The Roles of Vitamin C in the Body: The Collagen-Forming Antioxidant

Citrus FruitsVitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin that is found in many fruits and vegetables. Since our bodies don’t store it (excess amounts of the vitamin exit the body through our urine), we need to constantly supply our bodes with it in order to remain healthy.

While most people understand that vitamin C plays an important role in maintaining skin health, it actually contains a large number of equally important roles in the body.

What Vitamin C Does for Us

Scavenges free radicals – Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, meaning that it can guard us from the cell-damaging effects of free radicals (an atom or atom group with one or more unpaired electrons, forcing them to steal electrons from neighboring molecules). Allowing free radicals to run amok in our bodies can result in a plethora of serious degenerative conditions like cancer, cataracts, asthma, and Alzheimer’s disease. Fortunately, antioxidants like vitamin C can safely interact with them and terminate their chain reactions before vital molecules are harmed.

Aids collagen production – Collagen is a simple protein and an essential part of our connective issue – the very framework of our body. Indeed, all of the components that hold our bodies together, such as skins, bones, blood vessels, teeth, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage, rely upon collagen. Since vitamin C is directly responsible for influencing collagen synthesis, it helps shield us from conditions relating to collagen deletion – the most famous of which being scurvy (deterioration of the blood vessels). Of course, scurvy is rare nowadays, but vitamin C deficiencies (resulting in collagen deficiencies) can lead to unpleasant symptoms like dry hair, rough skin, easy bruising, bleeding gums, and painful joints.

Heals wounds – Due to vitamin C’s role in collagen production, this essential vitamin also helps our bodies to heal wounds – whether they be cuts, bruises, broken bones, or surgical incisions – in an efficient manner. Vitamin C can even be applied topically to skin damaged by excess ultraviolet rays.

Boosts cardiovascular system – When vitamin C’s antioxidant properties are absorbed into our bloodstream, they inhibit the accumulation of arterial plaque that can lead to heart attacks and strokes. In other words, vitamin C cleans the arteries and improves the flow of blood to our heart. Additionally, studies have shown that vitamin C can prevent cholesterol in the bloodstream from oxidizing (another early step towards heart disease), and can help stabilize blood cholesterol levels.

Contrary to popular belief, little evidence suggests that vitamin C (in supplemental or dietary form) can directly cure the common cold. What consumption of this important antioxidant can do, however, is create an environment in our bodies that prevents viruses and disease from flourishing.

Recommended Daily Intake

According to the Linus Pauling Institute, the RDI of vitamin C in adults is 90 milligrams per day for men and 75 milligrams per day for women. However, we can take far more than this recommended dose without issues since the vitamin is non-toxic and excreted when consumed in excess. Linus Pauling himself took up to 25 grams of vitamin C in supplement form for many years, and died at the ripe age of 93.

Of course, vitamin C is best obtained from whole foods. Foods rich in vitamin C include citrus fruits like oranges and lemons, hot chili peppers, fresh herbs (especially parsley and thyme), and dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, and garden cress.