The real scoop on vitamin C

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, May 8, 2014

If you had to pick the most popular, most researched, most recommended and prescribed nutrient in history, it would probably have to be vitamin C, but is it really good for us? Is it safe, and do we need to take mega doses?
Vitamin C was first isolated by Hungarian biochemist Dr. Albert Szent-Gyori in 1928. Vitamin C’s chemical name, “ascorbic acid” is derived from the Latin name for scurvy, “scorbutus”, a condition brought about by vitamin C deficiency.
Scurvy is an illness whose symptoms include formation of white spots on the skin, spongy gums, and bleeding of the mucous membranes. This disease was once common among sailors who were out to sea for long periods of time, and couldn’t keep perishable foods like citrus fruits.
So what can vitamin C do for us? First, it’s important for the formation of collagen. Collagen is sort of the glue that holds our body’s cells together. In fact if you’re ever wounded, vitamin C instantly goes to work to help produce collagen to help with healing. That includes your bones too.
Your body’s connective tissues like tendons and ligaments are also made up of collagen. Vitamin C is crucial in keeping blood vessels strong. Remember, you can only get good from your exercise, diet, medication, and supplements to the exact degree of your blood vessel health, because it all goes via the blood stream.
In fact one of the first signs of vitamin C deficiency is bleeding gums and broken capillaries, followed by rough, brown scaly skin, slow wound healing, loosened teeth and possible bone fractures.
Vitamin C helps protect vitamins A and E, and fatty acids from oxidation (breaking down). Vitamin C helps boost our immune system, which is why some folks take it at the first sign of a cold. Daily doses of vitamin C have been shown to reduce the occurrence of cataract, hay fever and asthma.
It’s believed vitamin C is helpful in reducing risk for cancer. Vitamin C is also used as a preservative for many foods.
Most animals actually produce their own vitamin C, but primates, humans, fish, and guinea pigs don’t. It once baffled scientists that Eskimos, who hardly ever ate fruits and vegetables, didn’t develop scurvy. Turns out, there was actually enough vitamin C in the meats they ate, to prevent the disease. Here’s the thing though, the Eskimos ate their meats raw. You see, heat destroys vitamins C.
What foods contain vitamin C, and how much should we take? Foods rich in vitamin C include citrus fruits (oranges, limes, lemons, grapefruit), carrots, broccoli, bananas, parsley, potatoes, red and green peppers, kiwis, and papayas. Kiwis and papayas contain the most. The upgraded USRDA (United States recommended daily allowance) for vitamin C is 90mg for men and 75mg for women, but I recommend 250mg, three times daily for men and women.
The reason I recommend splitting your vitamin C dosage up, is because it’s water soluble, so if you take it just once, say, at 8:00 in the morning, by noon, all your vitamin C will all be out of your system, and just sitting in your bladder.
The best vitamin C supplement I’ve seen on the market so far, is “Reacta -C”. Some folks advocate mega doses of vitamin C. These doses can reach 20 grams, (by the way, that’s 20,000mg) or higher. Proponents of vitamin C often argue that mega doses are harmless, but that’s not true. Some extra vitamin C is indeed beneficial, but mega doses (10,000mg and higher) can cause nutritional imbalances, deprive tissues of oxygen, and may produce a condition called “metastatic oxalosis”, where deposits of oxalates (compounds naturally present in many foods) build in the kidneys (kidney stones), and heart (this produces abnormal rhythms). Mega doses of vitamin C can also cause diarrhea, because of its laxative effect.
So, to sum things up, do I recommend taking extra vitamin C, and is it safe? Yes, it’ll make you healthier, but remember, you can always get too much of even a good thing.
Diet or exercise question? Email me at or visit David Crocker of Landrum has been a nutritionist and master personal trainer for 27 years. He served as strength director of the Spartanburg Y.M.C.A., head strength coach for the USC-Spartanburg baseball team, S.C. state champion girl’s gymnastic team ,and the Converse college equestrian team.
He served as a water safety consultant to the United States Marine Corps., lead trainer to L.H. Fields modeling agency, and taught four semesters at USC-Union. David was also a regular guest of the Pam Stone radio show.

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