Vitamin C: Reason why it is great for your health
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According to Karl Kristian, skincare expert and founder of health and beauty brand New Nordic, vitamin C is a “crucial” nutrient, which helps with everything from your immune system to your bones and skin. For people who aren’t getting enough, side effects can range from feeling fatigued in the short term to noticing changes when looking in the mirror over time.
Collagen is the main structural protein found in the cells which make up the body’s various connective tissues.
He explained: “Vitamin C is crucial in helping to protect the body’s cells, keeping them healthy by making antibodies to protect against illness so is an essential nutrient that boosts the immune system.
“Another benefit of vitamin C is helping maintain healthy-looking skin by producing collagen, preventing skin from both sagging and wrinkles.”
The production of the protein collagen is also important for your bones, according to Dr James East, a gastroenterology expert at the Mayo Clinic Healthcare in London.
He said: “Vitamin C is a nutrient your body needs to form blood vessels, cartilage, muscle and collagen in bones. Vitamin C is also vital to your body’s healing process.
“Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps protect your cells against the effects of free radicals — molecules produced when your body breaks down food or is exposed to tobacco smoke and radiation from the sun, X-rays or other sources.”
Mr Kristian points out that “the body cannot produce vitamin C itself” so our diet is key for this.
Yet, despite vitamin C occurring in a number of fruits and vegetables, Dr East says it is a deficiency that is “common worldwide”.
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If you are experiencing symptoms associated with a deficiency, and you are concerned, your GP is the best port of call.
However, early symptoms of a vitamin C deficiency can vary.
Rachel Clarkson, a Doctify dietician and nutritionist, and the founder of The DNA Dietitian explained that some of the early symptoms of a deficiency can include feelings of”tiredness and low energy, weakness or pain in the muscles or joints, and bruising easily.”
According to Dr East, vitamin C body stores can be “exhausted” in eight to 12 weeks if people aren’t getting enough in their diet.
He explained: “Vitamin C deficiency is more likely in people who smoke or are exposed to smoke, have certain gastrointestinal conditions, for example, inflammatory bowel disease, or certain types of cancer, or do not regularly eat fruits and vegetables.”
Though more serious vitamin C deficiencies are rare, they can occur in some patients.
She explained: “Chronic vitamin C deficiency can lead to a condition called scurvy, which is very rare in the UK.
“Symptoms of scurvy include jaundice (yellowing of eyes and skin), general body pain, tooth loss, dental problems and anaemia.”
Ms Clarkson added: “Vitamin C deficiency is usually determined by an assessment of symptoms and current dietary intake. A blood test is rarely used as vitamin C is water-soluble.
“This means that any excess vitamin C consumed is excreted in the urine and levels fluctuate every day, therefore it’s not a reliable measure of vitamin C intake.”
Depending on the severity of your deficiency, you can pack more into your diet simply by increasing certain nutrient-rich foods.
Ms Clarkson said: “Vitamin C is abundant in many fruits and vegetables which means it is easy to get enough from food. Citrus fruit like lemon, lime and oranges are rich in vitamin C, as well as berries and kiwi fruit.
“Bell peppers are also rich in vitamin C, but it is essential to consume them raw for the full benefit of vitamin C, as vitamin C degrades with heat.”
As well as bell peppers, Dr East recommends packing in “potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and spinach”.
However, he adds: “Supplements are an effective way of boosting vitamin C levels, and may be appropriate for those with whose diet is less varied or have conditions which reduce vitamin C absorption.”
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