This is Linus Pauling talking about Vitamin C. The video is 5 minutes long, but he is very funny, getting some good jokes in. Much of the video concerns the RDA – recommended daily allowance – for Vitamin C. As with most RDAs, this is based on preventing death. This is very different to being in the prime of health. Dr Pauling points out that the RDA for monkeys is 70 times more than that recommended for humans, which is worth thinking about, given our close genetic base. As we are going to see, optimal Vitamin C levels are a vital part of maintaining good health and beauty – by preventing wrinkles, we also prevent many other diseases and disorders. So why is Vitamin C so important in preventing wrinkles? Because humans can’t synthesize collagen without it. And collagen is a major building block of skin. There are 2 other vital nutrients that are dependant on Vitamin C in order to be uptaken by the body, and they are carnitine and tyrosine. Carnitine, as covered in the blog, is vital for transporting fats into the energy cells of the body to produce energy- and burn body fat. Tyrosine is the amino acid precursor to dopamine, the neurotransmitter of wanting to get up and get on with life. So low Vit C levels lead to wrinkly skin, getting fat and a lack of drive.
This blog is going to focus on Vitamin C and collagen. I’ll also cover RDA and what to look for in a Vitamin C supplement to avoid diarrhoea. A future blog will look at Vitamin C and its antioxidant actions, which are just as important for maintaining excellent health.
Collagen is present throughout our body in various forms, here is a small sample: the skin, tendons, ligaments, cornea, bones, blood vessels, gut, spinal discs, cartilage, and in the heart, forming the 4 valves that separate the 4 chambers of the heart. It is also in the connective tissue that surrounds each bundle of muscle fibres. So from this list can be seen why it is important to have good levels of Vitamin C in the body.
All the simians, including humans, guinea pigs and bats, have lost the ability to make Vitamin C in the body and we have to take it in everyday. As Dr Pauling points out, this is less of a problem in the tropics where we originated from and where there are abundant fruits and vegetables all year round. But since we have limited access to truly fresh fruits and veggies, especially in the winter and early spring, then having less than optimal Vitamin C daily is common. Linus Pauling says we all suffer from sub-clinical scurvy. Full blown scurvy’s symptoms are deterioration in the gums with bleeding and eventual loss of teeth, discolouration of the skin, and wounds that do not heal. Given the importance of Vitamin C in making collagen from the various amino acids (the component parts of proteins) in the diet, we can see how this can develop. And anybody suffering from any of the above complaints, which will range from bleeding gums and poor gum health, through weak heart valves, disc degeneration, gut problems as well as getting wrinkles would be wise to supplement with a high quality Vitamin C on a daily basis.
What makes a high quality supplement? Well, it will be buffered. Taking a Vitamin C supplement that contains principally ascorbic acid, the chemical name for Vit C, whether as a pill or in a fizzy drink form, in the dose that Dr Pauling recommends, 18 g a day, may cause diarrhoea. Of course we are meant to take our Vitamin C in from our diet, so it will come with proteins, minerals and other vitamins all of which work together to help optimal uptake. But Vit C is very easily degraded by storage and cooking, as are many vitamins. So, as I have said, it is very difficult to get enough vitamin C from our diet alone. Thus a high quality Vit C supplement will contain such ingredients as niacin, magnesium ascorbate, potassium, Lysine and glutathione.
RDAs are always a talking point. The Vitamin D blog went into the terrifyingly low levels of this vitamin recommended in the UK. Dr Pauling says that in general animals make 2 – 20 g per day per 70g body weight, and the levels go up in times of stress. In the UK the daily recommended allowance is 40mg. The World Health Organisation recommends 45mg, Canada recommends 90mg and the US 60 – 95mg.1 Make of this what you will. It is also worth pointing out that Vit C is water soluble, so any excess is simply peed away. This is what doctors are fond of calling expensive urine.
So a good dose of Vitamin C everyday will strengthen skin, bones, joints, eyes, heart, help us lose weight and give us the backbone to leap out of bed and grapple with each exciting day. We either need to find a good source of supplementation or move back to the tropics to get enough to achieve these things.
- Source of the RDAs: wikipedia page on Vitamin C. [↩]