Vitamin C

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is an essential nutrient for humans and certain other animal species. It plays several vital roles in the body:

  1. Antioxidant Properties: Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, meaning it helps protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are compounds formed when our bodies convert the food we eat into energy, and they can also be acquired from environmental sources like cigarette smoke, air pollution, and ultraviolet light from the sun.

  2. Collagen Synthesis: It is crucial for the synthesis of collagen, a protein that is an important component of connective tissues and plays a vital role in the health of skin, bones, and joints.

  3. Immune Function: Vitamin C supports the immune system. It stimulates the production and function of white blood cells, which are essential for fighting infections.

  4. Absorption of Iron: It enhances the body's ability to absorb iron from plant-based foods, which is particularly important for preventing or treating iron-deficiency anemia.

  5. Wound Healing: Due to its role in collagen formation, vitamin C is also important for wound healing.

Humans, unlike most animals, cannot synthessze vitamin C, which means it must be obtained through diet or supplements. Sources of vitamin C include fruits and vegetables, particularly citrus fruits like oranges and lemons, strawberries, bell peppers, spinach, kale, and broccoli.

Vitamin C deficiency can lead to scurvy, a disease characterised by anemia, weakness, gum disease, and skin problems. This condition is rare in modern times, primarily affecting individuals with extremely limited dietary variety.

The recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) for vitamin C vary by age, sex, and life stage, but generally, a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables provides sufficient vitamin C for most people.