The Role of Vitamin C in Overall Health
Vitamin C is a well understood micronutrient, it’s a water soluble vitamin which means it can’t be stored in the body and thus sources should be consumed daily. Consuming adequate intakes is possible through the diet (the recommended intake in the UK is 40mg per day), especially when sufficient amounts of fruits and vegetables are eaten. Vitamin C is often attributed to supporting immune function, however it has multiple roles in supporting overall health including promoting energy, aiding mental wellbeing, and supporting skin health.
The Role of Vitamin C on Skin Health
The skin’s fundamental role is to protect against unwanted pathogens passing into our internal environment. To support this, the skin has two layers; the outer epidermal and the inner dermal layer. The outer dermal layer is the primary protection and the inner dermal layer provides the skin’s strength and elasticity. Vitamin C is essential for collagen synthesis, collagen being the protein which supports elasticity in our skin. Furthermore, Vitamin C’s high antioxidant concentrations contribute to the reduction of oxidative and UV damage.
The Role of Vitamin C on Energy Production
Vitamin C is often not credited for it’s important role in supporting the production of ATP (the body’s primary energy source). Vitamin C is essential is the synthesis of carnitine, the amino acid which transfers long chain fatty acids into the mitochondria. The mitochondria are the key sites for the production of ATP and therefore without Vitamin C and carnitine long chain fatty acids cannot be utilised for energy. Additionally, Vitamin C helps to absorb plant based iron, where low levels of iron can result in fatigue and lethargy.
The Role of Vitamin C on Psychological Wellbeing
Vitamin C concentrations have been associated with mood and cognitive function. One study worth highlighting provided young adults with access to fresh fruit and vegetables for two weeks. The results suggested higher intakes of fruit and vegetables and higher Vitamin C concentrations were associated with increases in mood (however, other components such as polyphenols may also have played a role). Yet another study provided Vitamin C supplements to their experimental group, which concluded that low levels of Vitamin C were associated with a low level of metal vitality.
The Role of Vitamin C on Immune Function
Vitamin C has multiple roles in supporting immunity and is essential in supporting both the innate and the adaptive immune responses. Its role begins with the support of the epithelial barrier in protecting against unwanted pathogens, contributing to the production of white blood cells and sweeping up any reactive oxygen species through its antioxidant capabilities. When the immune system comes under attack, Vitamin C levels are likely to fall due to increased demand. As a result, evidence suggests that Vitamin C supplementation at the onset of a cold may help to reduce the intensity and duration of the symptoms.
As discussed, fruits and vegetables are the richest sources of Vitamin C with Baobab being a particularly rich source. Evidence suggests Baobab can contain on average around 214mg per 100g. However the concentrations can vary and are largely influenced by: rainfall, pulp colour, average temperature and the weight of the whole fruit and pulp.
Evidently, Vitamin C plays a fundamental role in supporting our overall health. Consuming adequate amounts from sources such as fruits (including Baobab) and vegetables can contribute to our general wellbeing, psychological health, immune function and skin.
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