The Adhesive Factory
So what exactly makes Vitamin C such a vital nutrient?
That’s a difficult question to answer because the arena of this vitamin’s operations is so vast. But, to give you some idea, first the big picture. Of the various types of proteins in our body, collagen is the main protein in the connective tissue that connects and supports all other bodily tissues. There are more than 20 types of collagen in the body – in skin, bone, tendons, muscles, and cartilage, even teeth and it is the scaffolding that supports the internal organs. More than 30% of the body’s protein and more than 75% of the skin is made up of collagen.
Actually, the Greek root of the word says it all – collagen is derived from the Greek “kolla”, which means glue. In other words, collagen is the adhesive that holds the body together. And without vitamin C, the body cannot make collagen.
Take away that adhesive and the body will literally fall apart and ultimately die – which is exactly what happens in scurvy, and why the disease in its final stages is so devastating. But the flip and reassuring side of that frightening fact is that it takes just a quarter cup of lemon juice a day to completely reverse this life-threatening condition!
Now, to fill in the details. Vitamin C is required for at least three hundred metabolic functions in the human body So, other than helping to make collagen, vitamin C is also needed for
· Growth and repair of all bodily tissues
· Healing of wounds
· Repair and maintenance of cartilage, bones, and teeth
· Functioning of the adrenal glands
But all of this does still not include one other very important function….
Lord Protector of Health
Ever since Dr. Linus Carl Pauling advocated consuming large doses of it to prevent all kinds of diseases, Vitamin C has been in the limelight of medical research and the centre of controversy about what it can and cannot do in terms of preventing and treating disease. Some of the latest studies suggest that though much of what Dr. Pauling recommended might not be borne out by research, Vitamin C is indeed one of the body’s most powerful bastions against ill health.
Its disease fighting abilities works on two fronts. First of all, it shores up the body’s own natural immunity by participating in the production of infection-fighting white blood cells and boosting interferon levels the extent that when a disease attacks, while your body may not able to stave off the attack, it will recover much faster. It also enhances the disease-fighting ability of drugs including those used in the treatment of cancer.
Secondly, vitamin C is a renowned and mighty antioxidant and so, its ability to both fight and reduce the risk of many serious ailments has been borne out by research. So, some of the latest studies suggest that Vitamin C could play an important role in reducing the risk of
1. Cardiovascular disease - Vitamin C has proven to be effective both in reducing the risk of and in the prevention of coronary artery disease. This is because it is effective in lowering blood pressure and may also help reduce the bad cholesterol while increasing the level of the good cholesterol.
2. Many types of cancer including cancers of the breast, stomach, lung, oesophagus, cervix, oral cavity, pancreas and rectum
3. Cataract and other aging related eye diseases like degeneration of the retina.
Thirdly, vitamin C also collaborates with other antioxidant vitamins like vitamin E, A and niacin (vitamin B3) so that their combined synergistic effect is far more than if each of these vitamins were working alone.
Naturally, with such an impressive sweep of capabilities, this vitamin has been the cynosure of all eyes, nutritionists’ and health enthusiasts alike. (It is the most popular nutritional supplement consumed in the world today.) Equally naturally, some of that attention is sceptical and cautionary, warning about the need for further research to corroborate many of the over enthusiastic claims made about what this vitamin can do, especially in the area of treating and preventing serious diseases. But even the most cautious and conservative agree that vitamin C is one of the cornerstones of good health.