In ancient times, Hippocrates said the function of protecting and developing health must rank even above that of restoring it when it is impaired. Today, we realize that heart-healthy nutrition is fundamental to the prevention of heart disease, and the development of certain risk factors for heart disease (such as high blood pressure and diabetes) present additional nutritional considerations.
Healthy eating is essential at every stage of human development and provides the foundation for wellness. Good nutrition – including the vitamins you derive from foods and beverages -- can prevent or treat heart disease, and directly affects your general health, performance and psychological outlook.
Now there is a call from researchers at Oregon State University, Corvallis, Ore., to more than double the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin C to 200mg per day for adults -- a great opportunity for manufacturers. In reviewing various studies, researchers at Oregon State's Linus Pauling Institute found evidence higher levels of vitamin C "could help reduce the chronic diseases that today kill most people in the developed world – heart disease, stroke, cancer and the underlying issues that lead to them, such as high blood pressure, chronic inflammation, poor immune response and atherosclerosis."
The current U.S. RDA of vitamin C, traditionally based on the prevention of the vitamin C deficiency disease scurvy, is 75mg for women and 90mg for men. However, at these levels, up to one-third of people are marginally deficient and 20 percent and severely deficient in this nutrient, including college students, who often have less-than-perfect diets, smokers and older adults.
Scientists at Spectralys Innovation in Paris and the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences at the University of Copenhagen collaborated on the report, and research at OSU on these issues has been supported by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a division of the National Institutes of Health.
Many of vitamin C's attributes are universally accepted. It is an excellent antioxidant, helping rid the body of damaging free radicals, and is known to be important for the absorption of several other vitamins and minerals. It is a key component of collagen, the protein that forms the basic building block of the body needed for connective tissues such as cartilage, ligament, tendon, skin and bone. Collagen is also one of the major components of our blood vessels.
Vitamin C also plays a vital role in the immune system, strengthening our ability to fight off infections. It helps in the absorption of iron and other antioxidants, such as vitamin E, vitamin A and selenium, and decreases absorption of copper. It is involved in countless enzyme pathways and has effects on the production of important chemicals for the control of hormones and brain function.
But it also has become the most controversial of all the mainstream vitamins. As well as being the most supplemented of all the vitamins, vitamin C is also probably the least understood (at least by the medical establishment) and the vitamin most frequently deficient in Western society.
"Rather than just prevent the vitamin C deficiency disease of scurvy, it's appropriate to seek optimum levels that will saturate cells and tissues, pose no risk, and may have significant effects on public health at almost no expense – about a penny a day if taken as a dietary supplement," according to the researchers.
"Significant numbers of people in the U.S. and around the world are deficient in vitamin C, and there's growing evidence that more of this vitamin could help prevent chronic disease," says Balz Frei, OSU professor and director of the Linus Pauling Institute. "The way clinical researchers study micronutrients right now, with the same type of so-called ‘phase three randomized placebo-controlled trials' used to test pharmaceutical drugs, almost ensures they will find no beneficial effect. We need to get past that."