There are still many misconceptions about the micronutrient star. So much so that we do not always take advantage of it at its true value…
Vitamin C is popular. It is enough that we evoke its name or its concentration in food to see an anti-fatigue, anti-infection, and antioxidant effect. The panacea? It is still necessary to know if these attributes are all proven and at what doses. Unfortunately, it is not enough to drink orange juice every morning to fill it up! What you need to know to fully benefit from its virtues…
It is above all an “anti-cold”
FALSE. Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, actually participates in our immunity by optimizing the action of white blood cells. And it is known that its deficiency is accompanied by a decrease in resistance to infections. But this vitamin has many other properties. “Its crucial function is to stimulate the synthesis of collagen, which constitutes the bulk of the tissues of our body – skin, teeth, cartilage, blood vessel walls, tendons, muscles, mucous membranes – and to ensure their resistance,” describes Dr. Dominique Rueff, author of Vitamin C (Youth). Let us also mention its major antioxidant power (prevention of cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers …), but also antianemic (helps in the absorption of iron) and antihistamine (fight against allergies).
It is found exclusively in food
TRUE. The body is unable to synthesize this vitamin. Its main food sources are vegetables. Among the champions are rosehip berries, blackcurrant, kiwi, citrus, red pepper, cruciferous … To a lesser extent, vitamin C is also found in green vegetables, potatoes, apples, pears, peaches, and grapes. The liver and kidneys also show interesting concentrations.
Menus rich in plants ensure our daily intake
FALSE. “This is far from being the case. First, because vitamin C is particularly fragile: air (oxygen), light, high temperatures, and pasteurization destroy it. For example, at room temperature, cabbage loses 1.5% of its vitamin C per hour and after three days, there is almost no left,” says Dr. Rueff.
In general, today’s fruits and vegetables (grown above ground, artificially ripened…) are much less nutrient-intensive than fifty years ago. When buying, it is, therefore, better to favor short circuits, then we store the food as little as possible. And they are eaten raw or cooked gently (steamed, papillote …). If the products come from your garden, try to eat them right after picking.
Only athletes have increased needs
FALSE. The regular practice of a sport “consumes” vitamin C. “But the loss of ascorbic acid is also important in a polluted environment, in case of stress, smoking, heavy periods, and also when taking an oral contraceptive or certain drugs (antiepileptic, anti-inflammatory …), says Dr. Rueff. Adolescents, pregnant women, convalescent people also have increasing needs.
A deficiency can be fatal
TRUE. A severe and prolonged deficiency (a few weeks) of vitamin C leads to scurvy, a disease that manifests itself in hemorrhages, loosening of the teeth …, and can be fatal. The long-distance crews suffered for a long time: the sailors of the navigator Jacques Cartier, after months spent on their ship without fruits or vegetables, arrived on the Amerindian coasts with scurvy… that the Indians have treated with decoctions of coniferous leaves containing vitamin C! Eradicated in the 30s, this disease reappears in precarious populations, especially in the United States.
It gives a good boost
TRUE AND FALSE. Contrary to what is often believed, vitamin C is neither a tonic nor an exciter in the literal sense. But, thanks to this precious micronutrient, we stay in shape and we gain in the capacity of defenses against diseases. Indeed, it helps fight against fatigue thanks to better use of iron that avoids anemia. In addition, its antioxidant action ensures a stronger resistance of the body. Essential for the synthesis of neuromodulators of the brain and nervous system, it is also energizing on the nervous and muscular levels. A real Swiss Army knife!
The recommended intakes are underestimated
TRUE. The recommended daily intake is 110 mg per day for an adult, which corresponds, for example, to two kiwis or two oranges, without taking into account the phenomenon of loss. “They have been calculated to be able to preserve scurvy, but they are insufficient to effectively prevent infections and to ensure an antioxidant effect in a context of pollution, stress, etc. Hence the interest of supplementing all year round, “says Dr. Rueff, a fervent activist of preventive and natural medicine. It even goes so far as to advise an intake of up to 750 mg per day (in three intakes) depending on the state of health and lifestyle of individuals. A smoker living in the city will need higher doses than a healthy person living in the countryside. “In any case, it is better to take long-acting tablets that gradually break down in the body so that you can have the most constant effect possible,” he explains.
The vitamin of natural origin, called acerola, is preferable to that of synthesis
FALSE. Acerola is an excellent source of unprocessed vitamin C, but, on the other side of the coin, it is very fragile in nature, “while synthetic vitamins ensure guaranteed levels,” notes Dr. Rueff. Also note: the natural vitamin is generally more expensive than its chemical counterpart.
At high doses, there is a risk of toxicity
FALSE. “Absolutely not, since vitamin C, water-soluble, is regularly eliminated through the urine. It does not accumulate in the body. It can nevertheless cause a laxative effect, which disappears if the dosage is reduced, “says Dr. Rueff. The only contraindication to its supplementation is the existence of kidney stones, which are composed of oxalic acid and are formed from ascorbic acid.
It prevents sleep
FALSE. Not only does vitamin C not prevent sleep, but it has been shown in hamsters to promote in the brain the emission of theta waves, which correspond to a state of deep relaxation. Its anti-sleep effects were believed due to the formulation of the first tablets, effervescent and rich in glucose, which can be exciting. Opting for a sugar-free vitamin removes this disadvantage.
The friend of our blood cells
Some of our white blood cells, macrophages, and active lymphocytes have a real intracellular reserve of vitamin C that they use to fight infections. This vitamin also helps polynuclear cells, other defense cells of the body, to perform their phagocytosis function, that is, to encompass and digest microorganisms. Red blood cells also need vitamin C, because, in order to grow, they use iron, which it ensures assimilation.