Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin which is absolutely essential for the normal development and functioning of several parts of the human body. It is required in the formation of bones, muscles, blood vessels, and gums. The natural sources of Vitamin C includes citrus fruits and vegetables. In this article we will learn the functions and sources, deficiency diseases and treatment of Vitamin C deficiency.
Vitamin C or Ascorbic acid is essential for the formation of collagen and the basic inter-cellular matrix in teeth, bones and small blood vessels (capillaries). It helps in the maintenance of vascular integrity through prostacyclins.
It has major roles in various biochemical reactions taking place in the body. For example, it is required in the metabolism of certain amino acids like tyrosine. It is essential for the transport and storage of iron in the bone marrow, spleen and liver.
Vitamin C is a strong reducing agent and thus it provides protection to eyes and lungs against the oxidising agents.
Vitamin C prevents heart attacks by reducing oxidation of LDL (low density lipoprotein) and preventing the deposition of atheromatous plaques.
Researches are being conducted to prove the beneficial role of Vitamin C in several diseases like asthma, cancer and diabetes.
The role of Vitamin C in preventing common cold and protection against infections though reported are yet to be substantiated.
Vitamin C is present in fresh fruits and vegetables. Citrus fruits like orange, lemon and vegetables like tomatoes, cabbage, leafy greens and germinating pulses are some of the main sources.
Unfortunately, it is very easily destroyed by heat, alkalinity, and light. It is the most sensitive of all vitamins to heat. This is one of the reasons why many traditional cooking methods reduces or eliminate it.
Breast milk contains adequate amounts of Vitamin C. Infants fed exclusively on boiled milk are prone to develop Vitamin C deficiency.
Recommended Daily Allowance
The recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C is currently 40 to 60 mg per day.
Increased Vitamin C is required in conditions like trauma, surgery, burns, severe bleeding etc.
Severe Vitamin C deficiency causes “Scurvy”.
Clinical features of scurvy includes :
- poor wound healing
- swollen gums which bleeds easily
- minute pin point haemorrhagic spots over the skin
- bleeding into joints
- gastrointestinal bleeding
Identifying and correcting the patient’s diet to include more sources of Vitamin C is the first step of treatment.
A dose of 250 mg of Vitamin C by mouth every 8 hours is sufficient to replenish the tissues quickly.
Vitamins supplements if necessary should be taken only after consulting your doctor.
Vitamin C toxicity
Daily intake of more than 1 gram of Vitamin C per day has been reported to cause diarrhoea, and the formation of oxalate stones in the kidneys.
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