Some urge us to take them on a daily basis to help boost our immune system and protect against cancer and heart disease. Whereas the last part is true, there is, to date, no scientific evidence that we need to supplement ourselves with these two vitamins if we are eating right. As a matter of fact, excessive amounts of vitamins, especially E, can be dangerous to our health; even fatal! So, what is true and what is not?
How important are these vitamins and what exactly is their role? To answer these questions, I will give you a brief outline of both and talk to you a bit about each. What is a vitamin? A vitamin is an organic compound required as a nutrient in small amounts by the human body. There are many types of vitamins and are generally divided into water soluble and fat soluble. (Dissolve in water or in oil). Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin, vitamin E is an oil soluble vitamin. I mention this fact because fat soluble vitamins (A,D,E, and K) are extremely dangerous, toxic and possibly fatal if taken in large amounts. Water soluble vitamins are less toxic and dangerous. Vitamins’ roles in our bodies are different and varied. One vitamin cannot compensate for another usually. Each is specific in its role. Over the next part of this article, I will be talking about these roles and those differences.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that is necessary for normal growth and development. Being water soluble means the body cannot store it. The body cannot produce vitamin C either. Leftover amounts of the vitamin leave the body through the urine. That means we need to continuously consume vitamin C in our diets or else we will become deficient.
The main role of vitamin C is to aid in growth and repair of tissue in our bodies. It is necessary to form collagen, an important protein used to make skin, scar tissue, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels. Vitamin C is essential for the healing of wounds, and for the repair and maintenance of cartilage, bones, and teeth. As I mentioned earlier, it is also one of the antioxidants. Antioxidants are extremely important for our health. When the body transforms food into energy, certain by products, called free radicals, are produced. Free radicals are toxic compounds that will destroy living tissue and cause disease. Antioxidants are nutrients that block some of the damage caused by free radicals. The buildup of these by-products over time is largely responsible for the aging process and can contribute to the development of various health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and a host of inflammatory conditions like arthritis. Antioxidants also help reduce the damage to the body caused by toxic chemicals and pollutants such as cigarette smoke.
All fruits and vegetables contain some amount of vitamin C. Foods that tend to be the highest sources of vitamin C include green peppers, citrus fruits and juices, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli, turnip greens and other leafy greens, sweet and white potatoes, and cantaloupe. Other excellent sources include papaya, mango, watermelon, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, winter squash, red peppers, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, and pineapples.
Now, I have spoken about the toxicity of vitamin C if taken in large amounts. It is rare to get it because of the body’s abilities to remove it from our system. In certain cases (excessive intake, kidney failure, others), vitamin C would accumulate which may lead to stomach upset and diarrhea. It is the opposite that we are worried about. Too little vitamin C is unfortunately common in the world. When that happens, a whole host of problems arise, including but not limited to:
•Dry and splitting hair
- Gingivitis (inflammation of the gums)
- Bleeding gums
- Rough, dry, scaly skin
- Decreased wound-healing rate
- Easy bruising
- Weakened tooth enamel
- Swollen and painful joints
- Decreased ability to fight infection
- Possible weight gain because of slowed metabolism , Elevated insulin levels and diabetes;
When we eat a balanced diet, we ensure we are getting all the vitamin C we need.
The Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine recommends the following amounts of vitamin C:
Infants and Children
- 0-6 months: 40 milligrams/day (mg/day)
- 7-12 months: 50 mg/day
- 1-3 years: 15 mg/day
- 4-8 years: 25 mg/day
- 9-13 years: 45 mg/day
- Girls 14-18 years: 65 mg/day
- Boys 14-18 years: 75 mg/day
- Men age 19 and older: 90 mg/day
- Women age 19 year and older: 75 mg/day
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and those who smoke need higher amounts. Each food product you buy would have the amount it contains of that vitamin. Check the food labels when you buy a food product. The internet would provide you with an exhaustive list of how much of the vitamin there is in our foods.
Also known as tocopherol. Vitmian E’s main role is to act as an antioxidant. The difference here is that the body stores vitamin E because it is soluble in oil. That means too much of it would stay in our system and become possibly toxic and lethal. Vitamin E is also important in the formation of red blood cells and helps the body to use vitamin K. There is a lot of misleading information about vitamin E in the literature. Some claim it helps against cancer, heart disease and recommend taking it as a supplement on a daily basis. The reality is:We do not know yet. The ability of vitamin E to prevent cancer, heart disease, dementia, liver disease, and stroke are still questionable. At lower levels, vitamin E may help protect the heart. Again, a balanced diet is the best way to get your vitamin E. Taking 400 IU per day, or higher, may increase the risk of death. Also, vitamin E has been shown to thin our blood and make us more prone to bleeding. Vitamin E can be found in a variety of vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables and fortified cereals.
Specific recommendations for each vitamin depend on age, gender, and other factors (such as pregnancy). The Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine report the following dietary reference intakes for vitamin E:
- 0 to 6 months: 4 mg/day
- 7 to 12 months: 5 mg/day
- 1 to 3 years: 6 mg/day
- 4 to 8 years: 7 mg/day
- 9 to 13 years: 11 mg/day
- 14 and older: 15 mg/day
Women who are producing breast milk (lactating) may need slighly higher amounts. Check with your doctor. min E is also important in the formation of red blood cells and helps the body to use vitamin K. There is a lot of misleading information about vitamin E in the literature. Some claim it helps against cancer, heart disease and recommend taking it as a supplement on a daily basis. The reality is:We do not know yet. The ability of vitamin E to prevent cancer, heart disease, dementia, liver disease, and stroke are still questionable. At lower levels, vitamin E may help protect the heart. Again, a balanced diet is the best way to get your vitamin E. Taking 400 IU per day, or higher, may increase the risk of death. Also, vitamin E has been shown to thin our blood and make us more prone to bleeding. Vitamin E can be found in a variety of vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables and fortified cereals.