C had a 33 percent reduced risk of cataract progression over a decade, and their lenses were clearer overall.
Vitamin C also helps prevent vision loss from macular degeneration, which is caused by the deterioration of the central portion of the retina. In one study, women taking vitamin C for 10 years or more experienced a 64 percent reduced risk of developing nuclear cataracts. The landmark Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) showed that people at high risk of macular degeneration who took 500 mg of vitamin C per day along with beta-carotene, vitamin E, and zinc slowed the progression of age-related macular degeneration by about 25 percent and the loss of visual acuity by 19 percent.
Choosing a Supplement
Unlike most mammals, humans cannot make vitamin C on our own, so we must get it from our diet. In addition to a vitamin C-rich diet, supplements offer an easy and convenient way to get plenty of vitamin C every day. Vitamin C is available in many forms, ranging from tablets and capsules to powders and even delicious chewable gummies. Choose a variety without artificial sweeteners or colors.