This crucial vitamin helps our skin to heal and protects the cells within our bodies.
You may have heard of scurvy, a scourge common in pirates, when they would spend days and months at sea and have limited access to fresh and varied foods. Scurvy is a lack of vitamin C. In patients suffering from scurvy, brown spots may appear on the skin and in more severe cases there may be open wounds, bleeding gums, loss of mobility and even death.
The good news for us, unlike our pirate ancestors, is that scurvy is relatively rare these days largely thanks to the abundance of sources of vitamin C. Good sources include citrus fruits such as oranges and orange juice, peppers, brussel sprouts, broccoli and strawberries.
It is estimated that an adult needs around 40mg a day of vitamin C. It is possible to have too much vitamin C though, and too much can give us stomach upsets such as stomach pain and diarrhoea.
Patients often ask us if taking vitamin C supplements will protect them from common illnesses and infections, particularly from colds, but there is no evidence to support this.
There have been a number of studies in the last few years looking to the benefits of vitamin C and cancer prevention. Whilst there is no clear evidence to support this, there have been some suggestions of a weak correlation between vitamin C and reduced risk of lung cancer and possibly bowel cancer. However for every study that demonstrates a benefit, there appears to be another that demonstrates no benefit of vitamin C.
For the vast majority of people, a balanced healthy diet will enable you to get enough vitamin C.