Vitamin C

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is essential for the maintenance of the ground substance that binds cells together and for the formation and maintenance of collagen. The exact biochemical role it plays in these functions is not known, but it may be related to its ability to act as an oxidation-reduction system.

Vitamin C is found in fresh fruit and vegetables. It is very water soluble, is readily destroyed by heat, especially in an alkaline medium, and is rapidly oxidized in air. Fruit and vegetables that have been stored in air, cut or bruised, washed, or cooked may have lost much of their vitamin C content.

The deficiency disease associated with a lack of ascorbic acid is called scurvy. Early symptoms include malaise and follicular hyperkeratosis. Capillary fragility results in hemorrhages, particularly of the gums. Abnormal bone and tooth development can occur in growing children. The body's requirement for vitamin C increases during periods of stress, such as pregnancy and lactation.

Megavitamin intake of vitamin C may result in diarrhea due to intestinal irritation. Since ascorbic acid is partially metabolized and excreted as oxalate, renal ox-alate stones may form in some patients.

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