The first thing we think of when vitamin C is mentioned is how it helps our immune system by preventing and fighting off illness. This is indeed a huge role it plays in our health, making it a very important nutrient in today’s world of COVID-19. What may not be as familiar to many of us is the health benefits of vitamin C that extend beyond its immune-supporting role. These other benefits include positive effects for our cardiovascular system, cancer survival, ocular health, cognitive health, skin health, and blood sugar balance. Let’s discuss these now.
Several studies have shown that a deficiency in vitamin C is associated with an increased risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases. They have seen that supplementing with vitamin C can improve markers of cardiovascular health, specifically the lining of blood vessels and regulating blood pressure.
In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, several studies were conducted using high-dose vitamin C in the treatment of cancer. The positive results that came from these studies was set aside for many years due to inconsistent study parameters, lack of funding, lack of financial incentive, and no path to a patentable drug. Interest in this topic has since been rekindled and the National Institute of Health conducted further studies. Vitamin C, if given to patients intravenously as opposed to orally, can kill cancer cells and increase patient survival at doses as high as 100 grams. For reference, 100 grams of vitamin C is 100 times higher than the usual dose found in Emergen-C packets people take for colds. Intravenous vitamin C is being studied as a cancer treatment on its own as well as in combination with chemotherapy. So far, all clinical trials have shown improved quality of life, the minimizing of pain, and the protection of healthy cells against toxicity from chemotherapy. We still do not know the exact method of how vitamin C fights cancer cells, nor do we know which types of cancer responds best to this treatment.
Vitamin C is one of many antioxidant vitamins and minerals that slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration. It also improves vision sharpness in people in early stages of this disease. Early studies also show that vitamin C may help reduce cataract development and diabetic retinopathy.
People who have cognitive impairments often have low levels of vitamin C. Vitamin C can improve learning, memory, and movement by working with our nervous system in transmitting signals in our brain. In animal studies, vitamin C has shown to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Vitamin C supports healthy skin in several ways. It promotes collagen production and, when combined with vitamin E, it fights free radicals from damaging skin cells. Smaller components of vitamin C may increase the formation of melanin, which is the pigment of our skin. Increased melanin would affect age spots and other discolored skin patches.
Blood Sugar Regulation
People who have diabetes can benefit from taking vitamin C supplements. Studies show that vitamin C improves blood sugar levels including reducing fasting blood sugar.
As stated in the beginning, vitamin C is well known for its effect on our immune system. We have two types of immune systems, innate and adaptive. Innate is our first line of defense against all pathogens, and adaptive is a specific defense against particular types of viruses, bacteria, etc. Vitamin C supports both types of immunity. Not only can vitamin C treat infections, but taking 1,000mg of vitamin C per day can shorten the duration of colds as well as reduce the severity of symptoms. With respect to COVID-19, hospitals and ICU units have used vitamin C to help treat those infected.
Vitamin C Foods
Getting enough vitamin C into your diet each day can be a struggle, considering that a person would have to eat approximately 20 oranges per day to achieve 1,000mg of vitamin C. Supplementation is usually recommended to ensure consistent intake. Nevertheless, it is important to get vitamin C from your diet. Foods high in vitamin C include:
- Citrus fruits
- Bell peppers
- Brussel sprouts
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for our health. Not only does it strengthen our immune system by fighting off infections, but it also plays a role in several body systems including cardiovascular health, eye health, blood sugar management, cognitive health, skin health, and cancer fighting. During COVID-19, it is good practice to boost our health in all ways and vitamin C is one of several health-boosting nutrients you can adopt into your daily routine.