Vitamin C: Why Is It Important?

Vitamin C is a vital nutrient for health. It helps form and maintain bones, skin, and blood vessels. It occurs naturally in some foods, especially, fruit and vegetables. Supplements are also available.

It is also known as L-ascorbic acid, ascorbic acid, or L-ascorbate.

Why we need vitamin C

Vitamins, including vitamin C, are organic compounds. An organic compound is one that exists in living things and contains the elements carbon and oxygen.

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Vitamin C is water soluble, and the body does not store it. To maintain adequate levels of vitamin C, humans need a daily intake of food that contains it.

Vitamin C plays an important role in a number of bodily functions including the production of collagen, L-carnitine, and some neurotransmitters. It helps metabolize proteins and its antioxidant activity may reduce the risk of some cancers.

Collagen, which vitamin C helps produce, is the main component of connective tissue and the most abundant protein in mammals. Between 1 and 2 percent of muscle tissue is collagen. It is a vital component in fibrous tissues such as:

tendons

ligaments

skin

cornea

cartilage

bones

the gut

blood vessels

In the case of wound healing, research as long ago as 1942 suggested that wounds took longer to heal if someone had scurvy.

Scurvy results from vitamin C deficiency. Its symptoms include swollen joints, bleeding gums and loose teeth, anemia, and tiredness.

Rebound scurvy can happen if a person takes very high doses of vitamin C and then discontinues it quickly.

Wound healing, infections, and tuberculosis

In 1982, researchers concluded that wounds, cuts, and grazes may heal faster in people with a higher intake of vitamin C than is usually available from their food. This may be because vitamin C contributes to collagen production.

The role of vitamin C as an antioxidant also helps repair tissue and reduce damage from inflammation and oxidation.

People with adequate levels of vitamin C are thought to be better able to fight off infections compared to people with vitamin C deficiency.

Vitamin C may also help prevent acute respiratory infections, especially in people with malnutrition and those who are physically stressed.

Researchers have also found that vitamin C can kill drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) bacteria in a laboratory culture. A study published in 2013 suggests that adding vitamin C to TB drugs could shorten therapy.