Are the Vitamin C Benefits Overrated?
In the early centuries before and after the discovery of America, the most feared disease of seafarers who sailed and / or crossed the ocean for a long time was “scurvy”. Its symptoms were weakness, gingival recession and tooth loss, hair loss, bleeding on the skin, depression and mental state disorders, joint and muscle pain, anemia, malnutrition and deterioration of internal organs in the later stages. It took several centuries for humanity to understand that scurvy is caused by a deficiency of vitamin C, a substance found only in fresh fruits and vegetables. Vitamin C is a very important substance and severe deficiency can be fatal
What is vitamin C and what does it do?
C-vit is in the group of water-soluble vitamins. Its most important task is to ensure the production of collagen in the body and to mediate the production of substances that make up the walls of the vessels. Collagen is a substance that has vital functions in the body. Wound healing, joints and good functioning of the vessels completely depend on the production of collagen. Vitamin C also plays a role in the good functioning of the immune system.
Supplying the body’s need for vitamin C
Vitamin C cannot be produced or stored in the body. It must be taken regularly with food. It is heat sensitive. Therefore, it should be taken from fresh fruits and vegetables. Vitamin C deficiency is a rare condition in today’s conditions. However, C-vit deficiency is relatively common in severely debilitated patients who cannot be fed adequately orally. Vitamin C is found in fresh citrus fruits (grapefruit, tangerines, oranges, lemons, etc.), fresh fruits (kiwi, melon, strawberries, etc.), fresh vegetables (parsley, green and red pepper, arugula, cress, cauliflower, red cabbage, broccoli, etc.). The daily amount taken in by people fed is sufficient to meet the need. In people who cannot be fed, it is given orally or intravenously as a medicine
Normal level of vitamin C
If the level of vitamin C in the blood is 0.6 mg/dL, there is no deficiency. Levels above this do not cause any side effects, but it is not possible to reach very high levels with normal nutrition. Although the problems that occur in vitamin C deficiency are well known, studies on its protective effect give conflicting results. It is not known exactly if the vitamin C given in addition to people with normal blood vitamin C levels really strengthens the immune system or reduces the incidence of diseases such as flu.
Conditions where high-dose vitamin C is considered beneficial
After pharmaceutical companies produced vitamin C that can be taken orally, studies on whether there is any benefit from vitamin C taken above normal have also gained momentum. Initially, it was thought to be effective in many diseases with its antioxidant effect, but later research has also shown that vitamin C has a pro-oxidant effect in some conditions. Serious research has focused on 4 main topics:
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Age-related macular degeneration in the eyes
Cancer prevention and treatment
Studies showing that high vitamin C intake reduces the risk of cancer initially gave positive results. However, more careful studies in recent times show that taking a high dose of vitamin C does not cause a certain change in cancer risk. In the 1970s, it was reported that the lifespan and quality of life of cancer patients increased with vitamin C treatment. However, later studies on this subject did not show any particular benefit. It has been shown that the blood vitamin C level cannot rise above a certain amount with oral tablets. However, blood levels can be brought to very high levels with high-dose vitamin C given intravenously, but there are not enough studies with cancer treatment by intravenous administration of C-Vit.
Many studies show that people who consume large amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables have less cardiovascular disease. But whether this has anything to do with vitamin C has not been proven. According to the most recent research, vitamin C pills have not shown any significant benefit in preventing or treating heart disease.
Age-related macular degeneration and cataracts
Macular degeneration and cataracts are the two most important causes of vision loss in the elderly. Research by initially giving high doses of vitamin C has shown some good results. However, comparative scientific studies conducted today have shown that vitamin C pills have no proven benefit in the prevention and treatment of these diseases.
In the 1970s, it was widely believed that vitamin C pills prevented the flu and contributed to its treatment. Today, studies have shown that the use of high-dose vitamin C in ordinary people does not have a significant effect in the prevention or treatment of influenza. However, the use of C-vit between 250 mg and 1 g per day reduces the possibility of getting the disease in those who have low blood C-vit levels, the elderly, those who are exposed to severe cold or those who work hard. On the other hand, it has been shown that vitamin C used after the onset of the disease does not contribute to recovery.
The effect of vitamin C therapy in severe patients
In a study conducted in the USA, and published in October 2018, it was investigated how the additional C-vit treatment affected the course of the disease in patients hospitalized in the intensive care unit and diagnosed with vitamin C deficiency in the blood. Contrary to what was thought, it was observed that although C-vit treatment slightly improved some symptoms, it did not prolong the survival of the patients.
Risks of high vitamin C levels
With normal nutrition, it is not possible to increase the level of vitamin C in the blood above a certain level. However, high levels can be reached when given externally as a drug. Side effects of vitamin C are usually on the gastrointestinal tract. It can cause nausea, abdominal pain and cramps. It is also said to increase the formation of kidney stones, but it has not been fully proven. It is known that adults can take up to 2000 mg of vitamin C per day, but higher doses may have harmful effects. At the beginning of these risks are the possibility of acting as a pro-oxidant and causing cancer by making changes on DNA and chromosomes.
Plastic surgery and vitamin C
It was once routine practice to give C-vit to all antibiotic-receiving patients, all serum-administered patients, and all surgical patients. However, it has now been proven to be of no use. For C-vit treatment, the C-vit level in the person’s blood should be measured and if the amount is below 0.6 mg/dL, it should be treated. In addition, it has not been proven that increasing the blood C-vit level above normal will have a positive effect in healthy people, and it is necessary to use high-dose drugs constantly to achieve this. Prof. Dr. Ege Ozgentas does not prescribe vitamin C before or after any plastic surgery or aesthetic surgery and does not believe in its benefits.