How to choose the right Vitamin C supplement?

What is the role of Vitamin C?
Vitamin C, whose real name is ascorbic acid, is an essential nutrient for our body. It acts as an antioxidant, helping to protect our cells from free radical damage. Free radicals are compounds formed when our bodies convert our food into energy. We are also exposed to free radicals in the environment from cigarette smoke, air pollution, or UV rays from the sun.

Vitamin C also produces collagen, a protein that ensures the elasticity and regeneration of all our tissues. Collagen represents more than 30% of our total proteins. It is found mainly in our skin, bones, muscles, and blood vessel walls.

Finally, vitamin C allows better assimilation of iron from plant foods and helps our immune system to function properly.

What are the effects of Vitamin C on the body?
Here are some examples of what research has found:

Studies on the risk of cancer
People with a high dietary intake of vitamin C may have a lower risk of certain types of cancer, such as lung cancer, breast cancer, and colon cancer. However, taking vitamin C supplements does not seem to protect people from cancer.

Cardiovascular diseases
People who eat a lot of fruits and vegetables seem to have a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease. This can be explained by the anti-oxidants present in this diet, and oxidative stress is a major cause of cardiovascular problems.

AMD and Cataracts
Research suggests that vitamin C combined with other nutrients may slow the progression of vision loss in the elderly. A large study of AMD patients showed that those taking a vitamin C supplement and other nutrients (zinc, beta-carotene, zinc, and copper) over the long term had less vision loss.

What is the daily requirement for vitamin C?
Vitamin C depends on age, gender, and certain risk situations. Here are the recommended daily intakes:
– children aged 4 to 13 years: 25 to 45 mg
– teenagers 14 to 18 years old: 65 to 75 mg
– adults: between 75 (women) and 90 mg (men)
– pregnant women: 85 mg
– nursing mothers: 120 mg

Where can we find vitamin C in our diet?

Fruits, yes, but which ones?
As soon as we think of vitamin C, we think of citrus fruits! Indeed, lemons, oranges, and grapefruits contain vitamin C, even if they do not contain the most! The fruit that wins the medal is the Kakadu plum, which grows in Australia and contains more than 3000 mg of vitamin C per 100 g (against 30 to 60 mg/100 g for our sweet citrus fruits). It is followed by Camu-Camu, a fruit similar to guava (about 2500 mg/100 g), then acerola, with 1700 mg of vitamin C per 100 g.
Rich in vitamin C, we also find guava, goji berries, blackcurrant, kiwi, lychee, and red fruits.

Vegetables
They, too, contain vitamin C and sometimes more than some fruits! This is the case with peppers (120 to 180 mg/100g raw and 80 mg/100g when cooked), Brussels sprouts, red or white cabbage, spinach (about as much as citrus fruits), broccoli, and cherry tomatoes.

Aromatic herbs
They are often forgotten, yet fresh parsley, for example, contains an average of 100 mg of vitamin C per 100g. You can use and abuse it in all your dishes.

How to choose a supplement rich in vitamin C?
Vitamin C helps reduce fatigue and helps the immune system function normally, which is put to the test in winter. This is why we sometimes recommend vitamin C supplementation, although food remains its best source.

In what context?
– Prevention: supplementation is not essential, but it is useful in repeated exposure to the cold outdoors (e.g., sports activities) or in the event of significant human contact.
– In the treatment of a cold: vitamin C does not seem to be able to protect against colds but can reduce their duration and severity.
– For certain populations on an ad hoc basis: older adolescents or young adults, intense sports activities, fractures, regular alcohol consumption.
– In the case of a nondiversified diet.
– For people suffering from malabsorption or kidney disease, under medical supervision.

What types of food supplements should I choose?
Most multivitamins contain vitamin C. However, the dosage is rarely sufficient for an optimal effect. Vitamin C is also available on its own, under various rather barbaric names: sodium ascorbate (ascorbic acid), calcium ascorbate, and other mineral ascorbates, and sometimes associated with bioflavonoids, which help to reinforce the action of vitamin C. These forms have equivalent effectiveness.

Natural or Synthetic?
– True natural vitamin C is a vitamin C from fruits. It is extracted from biological sources of vitamin C, such as acerola, rose hips, or Camu Camu.
It is more complex to produce and, therefore, more expensive. It is better tolerated than synthetic vitamin C, especially for people suffering from acidity and digestive problems.

– Synthetic vitamin C is the natural form of vitamin C, L-ascorbic acid. It comes from the fermentation of cereals. Even if we prefer a formula based on natural vitamin C, which is better absorbed, vitamin C of this origin is just as beneficial.

What dosage of Vitamin C should I take?
If you want a preventive treatment this winter, you should take a vitamin C dosage of 500 mg daily. In case of a cold, you can increase it to 1 g daily to be on your feet more quickly.

Beware of the trap! The doses on certain boxes of vitamin C from fruit generally indicate a dosage in fruit and not in vitamin C. For an acerola-based dietary supplement, for example, “1000” indicates that the supplement contains 1000 mg of acerola, corresponding to 170 mg of vitamin C (i.e., 188% of the Dietary Reference Intakes for a man).

Are there any risks in taking Vitamin C supplements?
Like any nutrient, excessive intake is not good: too much vitamin C (more than 2 g per day for an adult) can cause diarrhea, nausea, and stomach cramps. In people with hemochromatosis, high doses worsen iron overload.

Vitamin C supplements may interact with anti-cancer treatments. The role of vitamin C in cancer has not been established, and supplementation with vitamin C or anti-oxidants should be done after medical advice.

Other studies suggest that taking vitamin C in combination with other antioxidants (selenium and beta-carotene) may reduce the heart-protective effects of certain anti-cholesterol drugs, to be confirmed.

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