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Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin found in abundance in foods such as peppers, citrus fruits, broccoli and strawberries. Most animals can synthesize vitamin C endogenously, but humans cannot. Vitamin C is known for its antioxidant properties and ability to fight free radicals. A free radical can be thought of as an “unhealthy” molecule and can harm cells. As cells become damaged, this is what can cause health problems. Many factors can cause free radicals, such as stress, diet, pollution and other environmental factors.
In the 1700s, scurvy was a common problem for sailors on long trips out at sea, causing symptoms such as bleeding gums, poor wound-healing, depression, seizures, and other symptoms leading to death. In 1747, a Scottish Naval surgeon, James Lind, discovered citrus fruits, high in vitamin C, can prevent scurvy. Today scurvy is relatively rare in the United States, but can be a problem in malnourished populations around the world.
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a potent antioxidant, which supports the body's defense mechanism against free radicals.
Diving into our immune system a little more - immunity can be broken down into innate immunity and adaptive immunity. Innate immunity is our first line of defense - physical barriers, chemical barriers and cellular defenses. Adaptive immunity, also known as acquired immunity, is our second line of defense (think antibodies). Vitamin C can contribute to immune functioning by supporting our various cellular functions (both innate and adaptive). Neutrophils are a part of the innate immune system and are the body’s primary defenders against invading pathogens.
One study showed the link between Vitamin C and neutrophils. This study was over the course of eight weeks and had 35 participants who consumed two Gold kiwifruit a day, which was estimated to be approximately 259 mg of Vitamin C. Plasma vitamin C levels were monitored weekly and rose to saturation after one week of supplementation. Neutrophil vitamin C levels were measured at week four (baseline) and saw a significant increase at week eight (supplementation interval)(1).
Enhanced Human Neutrophil Vitamin C Status, Chemotaxis and Oxidant Generation Following Dietary Supplementation with Vitamin C-Rich SunGold Kiwifruit.
Bozonet SM, Carr AC, Pullar JM and Vissers MCM, Nutrients, 2015
Vitamin C is an essential micronutrient for humans and we don’t produce it in the body. Therefore, it’s important to obtain it through your diet and supplementation.
Support your healthy eating patterns by adding this beneficial nutrient. Fruits and vegetables are loaded with key nutrients such as dietary fiber, potassium and choline - they are also packed with Vitamin C. If your plate isn’t too colorful everyday, you may want to consider supplementation to help with your vitamin C intake.
Vitamin C - Health Professional Fact Sheet
Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health, 2016