Ascorbic acid is everywhere. It’s in your food, it’s in your pharmacy and you quite possibly might even be taking it as a supplement. That’s because ascorbic acid is better known as vitamin C, one of the most commonly consumed vitamins around. Deficiencies in vitamin C are uncommon in western culture- but back in the day, vitamin C was the primary cause of a disease called scurvy. It caused dried up mucous membranes and fevers. When scientists discovered that fruits with high vitamin C content cured these ill patients, they decided to call it a- (meaning “no”) and scorbutus (scurvy) = ascorbic acid.
That may be how vitamin C got its name but do you know how it got its reputation?
Ascorbic acid is an antioxidant. You’ve probably heard the term antioxidant a hundred times, but it’s important to understand what it really means. Antioxidants are molecules that inhibit the oxidation of other molecules. This is a good thing because oxidation of molecules produce free radicals. Free radicals are the small but fierce molecules that contribute to tissue damage, aging and even cancer.
Your body relies on vitamin C alongside other factors to keep your immunity in check. You may also benefit from vitamin C if you are iron deficient. Vitamin C enhances the absorption of iron, so the next time you have a piece of meat, pair it with a citrus fruit to reap greater benefits.
But what I find truly amazing about vitamin C is the developing research that link this nutrient to heart health in people with obesity. Researchers from the University of Colorado found that people who are obese often have high levels of a protein called endothelin (ET)-1. This protein causes blood vessels to constrict, leading to an increased risk for a heart attack and stroke.
Levels of endothelin (ET)-1 can be reduced by regular mild exercise. The issue that exists is that obese patients find it extremely difficult to increase their exercise in “a meaningful way.” The researchers found that a regular intake of 500mg of vitamin C can also reduce the ET-1 protein the same way as mild exercise. These scientists recommend a supplement for obese patients that get little to no exercise.
The best part? Vitamin C is inexpensive and it comes in many different varieties. It has very little side effects and there aren’t many cases of vitamin C toxicity. So if you have been classified as obese or even overweight, you may benefit from a vitamin C supplement (check with your physician and/or pharmacist before starting any new supplements). Better yet, include vitamin C rich foods in your menus daily such as oranges, strawberries, bell peppers and kale
Your turn to take action! Head to the grocery store and pick up some vitamin C rich foods this week.