Vitality

Vitamin C Health Benefits That Will Surely Surprise You

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that is present in some natural food sources such as citrus fruits (e.g. oranges, lemons) and tomatoes. It also comes in the form of a dietary supplement as ascorbic acid.

A powerful antioxidant, Vitamin C protects cells in the body from free radicals and prevents oxidative stress, boosting immune system and reducing risk of chronic diseases, with study showing that vitamin C consumption boosts blood antioxidant levels by up to 30 percent, helping the body's natural defenses ward off inflammation. 

Although known as a potent antioxidant, vitamin C has other health benefits that will surprise you. Here are some of its other health benefits:

Helps manage blood pressure 

Suffered by nearly one-third of American adults, high blood pressure is a prerequisite to heart disease, and vitamin C has been shown by studies to aid in lowering blood pressure for both those with and without high blood pressure. 

An animal study found that taking a vitamin C supplement helps relax the blood vessels that carry blood to the heart, reducing blood pressure levels. Additionally, an analysis of 29 human studies found that a vitamin C supplement reduces systolic (upper) and diastolic (lower) blood pressure, both for healthy adults and those with high blood pressure.

Despite the promising results, however, it is not clear whether the effects on blood pressure are long-term. Also, vitamin C alone should never be used as treatment if you have high blood pressure.

Lowers heart disease risk 

A leading cause of death worldwide, heart disease has many risk factors, including high blood pressure, high levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) and lower HDL (good cholesterol) levels, and vitamin C can reduce these risk factors, lowering the risk of heart diseases. 

An analysis of 9 studies found that consuming at least 700mg of vitamin C daily lowers risk of heart disease by 25 percent. Interestingly enough, another analysis of 15 studies found that food rich in vitamin C, and not supplements, are linked to reduced heart disease risk, making scientists unsure over whether consumption of vitamin-C-rich food leads to a healthier lifestyle. 

Additionally, an analysis of 13 studies focused on the effects of taking at least 500mg of vitamin C daily on blood cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels and other heart disease risk factors found that taking a vitamin C supplement significantly reduces levels of both bad cholesterol and triglycerides. 

All these studies mean is that even though it is good to take at least 500mg of vitamin C supplements daily to reduce heart disease, it may not be necessary if you are regularly consuming whole vitamin-C-rich food.

Reduces uric acid and prevents gout 

Gout, which affects 4 percent of adults in the United States, is an incredibly painful type of arthritis that involves joint inflammation, particularly those of the big toes. It not only results in swelling, but also in sudden, severe painful attacks. 

Gout begins when there is uric acid in your blood. A type of waste product produced by your body, uric acid may crystallize and deposit in your joints at high levels. 

Several studies have shown that vitamin C helps uric acid in the blood, providing protection from gout attacks. One study found that vitamin C consumption results in significantly lowered uric acid levels in the blood. Another study, which followed over 46,000 men over a span of 20 years, found that vitamin C supplements lower gout risk by 44 percent. In addition, an analysis of 13 studies found that taking a vitamin C supplement over a span of 30 days reduces blood uric acid when compared to a placebo. Despite strong links between vitamin C and uric acid blood levels, more studies are needed to fully understand vitamin C's effects on gout.

Prevents iron deficiency 

Iron is an essential nutrient that has various functions, including red blood cell production and transportation of oxygen throughout your body. 

If you are following a meat-free diet, then it is good to know that vitamin C supplements aid in improving iron absorption, especially from plant-based sources. Meat itself is a major source of iron. In fact, just consuming 100mg of vitamin C improves iron absorption by 67 percent, helping reduce the risk of anemia for those suffering from iron deficiency.

Boosts immunity 

Vitamin C supplements are taken by people for one main reason: to boost their immune system. In fact, vitamin C is heavily involved in immune function: 

  1. Vitamin C is involved in the production of lymphocytes and phagocytes, white blood cells that protect the body from infections.
  2. It protects these white blood cells from harmful molecules such as free radicals, while helping them function effectively.
  3. It is essential in skin health, being transported to the skin where it can act as an antioxidant and reinforce the skin's barriers. 

In addition, vitamin C is shown in studies to help heal wounds faster.

Protects mental health over time 

Since vitamin C is a strong antioxidant, low levels of it have been linked to dementia, the risks of which are increased by oxidative stress and inflammation dangerously near the brain, spine and nerves. 

High intake of vitamin-C-rich food or supplements may protect your thinking and memory as you age.

vitamin C, citrus fruits Image Keith Williamson/Flickr

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