The essential role of Vitamin C

Q: My husband takes 1000mg of Vitamin C when he feels a cold coming on. Does it really help?

Yes. Vitamin C does not prevent the common cold but can decrease the symptoms and shorten its duration.
Ascorbic acid or Vitamin C was identified as a vitamin in 1928. Although this discovery earned the Hungarian scientist Albert Szent-Gyoryi a Nobel Prize in 1937, its role as a critical nutrient was recognized much earlier.
Before 1800, it was common for sailors to develop mouth problems like spongy gums, loose teeth, and mouth sores. Any time a sea voyage extended beyond 6-8 weeks, the crew was a risk of developing a set of debilitating symptoms called scurvy. It took months to cross the oceans, and the longer the voyage, the more the seamen were affected, suffering severe bruising, joint pain, fatigue and depression.
In 1744, a ship commanded by Commodore George Anson of the British Royal Navy took four years to sail around the globe. He started out with 1955 men but returned with only 145. During that voyage, nearly all of his men died from scurvy.
Then, in 1747, Dr. James Lind, a British Royal Navy surgeon, designed and conducted one of medicine’s first recorded clinical trials: an experiment on board his ship to assess whether any of several proposed remedies for scurvy actually worked.
The daily treatments selected by Dr. Lind were a quart of cider, two teaspoonfuls of vinegar, a half-pint of seawater, a paste containing a mixture of garlic, mustard seed, horseradish, balsam of Peru, and gum myrrh, a small amount of a sulfuric acid and alcohol remedy called the elixir of vitriol, and citrus fruit.
Within one week, the sailors assigned to eat two oranges and one lemon daily improved enough to help care for the others who did not improve. When he returned to England, Dr. Lind published his results.
However, providing a daily citrus dose over months at sea proved challenging. Cooking lime or lemon juice destroyed its effectiveness.
Then, in 1867, Lachlan Rose, a Scotsman, patented a method to preserve lime juice with sugar instead of alcohol. Rose’s Lime Juice became the standard citrus ration in British merchant and military ships.
Vitamin C has several vital functions: it is a powerful antioxidant, is essential to wound healing, and supports the synthesis of crucial brain chemicals like dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. It also helps us utilize iron and absorb iron from our food.
Vitamin C also is essential for our body to manufacture collagen. Collagen helps form a matrix that holds cells together. Collagen is what keeps your teeth in place, your bones cells together, and maintains the walls of your capillaries, the smallest blood vessels that deliver vital oxygen to every cell in your body.
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for Vitamin C is 90mg for males and 75mg for females. Pregnant women should try to get 120mg daily of vitamin C during pregnancy. Cigarette smokers also need a higher daily amount, about 35mg more than their daily requirement.  
In addition to citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and limes, other excellent sources of Vitamin C are kiwi fruit, bell peppers, and strawberries. Green, leafy veggies like broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and spinach are also rich in Vitamin C.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and supports your body in many ways. It helps decrease the levels of LDL, the bad cholesterol and lowers blood pressure in patients with hypertension. Vitamin C helps us absorb and utilize iron and is involved in making several essential brain neurochemicals, like dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.
5 tips for taking Vitamin C:
1. Foods are better than pills.
Our bodies are designed to extract and absorb Vitamin C more efficiently from foods like leafy greens and fruits rather than pills.
2. Keep it fresh.
Vitamin C is easily lost during storage and destroyed during cooking. The fresher your produce, the more vitamin C it will contain.
3. Take action.
You can reduce the severity and length of cold symptoms with 1000-2000mg of Vitamin C at the first sign of a cold and continue it daily until resolved.
4. Beware of kidney stones.
Doses of vitamin C greater than 1000mg daily can increase your risk of a particular type of kidney stone. If you have a history of kidney stones, be careful.
5. Know your limit.
Pregnant women and breastfeeding moms should stay at or below 2 grams daily of Vitamin C. More than this could cause scurvy in their newborn baby.

Dr. Louise Achey, Doctor of Pharmacy, is a 43-year veteran of pharmacology and the author of Why Dogs Can’t Eat Chocolate: How Medicines Work and How YOU Can Take Them Safely. Get clear answers to your medication questions at her website and blog,  ©2022 Louise Achey

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