©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Vitamin C provides a host of benefits to your general well-being and can aid in the prevention of cancer and other illnesses. 

Vitamin C is the most popular single vitamin. Besides taking it to treat colds, people pop vitamin C capsules hoping that it will cure numerous ailments. There is now scientific evidence to support some of that hope.

Scientifically controlled studies using vitamin C for colds show that it can reduce the severity of cold symptoms, acting as a natural antihistamine. The vitamin may be useful for allergy control for the same reason: It may reduce histamine levels. By giving the immune system one of the important nutrients it needs, extra vitamin C can often shorten the duration of the cold as well. However, studies have been unable to prove that megadoses of the vitamin can actually prevent the common cold.

As an important factor in collagen production, vitamin C is useful in wound healing of all types. From cuts and broken bones to burns and recovery from surgical wounds, vitamin C taken orally helps wounds to heal faster and better. Applied topically, vitamin C may protect the skin from free radical damage after exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Vitamin C makes the headlines when it comes to cancer prevention. Its antioxidant properties protect cells and their DNA from damage and mutation. It supports the body's immune system, the first line of defense against cancer, and prevents certain cancer-causing compounds from forming in the body. Vitamin C reduces the risk of getting almost all types of cancer. It appears that this nutrient doesn't directly attack cancer that has already occurred, but it helps keep the immune system nourished, enabling it to battle the cancer.

As an antioxidant, vitamin C helps to prevent cataracts -- the clouding of the lens of the eye that can lead to blindness in older adults. The lens needs a lot of vitamin C to counteract all the free radicals that form as a result of sunlight on the eye. Vitamin C is concentrated in the lens. When there's plenty of this vitamin floating through your system, it's easy for the body to pull it out of your blood and put it into the lens, protecting it from damage. It's possible that 1,000 mg per day of vitamin C might stop cataracts in their tracks and possibly improve vision.

As with the other antioxidants, vitamin C helps to prevent heart disease by preventing free radicals from damaging artery walls, which could lead to plaque formation. This nutrient also keeps cholesterol in the bloodstream from oxidizing, another early step in the progression towards heart disease and stroke. Vitamin C may help people who have marginal vitamin C status to obtain favorable blood cholesterol levels. High blood pressure may also improve in the presence of this wonder vitamin. All these factors combined make vitamin C an inexpensive and easy way to lower one's risk of heart disease and strokes.

Asthmatics tend to have higher needs for vitamin C because of its antioxidant function in the lungs and airways. Doses of 1,000 to 2,000 mg per day improve asthmatic symptoms and lessen the body's production of histamine, which contributes to inflammation.

People with diabetes can benefit from extra vitamin C, too. This nutrient can help regulate blood sugar levels. Since insulin helps vitamin C, as well as glucose, get into cells, people with diabetes may not have enough vitamin C inside many of their cells. Just like glucose, vitamin C can't do its work if it's not inside of a cell. Supplementing vitamin C can force it into body cells, where it can protect against the many complications of diabetes.

A dose of 1,000 to 3,000 mg per day drives down glycosylated hemoglobin levels. This means that glucose molecules don't attach to blood cells. Glucose adhering to red blood cells is responsible for many diabetic complications such as poor wound healing, problems with capillaries, and sluggish circulation.

These are just some of the conditions in which vitamin C has provided significant results. There are many other health conditions in which vitamin C plays a role and has been helpful. For instance, treating preeclampsia in pregnant women, increasing sperm counts especially in smokers, and treating Parkinson's disease, autoimmune disorders, and periodontal disease.

For more information on Vitamin C, check out the links below:

  • To find out more about Vitamin C in general, check out What Is Vitamin C?
  • If you're worried you're not getting enough Vitamin C in your diet, visit Vitamin C Deficiency.
  • Fortunately, Vitamin C is abundant in many food sources, to find out which are your best bets check out Foods That Contain Vitamin C.
  • If you're not fond of fruits and vegetables, but still want to make sure you're getting enough Vitamin C, read Vitamin C Supplements.
  • To learn about the many vitamins in our diet, how much you should be eating, and where to find them, go to our general Vitamins page.
  • Find the best prices on vitamin C supplements. //]]]]> ]]>
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jennifer Brett, N.D. is director of the Acupuncture Institute for the University of Bridgeport, where she also serves on the faculty for the College of Naturopathic Medicine. A recognized leader in her field with an extensive background in treating a wide variety of disorders utilizing nutritional and botanical remedies, Dr. Brett has appeared on WABC TV (NYC) and on Good Morning America to discuss utilizing herbs for health.