L-ascorbic acid is more commonly known as vitamin C. This vitamin has long been heralded as one of nature's miracles, doing everything from boosting the immune system and preventing the common cold to preventing certain cancers. What are the facts about this wonder nutrient?
L-Ascorbic Acid vs. D Ascorbic Acid
Typically you will find vitamin C called one of two things: L-ascorbic acid and D ascorbic acid. L-ascorbic acid is the form of vitamin C derived from natural sources. It is the most commonly available form of the vitamin, and can be found in natural food sources like oranges, sweet peppers and cantaloupe. You can also find find L-ascorbic acid in supplements purchased at the health food store. D ascorbic acid is the synthetic form of vitamin C. This type of vitamin C is synthesized in the laboratory and isn't present in natural food sources.
Benefits of Ascorbic Acid
L-ascorbic acid has a wide variety of benefits, and eating foods rich in vitamin C or supplementing with ascorbic acid supplements may help you to be healthier.
Cure for the Common Cold
Its most commonly touted benefit is that it can cure the common cold. While this isn't entirely accurate, L-ascorbic acid has been shown to lessen cold symptoms and diminish the amount of time you are sick with a cold. This happens because ascorbic acid is a natural histamine. This property of vitamin C actually makes it effective for reducing allergy symptoms, as well.
Vitamin C has powerful antioxidant properties. Antioxidants reduce oxidative stress from free radicals in the body, and a diet rich in antioxidants can help build your immune system, prevent disease and even slow some of the signs of aging. Antioxidants may also help to improve blood lipid profiles and prevent heart disease.
Many people get cataracts as they age. Cataracts are a whitening and hardening of the lens of the eye that can lead to blindness. Adequate intake of L-ascorbic acid can prevent cataracts.
Regulates Blood Sugar Levels
Vitamin C has been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels. This is especially important in the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes, a condition caused by unregulated blood sugar leading to insulin release, which then leads to a breakdown in the mechanism of insulin release. Type 2 diabetes is associated with obesity, heart disease and increased rates of mortality.
How the Body Uses Ascorbic Acid
Vitamin C isn't stored in the body. It is a water soluble vitamin used by the body as it is available through food sources and supplementation. Any excess vitamin C is quickly excreted in the urine, making toxicity and overdose relatively unheard of. Because it isn't stored in the body, you need a regular supply of vitamin C, gained by eating healthy foods rich in vitamin C and by taking ascorbic acid supplements. The recommended daily allowance of ascorbic acid is about 90 mg per day. The best way to ensure you get enough vitamin C is to eat a variety of foods rich in this nutrient.
Foods Rich in Vitamin C
The most commonly known vitamin C rich food is oranges; however, vitamin C is present in a large number of fruits and vegetables. Food sources for vitamin C include:
- Sweet red, yellow and orange peppers
- Citrus fruits like lemon and grapefruit
Signs of Ascorbic Acid Deficiency
It is possible to be deficient in vitamin C. In the past, when fruits and vegetables containing vitamin C weren't available, people used to get scurvy, a disease characterized by the formation of spots on the mucous membranes of the body. While scurvy is extremely uncommon now, there are other signs and symptoms of vitamin C deficiency. They include:
- Poor or slow wound healing
- Bruising or bleeding easily
- Tooth loss and hair loss
- Frequent illness and infection
- Poor immune function
- Joint pain and swelling
Many of these signs and symptoms have to do with the important role ascorbic acid plays in collagen formation, the substance responsible for tissue repair and structure.
Vitamin C is an essential vitamin necessary for a number of bodily processes. By eating foods rich in ascorbic acid and supplementing when necessary, you can go a long way towards leading a healthy life.