By: Elmer M. Palomata, MD - AVP for Provider Relations and Claims Administration
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a water-soluble vitamin that is necessary for normal growth and repair of tissues in all parts of your body. It is an antioxidant that blocks some of the damage caused by free radicals from food breakdown, tobacco smoke, radiation, illnesses, are among others. But contrary to it being a popular cold remedy, vitamin C supplements or vitamin C-rich foods do not reduce the risk of getting the common cold. However, people who take supplements regularly might have slightly shorter colds or somewhat milder symptoms.
Serious side effects from too much vitamin C are very rare, because the body cannot store the vitamin. But consuming vitamin C more than recommended limits may cause inconvenient side effects. Among them are stomach upset and diarrhea, weakness, nausea, headache, and abnormal sleep patterns and bladder movements. It may also increase the risk of developing kidney stones and may even hinder the body's metabolic activities. On the other hand, too little vitamin C can lead to signs and symptoms of deficiency, including anemia, gum and nosebleeds, gingivitis, decreased ability to fight infection, decreased wound-healing rate and easy bruising, dry skin and hair. Scurvy in adults is rare but it may occur in those with restrictive diets, food fads, elderly people, or alcoholics.
We are unable to synthesize vitamin C and so we must consume fruits and vegetables that contain or are fortified with vitamin C in order to avoid a deficiency. Cooking vitamin C-rich foods or storing them for a long period of time can reduce the vitamin C content. Microwaving and steaming may reduce cooking losses. The best food sources of vitamin C are uncooked or raw fruits and vegetables. Those with the highest sources include citrus fruits and juices, mango, papaya, pineapple, berries and watermelon. Vegetables share a good amount, too. Among them are broccoli, cauliflower,
green and red peppers, spinach, cabbage, sweet and white potatoes, tomatoes and other leafy greens.