Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, was officially discovered in 1932. However as early as the seventeenth century, sailors knew that something in citrus fruits and certain vegetables could prevent scurvy.
Today, scurvy – a deficiency in ascorbic acid that causes bleeding gums, tooth loss, and skin sores – is almost nonexistent, but vitamin C remains as important as ever. In addition, even though scientist and Nobel winner Linus Pauling’s recommendation (that megadoses of vitamin C could prevent colds and some chronic diseases) hasn’t panned out, vitamin C remains a household favorite, especially in wintertime.
Foods rich in vitamin C, besides ascorbic acid-laden citrus fruits like oranges, lemons and limes, include green peppers, broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, leafy greens, canned and fresh tomatoes, and most fruits, especially small fruits (i.e., cranberries, raspberries, blueberries and strawberries).
Without such a water-soluble vitamin that the body does not store, we would develop more than just bleeding gums and cracked skin. We would be prone to high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes as well. Unfortunately, vitamin C is reduced by most methods of cooking because it either leaches into the water or “oxgenates” above 70 degrees. This is why fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C should be carefully wrapped in plastic and stored until used.
Doctors recommend taking ascorbic acid – as food or supplements – two to three times a day. The average daily requirement for men is 90 milligrams (mg), and for women, 75 mg. Children under 18 should take half that amount.
Adequate levels of vitamin C, and ascorbic acid, provide antioxidant protection against allergies, some viral-related illnesses, skin injuries like sunburn, and failing eyesight. It is especially valuable to smokers, as smoking can rob the body of almost one-third of its daily, recommended supply of vitamin C.
Because ascorbic acid is water soluble, it is almost impossible to overdose. In fact, some nutritionists have recommended up to 1,000 mg. of vitamin C daily in special circumstances. However, cancer patients, kidney patients, individuals with Thalassemia or Hemochromatosis, and children should always see a doctor before taking supplements of ascorbic acid, as they may do more harm than good.