March 5, 2011

034 Functions of Vitamin C [19 Oct 2009]

I am often asked what this or that vitamin or mineral is “good for”. Or alternatively – what vitamin, mineral or other supplement is “good for” this or that condition. This shows allopathic thinking or what my nutritional science instructor disparagingly called a “this for that mentality”. (He was disparaging not of the public but of other nutritionists who should know better).

A more accurate way to think of nutrients is to ask about their physiological functions in the body. In other words, instead of asking about a nutrient “What is it good for?” we should ask “What does it do?”

As an example, let’s look at the functions of Vitamin C in our bodies. Vitamin C:
·        is a powerful water-soluble anti-oxidant that protects other anti-oxidants
·        aids in systematic detoxification by oxidizing free radicals
·        acts as a coenzyme to activate a number of hydroxylating and oxidation-reduction enzymes
·        facilitates the uptake of iron and may play a role in zinc uptake
·        maintains copper and iron in their reduced state so they can function as enzymes
·        is critical for proper adrenal cortical function (where neurotransmitters are produced that help us handle stress)
·        involved in the synthesis of 5-HTP from tryptophan (an inhibitory neurotransmitter)
·        is involved in the synthesis of norepinephrine (an excitatory neurotransmitter)
·        stimulates phagocytosis by white blood cells (one way that C enhances our immune systems)
·        involved in melanin synthesis (skin pigment that allows us to tan)
·        is involved in mitochondrial cellular respiration (the cell organelles where energy is produced)
·        aids conversion of the amino acid proline to hydroxyproline necessary in the formation of collagen
·        is involved in mucopolysaccharide synthesis, important in the formation of intercellular substance (part of wound healing)
·        is critical to the formation of bone matrix (for strong healthy bones)

This covers about half of the functions listed in my nutritional science notes. Now do you begin to see why it is an oversimplification to say that Vitamin C prevents colds or even prevents scurvy? Nutrients play dozens of essential roles in our body; they were not developed to treat just one or two symptoms.

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

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