Vitamin C

Apr 30, 2010

By Trevor Shewfelt, Pharmacist at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

Have you heard Trevor on the radio? Listen to 730 CKDM Tuesday Mornings at 8:35 am! We now have most of the articles published in the Parkland Shopper on our Website

The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist or other health care professional.

In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue. When Christopher Columbus and his colleagues were sailing around the world, their teeth were falling out. You see they had figured out that on long sea voyages, fresh water could easily go swampy in barrels. So they brought beer instead. It lasted longer. But they hadnt figured out that only eating salted meat and dried grains for months at a time wasnt exactly a balanced diet. They were missing fruits and vegetables. This deficiency in their diet had given many of the sailors in the Age of Discovery scurvy. Symptoms of scurvy include: swollen and bleeding gums, loosening of teeth, and bleeding into the muscles and joints. Many people died of scurvy during those early long distance sea voyages.

It was later discovered that citrus fruits like limes could be carried on long distance ships voyages and that something in them prevented scurvy. In fact the British sailors were so renowned for carrying the limes on their boats that they were called Limeys. Of course, we know now that the citrus fruit have high amounts of Vitamin C in them. We know that a deficiency of Vitamin C causes scurvy, and so getting adequate Vitamin C prevents scurvy.

The amount of scurvy you will see in the streets of Dauphin these days is, well, non-existent. Vitamin C is still an important vitamin. What does Vitamin C do? Vitamin C is used to make collagen. Collagen is an elastic-like goo that is needed to hold together blood vessels, tendons, muscles and bones. So the bleeding and tooth loss of scurvy are due to lack of collagen formation. Vitamin C is involved in making the neurotransmitter, norepinepherine. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers in the brain, so indirectly Vitamin C can effect mood. Vitamin C is involved in making carnitine, which in turn helps get fat to the powerhouses of the cell called mitochondria. So Vitamin C is involved in burning fat to get energy. Vitamin C may be involved with getting cholesterol out of your blood and into your gut as bile acids. This may effect your cholesterol levels or your chance of getting gall stones.

Lately, Vitamin C is probably most often talked about as an antioxidant. Being an antioxidant means Vitamin C mops up free radicals. Free radicals are special oxygen atoms just itching to have a chemical reaction with anything around them. If that something is the DNA in our cells, that could kill the cell. Or, if the cell isnt killed, oxygen damaged DNA could even lead to cancer. So it is best if we have antioxidants like Vitamin C to mop up these free radical oxygen atoms before they cause damage.

Why do people take Vitamin C pills? Well, Vitamin C has been used for many things like heart disease, eye disease, cancer, iron absorption, high blood pressure and to prevent sun burn. These all have varying amounts of proof behind them. There is good evidence to support Vitamin C helping the body absorb iron better. The evidence for using oral or injectable Vitamin C in cancer treatment is controversial at best.

One of the most popular uses is to prevent the common cold. This idea was made popular by the brilliant chemist Linus Pauling from the United States. Pauling was the first person to win two unshared Nobel prizes in two different fields. He won a Nobel prize in Chemistry and a Nobel Peace prize. He was a very bright guy. So when he wrote a book called Vitamin C and the Common Cold in 1970, people noticed. Despite his brilliance, Vitamin C is questionable against the common cold. Some studies have found big doses of Vitamin C (like 3 g per day) may reduce the duration of the cold about a day. Other studies have found no difference versus placebo. High doses of Vitamin C also increase the risk of upset stomach and diarrhea.

There are many different forms of Vitamin C you can buy. The chemical name for Vitamin C is ascorbic acid. Ascorbic acid dissolves in water. From the reading Ive done, it doesnt seem to matter if you dissolved some ascorbic acid in water and drank it, bought an inexpensive pill of Vitamin C at the pharmacy and swallow it, or buy an expensive form of Vitamin C in a specialty store and take it. All forms of Vitamin C seem to be equally bioavailable. That means no matter which form of Vitamin C you use, the same amount gets into you blood stream or into your cells.

So how much Vitamin C do we need? Well you only need about 10 mg of Vitamin C per day to prevent scurvy. Most adults though need around 100 mg of Vitamin C per day. The Health Canada Recommended Daily intake is actually 90 mg in adults males and 75 mg in Adult females, but 100 mg is a nice round number. The upper limit of what Health Canada says we should take is 2000 mg of Vitamin C per day. And you can easily get Vitamin C from your food. A glass of orange juice or a cup of chopped, raw sweet red pepper both have about 100 mg of Vitamin C. Notice I said raw red pepper, though. Vitamin C is very heat labile. That means cooking destroys the Vitamin C.

So you scurvy dogs should remember to eat your fruits and vegetables. Vitamin C will help you keep healthy.

As always if you have any questions or concerns about these products, ask your pharmacist.


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