Vitamin C has a number of functions that help to keep us healthy, strong and illness free.
What is Vitamin C?
Vitamin C is also known as ascorbic acid. It is essential for the growth and repair of all tissues, and helps to produce the protein collagen. Collagen is used to make skin, cartilage, tendons and ligaments, and therefore vital in maintaining healthy joints and connective tissue. Vitamin C is also essential to bone health, for a healthy thyroid gland, and to help the body cope with stress. Vitamin C aids iron absorption and is a potent water-soluble antioxidant.
- Kiwi fruit
The Benefits of Vitamin C
- Protects cells and assists in wound healing.
- Maintains healthy joints and connective tissue.
- Supports the immune system.
- Important for optimal post-exercise recovery.
- Supports the body during times of stress and illness.
When to supplement
Vitamin C is perhaps best known for its role in helping to prevent and cure colds, and as an all-round immunity booster. However, when it comes to the general population its status as a cure for the common cold has been put under scrutiny. The Cochrane Review in 2004 looked at 29 studies (with 11,000+ participants) and concluded that regular use of vitamin C had no effect on common cold incidence in the general population. However, when the body is put under significant stress, for example when we exercise, research has found that it can help alleviate the symptoms of a cold. Trials looking at the effects of vitamin C have shown that it can halve the incidence and duration of the common cold amongst sporty individuals. Other research has shown that vitamin C plays a role in conditions such as exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (also known as exercise induced asthma). A 2014 round up of research from the University of Helsinki cited in Science Daily found that Vitamin C halved post-exercise FEV1 decline (i.e. the amount of air you can blow out within one second) in participants who suffered from exercise-induced bronchoconstriction.
Vitamin C also has a role to play in the helping the body absorb iron, particularly non-haem (vegetarian sources) of iron. Sports people (especially women) often need significantly more iron compared to the general population, and may therefore need more vitamin C, too. “For one part of iron to be properly absorbed five parts of vitamin C are required. That puts the vitamin C requirement for a sportswoman at 205mg daily, and for the sportsman at 180mg”, suggested running coach Frank Horwill in an article for the Serpentine Running Club in London.