Vitamin C: The Powerful Protector
Just when you think you know everything there is to know about Vitamin C – one of the most common micronutrients found in food – a shiny new scientific study comes along that elevates this powerful protector further. In January 2020 the eminent ‘Frontiers in Nutrition’ published an umbrella review of all of the quality evidence that supports the correlation between Vitamin C intake and decreased cancer. Among its many revelations of how Vitamin C can change cancer outcomes was the reporting that:
Vitamin C can decrease the risk of breast cancer by 11% and decrease mortality from breast cancer by 22%, with just 350 mg of Vitamin C intake making the difference.
Impressive, no? Let’s deep dive into the myriad ways that Vitamin C can keep us healthy and happy.
Vitamin C: The Powerful Protector
It seems like second nature to load up on easy peelers at the first sign of a sniffle, but would you believe that Vit C, or ascorbic acid, was only discovered in the 1930s? Before this, nutritional experts had found that citrus fruits could prevent scurvy, a disease that killed around 2 million sailors between 1500-1800, but they couldn’t put their finger on the magic molecule. Fast-forward to 1932 when Albert Szent-Györgyi, a Hungarian biochemist, made the ground-breaking discovery of Vitamin C.
Vitamin C is a superpower vitamin. Well-known for its anti-oxidant properties and being integral to our body’s immune system because it stimulates white blood cell activity, it also helps wounds heal faster and facilitates the absorption of iron.
How Vitamin C reduces the risk of the ‘Big C’
Today, one in two of us will develop cancer, so the urge to find a cure is greater than ever. The anticancer effect of Vit C was first reported in 1959 and double Nobel-prize winning scientist Professor Linus Pauling resurfaced the link between Vit C and the reduction of cancer cell proliferation in the 1970s. However, two randomised placebo-controlled trials in the USA (published here and here) critiqued the link, leaving the momentum around Vit C to stall.
In 2020, the ‘Frontiers in Nutrition’ meta-analysis brought Vit C back into the limelight. They assessed 57 studies and found that intake of ascorbic acid was related to a lower risk of several cancers involving different systems (bladder cancer, breast cancer, cervical neoplasms, endometrial carcinoma, oesophagal cancer, gastric cancer, glioma, lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, and renal cell cancer).
It was generally demonstrated that Vit C could prevent cancers by reducing oxidative DNA damage and protecting normal tissues from the harmful effect of carcinogens. The study included a disclaimer that “although these results showed the anticancer potential of ascorbic acid, studies into the underlying mechanism of this effect are still ongoing”.
The Happy Vitamin
Several studies have demonstrated that Vitamin C supplementation improves mood and can have positive effects on depression. This nutrient can also help you increase your attention span and regain motivation. In 2021, a study was conducted involving participants with inadequate levels of Vitamin C. Half of the people were given a placebo while the other half were given a Vitamin C supplement. The participants who took the supplement recorded an increase in their work motivation and were able to focus on a task requiring sustained attention for longer periods of time.
Get Your Glow On
Vitamin C is also a great natural anti-ageing nutrient! It is in fact one of the most powerful antioxidants for the skin. According to a 2017 review article, this nutrient has been shown to protect our skin against premature ageing caused by prolonged sun exposure. According to the article, this molecule also promotes the production of collagen, a protein that serves as the main building block of our bodies and can be found in our skin, muscles and bones.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, which means it dissolves in water but our body can’t store it well so it must be taken daily through food or supplements. It’s one of the most common micronutrients found in citrus fruits, kiwis, berries, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and green leafy vegetables like Brussel sprouts. However, this vital molecule can be destroyed by heat and light. Quick heating methods or using as little water as possible when cooking, such as stir-frying or par-boiling, can preserve the vitamin. Think before you cook: foods at peak ripeness eaten raw contain the most Vitamin C.
The NHS recommends that adults aged 19-64 need to take 40mg of Vit C a day as a minimum. One of our Leapfrog IMMUNE tablets contains 40 mg of Vit C, and we encourage you to top this up with fruits and veggies. The commonly accepted ideal intake is 200mg per day, as our body can absorb it all. With a kiwi containing almost double the amount of Vit C of an orange (90mg to an orange’s 50mg), you’ll be surprised by how easy it can be to get in your daily Vit C!
Sim, Minju, et al. “Vitamin C supplementation promotes mental vitality in healthy young adults: results from a cross-sectional analysis and a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.” European Journal of Nutrition (2021): 1-13.