The Impressive Benefits of Vitamin C & Signs of Deficiency

Updated: May 11

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is needed for the growth and repair of tissues in every part of your body. Its importance was discovered during the 16th to 19th century when around fifty percent of sailors died on their journeys due to a vitamin C deficiency!

It is used to:

● Form an important protein used to make skin, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels

● Heal wounds and form scar tissue

● Repair and maintain cartilage, bones, and teeth (1)

Vitamin C is one of many antioxidants, or nutrients that block some of the damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are made when your body breaks down food or when you are exposed to tobacco smoke or radiation.The buildup of free radicals over time is thought to be largely responsible for the aging process, and may play a role in cancer, heart disease, and conditions like arthritis. (1)

Many components of the immune system are affected by vitamin C. For example, white blood cells that battle viruses, bacteria, and other foreign invaders need vitamin C to function, to stimulate production and protect them from oxidative damage.

In vitro studies have shown that vitamin C increases another type of immune cell, called interleukins. (2, 3, 4, 5)

Despite the clear benefits of vitamin C, humans are one of very few animals that are not able to synthesize their own vitamin C. We can't even store it.

For some unknown reason humans, primates, fruit bats and guinea pigs lost the ability to make vitamin C somewhere along the evolutionary road. However, some studies suggest we have a way to compensate for this "in built error"by sucking up DHA (the oxidised form) into red blood cells and transforming it to the reduced, antioxidant form of vitamin C.

Including plenty of vitamin C-containing foods in your daily diet is still vital to good health. (1)

The best food sources of vitamin C include: Capsicums, broccoli, citrus fruits, kiwifruit, pineapple, watermelon, leafy greens, tomatoes and even potatoes. (1, 2)

What are some signs you might be Vitamin C deficient?

  • Bleeding gums & gingivitis

  • Decreased ability to fight infection

  • Decreased wound-healing rate

  • Swollen and painful joints

  • Weakened tooth enamel

  • Dry and splitting hair

  • Easy bruising

  • Nosebleeds

  • Rough, dry, scaly skin

  • Anemia

  • Possible weight gain because of slowed metabolism

Let's also take a look at some other impressive benefits of vitamin C...

Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke

Studies indicate that higher intakes of vitamin C can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease (CVDs) including coronary heart disease and stroke. (2, 6, 7)

Vitamin C supplementation (greater than 500mg/d) improved endothelial function (EF). (2,7) The endothelium is the inner lining of blood vessels and its function impacts blood pressure, blood clotting & ultimately cardiovascular diseases. The effect of vitamin C appears to be dependent on health status, with stronger effects in those with cardio-metabolic disorders. (7)

Vitamin C was shown to decrease serum cholesterol levels in those with high cholesterol levels and low vitamin C levels. Large doses as food supplements may even lower blood pressure. (2, 8)