Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is probably one of the most highly publicized, yet least understood, of all of the vitamins. Championed by Nobel laureate Linus Pauling, Ph.D., and advocated by many nutritionists, vitamin C is a fascinating and important nutrient (or micronutrient) necessary for human life.
The word vitamin is derived from the combination of words: vital amine. Vitamins are organic (carbon containing) molecules that mainly function as catalysts for reactions within the body. A catalyst is a substance that allows a chemical reaction to occur using less energy and less time than it would take under normal conditions. If these catalysts are missing, as in a vitamin deficiency, normal body functions can break down and make a person susceptible to disease.
Vitamins are required by the body in tiny amounts (hundredths of a gram in many cases). Our own bodys vitamin K comes from bacteria within our intestines and vitamin D is produced with the help of ultraviolet radiation on the skin.
Vitamins are either fat soluble or water soluble. The fat soluble vitamins can be remembered mnemonically ADEK, for the vitamins A, D, E, and K. These vitamins accumulate within the fat stores of the body and within the liver.
Fat soluble vitamins are often associated with toxicity when taken in large amounts.
Water soluble vitamins include vitamin C and the B vitamins. Water soluble vitamins taken in excess are excreted in the urine and are not usually associated with toxicity.
Both vitamin C and the B vitamins are also stored in the liver. Vitamin C is important to all animals, including humans, because it is vital to the production of collagen. Vitamin C is also important because it helps protect the fat soluble vitamins A and E as well as fatty acids from oxidation. Vitamin C prevents and cures the disease scurvy, and can be beneficial in the treatment of iron deficiency anaemia.
Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits such as oranges, limes, and grapefruit, plus vegetables including tomatoes, green pepper, potatoes and many others. Vitamin C is easily damaged during the food preparation stage, such as during chopping, exposure to air, boiling and being submerged in water. The amount of Vitamin C is high enough in most foods that the quantity remaing after processing is usually sufficient for a daily supply.