While vitamin C is one of many antioxidants, it is a nutrient that is important to many biochemical reactions in the body and is essential for overall health and is considered to have an anti-aging effect. It is an essential antioxidant which scavenges for those free radicals produced by the body’s metabolic activity and environmental attacks to reduce oxidative stress. It is crucial for cardiovascular health, supports the immune system, and nerve cell function.
Vitamin C is one of the water soluble vitamins. This means that it is not stored in the body as reserves for future use. Because it is not stored, it needs to be ingested on a regular basis. Water soluble also means that any excess vitamin C is excreted into the urine.
Vitamin C and Cataracts
While cataracts are a part of the aging process, and cannot be completely prevented, Vitamin C has been studied as a nutrient effective in delaying and reducing the progression of cataract formation. It is thought to reduce the oxidative stress within the lens, which is created by the absorption of UV light radiation. Studies indicate that the level of vitamin C within the lens decreases with age. This decrease is hypothesized to contribute to age-related cataract formation.
Vitamin C and the Retina
Vitamin C supports nerve health of the brain and the eye (which is an extension of the brain.) Studies have shown that nerve tissues concentrate vitamin C which is an essential part of nerve functioning and reduction of oxidative stress within the nerve tissue. It is thought that this nutrient is essential for both brain and eye nerve health. The implication is that Vitamin c may help protect the retinal cells of those with age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy.
Dietary Sources of Vitamin C
Vitamin C is also known as ascorbic acid. It is most often associated with citrus fruits and tangy orange chewable vitamin supplements. Vitamin C is not only found in citrus fruits (that is oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruits), but other fruits such as mangos, kiwis, papaya, melon, and berries, such as strawberries. Vitamin C can also be found in vegetables, such as yellow bell peppers, broccoli, and tomatoes.
Daily recommended dosages are between 75 – 2000 mg/day (Mayo Clinic). This wide range is dependent on age, health status, and diet. In the previously discussed AREDS study, which evaluated the effect of vitamin supplementation on the progression of macular degeneration, the dosage of vitamin C in the study was 500 mg/day.
Those who need to supplement their diet with Vitamin C are:
- Smokers and alcoholics
- older adults:
- those with poor circulation
- those with digestive disease
- those with liver disease
- those with a nutritionally deficient diet