Vitamin C Functions, Sources, Deficiency Symptoms, Dose

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid is a water soluble vitamin that is unstable in heat. Since it is water soluble it is not absorbed in the body and any excess of vitamin C is flushed out through the urine. Vitamin C in foods is lost when subjected to high temperature cooking and also when dissolved in water for long periods.

Functions of Vitamin C

Vitamin C is required for normal growth and health. It helps in the formation of collagen which in turn provides strength to the connective tissues of the body and thereby accelerating the process of wound healing. It also helps in reducing skin pigmentation by increasing the number and capacity of fibroblasts which helps in repairing damaged skin.

Vitamin C is known for facilitating iron absorption. It is therefore advisable that vitamin C rich foods should be consumed during, or just before and after, eating a meal in order to aid with iron absorption. Conversely, drinking tea immediately after a meal hampers the absorption of iron. Vitamin C also helps in the synthesis of carnitine, which is involved in transportation of fat for conversion into energy in the cells.

Food Sources of Vitamin C

Vitamin C is present in a wide variety of foods. However, it is available in higher levels in the following foods :

All citrus fruits
Cantaloupes
Watermelon
Pineapple
Papaya
Cabbage
Mango
Broccoli
Cauliflower
Sprouts
Kiwi fruits
Spinach
Tomatoes
Winter squash
Sweet potatoes
Turnip greens
Green and red peppers

Symptoms of Vitamin C Deficiency

Very rarely do people do not suffer from a vitamin C deficiency. However, smokers and people with irritable bowel syndrome or any other malabsorption syndrome may not absorb vitamin C as efficiently. The main signs and symptoms of vitamin C include :

bleeding gums
skin lesions
skin pigmentation
dry and scaly skin.

Other symptoms include :

delayed wound healing
bleeding nose
frequent susceptibility to infections
easy bruising

The most serious consequence of vitamin C deficiency is a condition known as scurvy. Individuals suffering from scurvy experience bleeding gums, poor appetite, swelling of hands and legs, paralytic feeling and irritability. It also leads to anemia, weakness, skin hemorrhages and gum disease.

Low levels of ascorbic acid may also contribute to high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, gallbladder disease, heart attack and stroke. Regular intake of vitamin C through a diet rich in fruits and vegetables will counteract these risks but it is important to remember that there are many process and risks involved in these diseases.

Dosage of Vitamin C Supplements

Dietitians all across the globe advise an intake of at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Taking vitamin C supplements will also help, but nutrients through natural sources is always recommended. The dosage schedule according to the National Academy of Sciences is mentioned below:
Infants

0 – 6 months: 40mg/day
6 – 12 months: 50 mg/day

Children

1 – 3 years: 15mg/day
4 – 8 years: 25mg/day
9 – 13 years: 45mg/day
Boys aged 14 – 18 years: 75mg/day
Girls aged 14 – 18 years: 65mg/day

Adults

For males and females 18 years and above the RDA for vitamin C are 90mg and 75mg/day respectively. For pregnant women in the age group of 14 – 18 years the requirements are 80mg/day and those aged 18 years and above are 85mg/day. For breastfeeding mothers aged 14 – 18 years and those aged 18 years and above the requirements are 115mg and 120mg/day respectively.