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Vitamin C: importance, daily requirement, incorrect dosage

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 198 views

The (water-soluble) vitamin C , also called ascorbic acid, is probably the most well-known of all vitamins. It is mainly found in fresh vegetables, is involved in many metabolic processes and protects the cells from aggressive oxygen compounds (free radicals). Find out everything you need to know about the topic here: What is vitamin C good for? How much vitamin C do you need per day? Can Vitamin C Really Help With a Cold?

What is Vitamin C?

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin. The body needs to get it from food on a regular basis. Vitamin C is mainly found in citrus fruits and fresh vegetables.

In addition, vitamin C is added to many processed products such as sausage and meat products as an additive (E300 to E304, E315 and E316). It makes them more durable and preserves the original color.

What is vitamin C good for? Many metabolic processes in the human body require vitamin C. The vitamin has an effect, for example, on the optimal functioning of the immune system.

What is ascorbic acid and what is L-ascorbic acid?

Ascorbic acid is the chemical name of vitamin C. This name dates back to 1932, when the vitamin was first isolated from peppers. The term “ascorbin” comes from Latin and means something like “without scurvy”. Scurvy is the most well-known vitamin C deficiency symptom. It used to be a feared disease among seafarers, with symptoms including bleeding gums , weakness, and swollen hands and feet. In industrialized countries, scurvy is almost non-existent.

There are four different stereoisomeric forms of ascorbic acid. Stereoisomers are compounds with the same chemical molecular formula and the same constitution, but different spatial structure. One of them is L-ascorbic acid. Only it shows biological activity, which means: only it has an effect on living tissue.

What is the role of vitamin C in the body?

Above all, the positive effect of vitamin C on the immune system is known: the body needs the vitamin for a strong immune system.

In addition, ascorbic acid promotes the absorption and utilization of iron from plant foods. It is needed to make bile acids and catecholamines such as norepinephrine and adrenaline . In addition, vitamin C intercepts cell-damaging oxygen compounds in the body – so-called “free radicals” that arise during normal metabolic processes, but also through UV radiation, nicotine and medication.

Ascorbic acid can also prevent the formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines. Nitrosamines can arise during digestion, for example, and are also contained in some foods (e.g. in cured meat and sausage products).

Vitamin C is also important for building connective tissue (collagen) and for wound healing .

Vitamin C: skin protector and preserver

Cosmetics manufacturers value the antioxidant properties of vitamin C in particular. As a radical scavenger, it defuses aggressive oxygen compounds (free radicals) – with a double benefit: on the one hand, the ascorbic acid protects the cosmetic products from spoilage through contact with oxygen (oxidative spoilage). On the other hand, thanks to vitamin C, the oxidative stress on the skin is reduced . If too many free radicals accumulate in a cell, they can damage or even destroy it – the skin ages faster.

The absorption of vitamin C from cosmetic products into the skin is improved when the ascorbic acid is packed in liposomes. These are tiny, hollow spheres whose shell consists of a lipid bilayer (lipid = fat ) that resembles the cell membrane. Inside is an aqueous phase in which, for example, the water-soluble vitamin C can be transported. Due to the similar structure, the liposome shell can easily interact with the cell membrane and release its contents to the cell – at least that’s what the experts suspect.

Vitamin C for colds

We need vitamin C for the immune system to function. It is therefore reasonable to assume that a lot of vitamin C can prevent or alleviate colds, colds and the like. However, the scientific data is less clear:

There are indications of a preventive effect primarily in people who are very active in sports or who are otherwise physically demanding. However, it has not been proven that the daily intake of vitamin C preparations generally benefits everyone preventively.

Some studies, on the other hand, indicate that a cold heals faster with high doses of vitamin C. This effect has not been confirmed or only partially confirmed in other studies, for example for small children. And in principle you can also catch a cold with an extra portion of vitamin C.

Vitamin C against cancer

Some studies indicate that vitamin C can improve the outcome of chemotherapy or radiation therapy while reducing side effects. In addition, fewer cancer drugs seem to be necessary if vitamin C is also administered. High-dose vitamin C infusions are also said to have a cancer-preventive effect. At least some studies point to that. However, this effect has not yet been scientifically proven.

What is the daily requirement of vitamin C?

According to the German Society for Nutrition (DGE), the recommended intake of vitamin C for young people from the age of 15 and adults is between 90 and 110 milligrams per day.

It also partly depends on gender how much vitamin C you need per day. In addition, other factors influence the vitamin C requirement, for example environmental, physical or psychological stress and illnesses. The daily vitamin C requirement can also be increased during breastfeeding.

Smokers also often have a larger daily requirement. They have a lower concentration of vitamin C in their blood because they have higher metabolic losses than non-smokers. Therefore, the DGE recommends an intake of 135 milligrams per day for smoking women and 155 milligrams for smoking men.

According to the recommendation of the DGE, this is how much vitamin C you should take in:

Vitamin C mg/day
male Female
0 to under 4 months 20 20
4 to under 12 months 20 20
1 to under 4 years 20 20
4 to under 7 years 30 30
7 to under 10 years 45 45
10 to under 13 years 65 65
13 to under 15 years 85 85
teenagers and adults
15 to under 19 years 105 90
19 to under 25 years 110 95
25 to under 51 years 110 95
51 to under 65 years 110 95
65 years and older 110 95
pregnant women 105
breastfeeding 125

Vitamin C: High content foods

According to the German Society for Nutrition (DGE), the recommended vitamin C intake can easily be achieved through diet. For an optimal supply, the DGE recommends five portions of vegetables and fruit a day. Important: Ascorbic acid does not tolerate heat very well. Vegetables should therefore only be steamed for a short time. When preparing the “hot lemon ” that is so popular for colds , the vitamin C content is quickly reduced by the hot water.

You can find out what should be on your menu so that you can cover your vitamin C requirements well in the article  Foods with a high vitamin C content

How does a vitamin C deficiency manifest itself?

The body’s reserves of vitamin C last for two to six weeks. After that, a deficiency can arise. You can read about how this manifests itself and what consequences it has in the article  Vitamin C deficiency

How does a vitamin C excess manifest itself?

A healthy person can usually cope well with an excess of vitamin C. However, there are exceptions, you can read more about this in the article  Vitamin C overdose

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