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How Does Vitamin C Work as an Antioxidant?

No doubt you’re already aware that Vitamin C is a health powerhouse that can build your immunity. It’s common knowledge that Vitamin C can lessen your chances of getting sick and that it has numerous other health benefits.

The reason Vitamin C has such potent advantages for your well-being is because it’s an antioxidant. These are molecules in the body that fight dangerous free radicals. They derive from processes in the body as well as from pollution, chemicals, ozone, and other threatening outside sources (1).

 

What is Vitamin C?

Vitamin C is also called ascorbic acid, and it’s a compound which is required in the bodies of human beings, plants, and animals. However, as we are not able to synthesize it we have to acquire it either from food or from a supplement. 

Vitamin C is a key micronutrient in the body, as it plays an important role in the growth and repair of body tissue and the metabolism of protein. It also heals wounds and helps to build certain neurotransmitters (2). 

From a health standpoint, there’s scientific evidence indicating that supplementing with Vitamin C can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, prevent iron deficiency, lower high blood pressure, and help with weight loss.

 

How Does Vitamin C Work as an Antioxidant?

Antioxidants kill the free radicals that build up in your system, and this lessens your chances of becoming ill. For healthy physiological functioning in the body, you require a balance of antioxidants and free radicals. 

The way free radicals function, when too many of them build up you develop oxidative stress. This can have a harmful effect on your system and increase your risk of developing an illness. Antioxidants reduce oxidative stress (3).

 

Antioxidant Functions of Vitamin C

The potency of Vitamin C as an antioxidant leads to a number of different benefits for physical and psychological health.

 

1. Increases Your Overall Immunity

Antioxidants help to increase your overall immunity and protect you against infection. They do this by supporting certain cellular functions, reducing tissue damage, and lowering the potential risk that comes from environmental stressors.

In addition, they lessen the build-up of inflammation in your body, which decreases your chances of developing an infection. Chronic inflammation build-up can also cause illness.

Although the research shows that Vitamin C can only shorten a cold by a small percentage, other studies indicate that it can have a positive impact on lung infections. According to a review in Nutrients, Vitamin C can both prevent and treat respiratory infections, although it requires high levels.

A review published in the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease cited 3 controlled studies where the participants had an 80% reduction in the incidence of pneumonia due to taking Vitamin C regularly.

 

2. Lowers Your Chance of Developing Chronic Illness

Most chronic illness is caused by a buildup of too much oxidative stress in the system. The antioxidants in Vitamin C lower this oxidative stress, thus decreasing your chance of developing certain conditions.

There are population studies which have indicated that people who take in a higher amount of Vitamin C through diet and supplements are less likely to develop chronic diseases like heart disease, eye disease, and neurodegenerative conditions (4). However, this may be due to a generally healthier diet. 

An article published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition examined the evidence supporting the link between antioxidants and preventing chronic disease. There is research indicating that Vitamin C lowers the risk of developing heart disease (5), obesity, (6) and anaemia (7). In addition, it can lower blood pressure (8).

 

3. Improves Cognitive Performance

Research indicates that an increase in oxidative stress can lead to a decline in cognitive functioning. Antioxidants decrease stress and can improve cognitive performance.  

According to Nutrition Reviews, there’s evidence to indicate that people with a lack of antioxidants experience a decrease in memory ability.

The antioxidants in Vitamin C support cognitive function with their ability to form and mature neurons and to build the myelin sheath which protects them. This speeds up the transmission of nerve impulses, which is crucial to proper mental processing (9).

 

4. Improves Your Mood and Can Fight Depression

The antioxidants in Vitamin C are linked to improved mood in the research. Some studies indicate that people who are deficient in Vitamin C may be tired and depressed (10). 

There are also studies which show that supplementing with Vitamin C if someone is deficient leads to increased mood. (10). A study published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry found that antioxidant supplementation can help lessen the impact of stress-related disorders like anxiety.

 

5. Maintains Cartilage, Bones, Joints, and Teeth

Antioxidants such as the ones in Vitamin C are essential to the maintenance of cartilage, bones, joints, and teeth. When they kill free radicals in your system and lower oxidative stress, they repair damage to these areas of the body and protect from future harm.

Antioxidants are often used to treat arthritic joint conditions, which also impact the bones and cartilage. An article published in Nutrition Journal reviewed the benefits of antioxidants for knee arthritis. 

More specifically, a study published in Medical Archives found that Vitamin C helped reduce the symptoms of an arthritic knee.

 

Why Should You Supplement With Vitamin C?

Supplementing on a regular basis with Vitamin C is good advice. We’re not saying that it will solve all of your problems or heal your disease, but it’s a powerful antioxidant that can give you a lot of health benefits.

The main reason you should take Vitamin C is the fact that it enhances your overall immune functioning, and there’s no time like the present to strengthen your immunity. This means you’re less likely to pick up germs and become ill. 

Because your immune system is strong with Vitamin C, you’re unlikely to get some of the bugs and viruses running around this winter that could only add to the existing health concerns that you have.

Vitamin C can also help keep your mind sharp, and that’s important when you’re working at home and you have to be self-motivated and on top of your work.

The mood-enhancing benefits of Vitamin C are really important in winter, especially a winter where we may all be stuck at home a lot of the time. It’s important to use the resources at your disposal to support your mental health.

 

The Bottom Line

Vitamin C is a potent nutrient based mostly on its antioxidant properties. Its benefits stem from the ability to kill harmful free radicals and reduce oxidative stress in the body.

This can lead to health benefits like protection from heart disease, improving cognition, repairing the joints, cartilage, bones, and teeth, improving mood, and increasing overall immunity.

Supplementing with Vitamin C is important, especially if you don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. This is an essential nutrient which can help keep you healthy.

The dose of Vitamin C that is ideal for you depends on your age and health. It may vary based on the medications you are taking. This is something you should discuss with your doctor before you begin supplementing.

 

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3249911/#:~:text=Free%20radicals%20and%20other%20ROS,air%20pollutants%2C%20and%20industrial%20chemicals.
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3249911/#:~:text=Free%20radicals%20and%20other%20ROS,air%20pollutants%2C%20and%20industrial%20chemical
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3249911/#:~:text=Free%20radicals%20and%20other%20ROS,air%20pollutants%2C%20and%20industrial%20chemical
  4. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1046/j.1523-5408.2002.00005.x#:~:text=Population%20studies%20show%20that%20individuals,eye%20diseases%2C%20and%20neurodegenerative%20conditions.
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5622714/
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25866299/
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10799377/
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10799377/
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5622720/
  10. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/benefits-vitamin-c/faq-20058271