You’ll probably be aware of vitamin C’s role in supporting the immune system, as this is what it is commonly used for. It has been found to improve the function of antimicrobial and natural killer cell activities, lymphocyte reproduction, and immune cell movement. Basically, this means that it helps immune cells do their jobs, helps them to multiply, and helps them move around the body to wherever they are required.
However, vitamin C is also vital for the production of collagen. This structural protein is essential for the production and repair of tissues such as skin, bones, blood vessels and cartilage. This means it is important for the health of a number of tissues and systems such as the heart, respiratory system and even the eyes. Additionally, it is also necessary for keeping skin strong and supple.
Vitamin C is also an important antioxidant. As we breathe, molecules called ‘free radicals’ are produced, and these molecules go on to interact with and damage other molecules in the body. This process is worsened by external factors such as pollution, smoking and poor diet. Antioxidants such as vitamin C neutralise these ‘free radicals’ to prevent them from causing damage. It also supports the activity of other antioxidants such as vitamin E.
Vitamin C can be readily found in plenty of foods, especially brightly coloured fruits and vegetables such as citrus fruits, carrots, red peppers and broccoli. However, our bodies can’t store this vitamin C so we really need to make sure we are getting enough every day, since our bodies don’t have a supply to fall back on. We’ve all had those days (or weeks!) where a healthy diet just goes out the window, so a vitamin C supplement is great for ensuring you have enough vitamin C regardless of fluctuations in diet.
Taking a supplement is also particularly important if you are a smoker, because smoking causes vitamin C to be broken down and excreted much more quickly than normal. In fact, about 25mg of vitamin C is lost per cigarette, meaning that smokers, on average, have about 40% less vitamin C than non-smokers.
There are so many kinds available these days – chewables, effervescent tablets, powders and regular tablets – so it’s easy to fit them into your day!