Focus On: Vitamin C

What it is: Vitamin C, a water-soluble vitamin also known as ascorbic acid, cannot be made within the body, yet is essential for growth and cellular maintenance. It functions as an antioxidant and also boosts the body’s vitamin E supply and absorption.

[ Benefits ]

Vitamin C is needed in collagen production. Collagen strengthens blood vessels and connective tissue such as joints, tendons, hair, and skin. While it is known to treat hypertension, low levels of vitamin C are linked with cardiovascular disease, cancer, coronary heart disease, cataracts, and gout. And contrary to popular belief, vitamin C doesn’t relieve symptoms of the common cold, but it does shorten its duration.

[ Linus Pauling’s Research ]

Two-time Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling recommended that everyone, including children, should consume at least 250 mg/d of vitamin C (which is well in excess of the RDA at right), with the maximum level being 2,000 mg/d. Pauling found that, when taken with lysene (an amino acid), high doses of vitamin C promote heart health.

[ Natural Sources ]

Vitamin C is commonly found in citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and limes. Yet surprisingly, papaya, red bell peppers, and steamed broccoli contain more vitamin C than any citrus fruit. Kiwi, cauliflower, and kale are also adequate sources.

[ Warnings ]

High doses of vitamin C (2,000 mg per day) have been linked to diarrhea, bloating, gas, and upset stomach. Long-term high doses can increase the risk of kidney stones and disease, conjunctivitis, diabetes, hypoglycemia, and elevated oxidative stress.