Vitamin C: Nutrition “Hero”

Fatigue, easy bruising, dental problems, joint pain, bleeding gums, and even death were common among British sailors in the 1700’s. The symptoms were easily prevented, however, by eating lemons and limes. The sailors, later called “Limeys”, were suffering from vitamin C deficiency, later known as scurvy.

Although few deaths occur these days from the total absence of dietary vitamin C, deficiency is common. In fact, at least 1 in 10 Americans are thought to be vitamin C deficient (NHANES III research). I consider vitamin C a true “Nutrition Hero” because of its many positive health benefits. Consume optimum vitamin C and you will be covering a crucial prerequisite for optimum health!

Vitamin C intake is in 3 categories. Read below, and determine which level you WANT to be in. Then, make certain you stay at a preferred level daily, long term. Here are the 3 levels of vitamin C intake:

Level 1: Vitamin C deficient intake – less than 75-90 mg/day.

More people are in this category than what you might think. If you are not achieving 5-10 daily servings of fruit and vegetables, and don’t take supplements, you may be in this group. Any of the following may be symptoms: fatigue, depression, bleeding gums, or achy joints. Don’t go there….

Level 2: Vitamin C sufficient intake – Over 90 mg/day.

An orange and a cup of strawberries every single day is enough to achieve this level of intake. Or, have a serving of broccoli and a grapefruit. 6 medium tomatoes or 6 potatoes are other options. On busy days, it may not be quite as easy as you think… Remember, we need vitamin C intake to be adequate EVERY single day. As a water-soluble vitamin, vitamin C leaves our body rapidly in our urine.

Level 3: Vitamin C “optimum” intake – 400-1,000 mg/day (my opinion).

Although this level is unlikely through foods alone, it is nevertheless easy to achieve with nutritional supplements and worthy of consideration, especially for those pursuing optimum weight and health. I’ve identified 5 key benefits to optimizing vitamin C intake. Consider them:

Benefit #1: Weight loss tripled in one research study.

One study showed that 500-1000 mg vitamin C added to a calorie-restricted diet tripled the amount of weight loss on the diet. FP News 12/15/2004.

Benefit #2: Heart attack and stroke risks are lower in those getting more vitamin C.

(Note: These are summaries of different research findings.)

  1. Heart attack risk of death was 42% lower in men and 25% lower in women (> 300 mg/day).
  2. Overall heart disease risk was 25% lower (700 mg/day).
  3. Blood pressure reductions of up to 9% (500 mg/day).
  4. Stroke risk was 29 to 42% lower (highest compared to lowest blood levels).
  5. CRP, a known risk factor, is 2.4 times more likely to be elevated if low vitamin C.
  6. Blood vessels dilate with 500 mg/day.

Benefit #3: Energy and mood are supported.

  1. Vitamin C helps make carnitine (moves fat into cells to be burned as energy).
  2. Hospitalized patients had a 32% reduction in disturbed mood (500 mg/day).

Benefit #4: Immune function to fight infections improves with vitamin C

  1. 66% lower risk of 3 or more colds in a 5 year period (500 mg/day vs 50 mg/day).
  2. White blood cells, which fight infections, increase in number and function.
  3. Colds clear up 36 hours faster (6.5 vs 5 days on 1,000 mg/day).

Benefit #5: Miscellaneous potential benefits

  1. Blood cells reach maximum vitamin C levels at 400 mg/day.
  2. Breast cancer risk was 39% lower (110 mg/day vs 31 mg/day).
  3. Lung function and asthma improves (500-1000 mg/day)
  4. Uric acid, which causes gout, is reduced (500 mg/day).
  5. Reduces oxidative stress, common in overweight (500-1000 mg/day).

Are you as impressed as I am with this Nutrition Hero? It not only may be a simple fix for common symptoms like fatigue, joint pain, depression, and dental problems, it also has tremendous potential for the prevention of common diseases. Consider your health goals and then prioritize vitamin C. Consume optimum amounts on your daily journey to Optimum Health.

My Vitamin C Summary Recommendations:

  1. Consider 700 mg of vitamin C as a “target” daily intake.
  2. Get your Vitamin C every day through food and supplements!
  3. Take Vitamin C at least twice daily to sustain blood levels.
  4. Your routine daily dose should be under 1000 mg to avoid possible side effects, such as kidney stones or diarrhea.
  5. Keep generic 500 mg vitamin C tablets on hand. At the first sign of a “cold”, take one tablet twice daily for 7-10 days, in addition to your daily intake. The goal is to minimize the length and severity of the infection through short-term high vitamin C intake.
  6. Remember, Vitamin C is included in ALL multivitamins, but you must check the amount. (Example: Metabolism Essentials Multi provides my recommended 700 mg per day.)

And now you know not only why vitamin C is one of my Nutrition Heroes, you also know how to make it a personal health-promoting friend.

For Optimum Health,

Rick Tague, M.D., M.P.H.

Rick Tague, M.D., M.P.H. & T.M. is a nutrition & weight loss specialist and the Founder & Medical Director of the Center for Nutrition and Preventive Medicine, P.A.

Dr. Tague is an Alpha Omega Alpha honors graduate of Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans. He also holds a Masters Degree in Public Health from Tulane. Dr. Tague is board certified by the American Board of Obesity Medicine and the American Board of Family Medicine. His medical practice has focused on optimum health, nutrition, and weight loss since 1996.

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