Most people today do not think about being deficient in vitamin C. There are so many available sources we have access to that it doesn’t become a second thought. From citrus fruits to pills, C is in our faces all the time, especially during the cold months. But are you really getting all the C you need?
When it comes to C deficiency we probably think of the most obvious “old time” disease, scurvy. Without C, collagen (the glue that holds cells together) is too weak to perform its duty leading, in the advance stages, to open, puss filled sores, loss of teeth and eventually death. Unlike most animals who can synthesize their own C, we need to replenish ours because we can only store it for so long before it gets used up. That is why sailors on long voyages, explorers, and soldiers separated from C sources were prone to this disease.
Since the discovery of the benefits of vitamin C we no longer need to worry about major C deficiencies. Yet even mild cases can have symptoms. Weakness, poor healing of wounds, anemia, swollen gums, and nosebleeds are common signs of mild vitamin C deficiency. Edema (water retention), weakness, lack of energy, poor digestion, painful joints and bronchial infection and colds also occur with a shortage of vitamin C. It can also be misdiagnosed as depression
How much C do we really need? That depends on who you talk to. The Recommended Daily Allowance is 45mg for children ages 4-16 and 75mg to 90mg for adults. Sadly, most people do not get even these minimal amounts. For optimal antioxidant protection we need much more C than the RDA. For those who are exposed to pollution regularly, have a high stress level, who are older, smoke or are around smokers, have a family history of heart disease or cancer, low physical activity, and are exposed to the sun a lot (this list could go on) the more C is needed.
So how much do the researchers take? Dr. Albert Szent who won the Nobel prize in 1937 for isolating pure vitamin C took 1,000mg until his 80′s when he started taking 2,000mg a day. Linus Pauling, one of the most important scientists of the 20th century, suggested anywhere from 450mg to 4,500mg and even up to 10,000mg per day; in his 90′s he took up to 18,000mg per day. Bruce Miller, D.D.S., C.N.S., the author of Antioxidants Made Simple, takes 4,000mg per day and more if he feels a cold coming on.
How is it that these people take so much C without problems? C is a water soluble vitamin that can not be stored by the body. Once our bodies use it up we need to replenish. What our bodies do not use gets flushed our of our system. That is why it is important to have a consistent intake and why it is not possible to overdose.
How much should you take? 100mg to 500mg a day is a good place to start. For the most benefit take at least 500mg a day, but as you can see 10,000mg and more has been suggested and tried with no adverse side effects. Of course if you are going to take a lot of C you should spread it out through the day, too much at once can cause diarrhea and stomach upset. If you are already taking nitrate medications for heart disease, you will want to talk to your doctor about taking a lot of vitamin C, a large amount can make them less effective.
Vitamin C is measured in food sources by a scientific process called titration. The titration of vitamin C is a process of volumetric analysis used to find out how much vitamin C is concentrated in a vitamin source. This process includes dissolving the vitamin source whether it is a pill, fresh fruit juice, packaged fruits, or natural food sources in water straining it and putting it through a redox reaction, based on an oxidizing agent and a reducing agent; usually using iodine. Basically the C reacts with the iodine and creates a blue color. As more reactant is added the color goes away, thus giving the formula needed to determine the C content.
Eating fresh fruits and veggies are a great way to get this vitamin, just plan on eating a lot throughout the day. Common sources have been pipointed that contain high amounts of C and include: papaya, red bell peppers, tomatoes, hot green chilies, broccoli, cauliflower, oranges and all citrus fruits, strawberries, parsley, kale, mustard greens, spinach, cabbage, cantaloupe, watermelon, winter squash, onions, oregano, garlic and certain raw organ meats such as liver and heart.
Incorporating as much of theses foods as you can into your diet in fresh and interesting ways will keep you in better health. Most researchers suggest eating these foods along with taking a high-quality vitamin C supplement as a sure way to keep up on your vitamin C.