Three Cheers for Vitamin C
The good news is that while our bodies can't manufacture vitamin C naturally, it is present in high amounts in a number of foods and is also commonly added to foods that do not already contain this important nutrient - important because adequate consumption is associated with numerous health benefits.
So, why is vitamin C so important? It is required for tissue repair and growth throughout the body; that means it helps to heal wounds and repair and maintain cartilage, bones and even teeth. In addition, vitamin C is needed to form collagen, a protein used by the body to make everything from new skin to scar tissue to ligaments and blood vessels. These functions alone make it extremely valuable.
Vitamin C also plays a key role in cell defense because it is an antioxidant, which help block the production of free radicals. As discussed last issue (Read "Eat Your Antioxidants" by Dr. David Seaman), free radicals can cause a great deal of damage to the body, including damage to genetic material (DNA), enzymes and other proteins, and important cell membrane fats. This damage contributes to the development of many chronic diseases, not the least of which are cancer and heart disease.
Considerable research supports the disease-preventing role of vitamin C, in fact, nearly 100 epidemiological studies have examined the role of vitamin C or vitamin C-rich foods in cancer prevention, finding strong evidence for its role in reducing the risk of cancers of the esophagus, oral cavity, stomach and pancreas, and substantial evidence supporting protection against cancer of the cervix, rectum, breasts and lungs.
Vitamin C also may reduce the risk of suffering a stroke, according to a 2008 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Study participants with the highest levels of plasma vitamin C had a 42 percent lower risk of stroke compared to study participants with the lowest levels of plasma vitamin C.
Foods considered good sources of this vital nutrient include citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes, cantaloupe, sweet and white potatoes, broccoli, peppers and leafy greens. The body cannot store leftover amounts, so make sure you get plenty of C every day.
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