For years vitamin C has been promoted as a cure-all for everything from cancer to the common cold. We are encouraged to get plenty in our diets, or supplement it if our diet isn't too good.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant which serves several vital functions - it is needed for the formation of collagen to hold cells together, and for healthy teeth, gums and blood vessels. It also improves iron absorption and boosts our resistance to infection.
There is also good evidence showing that Vitamin C can help to combat a range of diseases including:
- Preventing kidney conditions
- Lowering blood pressure
- Reducing risk of viral infections
- Reducing the risk of cancers
- Reducing the risk of death from cardiovascular disease
All of these would suggest a positive role for this supplement in our diet. However, a recent study from the University of Southern California found that those taking this supplement had accelerated thickening of the walls of the major arteries in their necks.
In fact, those taking 500 milligrams daily for at least a year had a 2 1/2 times greater rate of thickening than did those who avoided supplements.
However, this needs to be put in perspective. The recommended daily allowance in the both the USA and UK is 60 mg per day - these people were taking over eight times that amount daily (500 milligrams).
Taking huge daily doses of anything, whether it be drugs, sugar, or indeed supplements, can have potentially harmful effects. A far better strategy is to aim to get all your nutritional needs from fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains, fish and meat.
Good sources of this essential nutrient include:
- Green and red peppers
- Collard greens
- Brussel sprouts
- Citrus fruits