Vitamin C is water-soluble, and probably the most famous of all the vitamins. Even before its discovery in 1932, physicians recognised that there must be a compound in citrus fruits preventing scurvy, a disease that killed as many as 2 million sailors between 1500 and 1800. Later researchers discovered that man, other primates and the guinea pig depend on external sources to cover their Vitamin C requirements. Most other animals are able to synthesise Vitamin C from glucose and galactose in their body. The most prominent role of Vitamin C is its immune stimulating effect, which is important for the defence against infections such as common colds. It also acts as an inhibitor of histamine, a compound that is released during allergic reactions. As a powerful antioxidant it can neutralise harmful free radicals and aids in neutralising pollutants and toxins. Thus it is able to prevent the formation of potentially carcinogenic nitrosamines in the stomach (due to consumption of nitrite-containing foods, such as smoked meat). Importantly, Vitamin C is also able to regenerate other antioxidants such as Vitamin E. Vitamin C is required for the synthesis of collagen, the intercellular 'cement' substance which gives structure to muscles, vascular tissues, bones, tendons and ligaments. Due to these functions Vitamin C, especially in combination with zinc, is important for the healing of wounds. Vitamin C contributes to the health of teeth and gums, preventing haemorrhaging and bleeding. It also improves the absorption of iron from the diet, and is needed for the metabolism of bile acids, which may have implications for blood cholesterol levels and gallstones. In addition, Vitamin C plays an important role in the synthesis of several important peptide hormones and neurotransmitters and carnitine. Finally, Vitamin C is also a crucial factor in the eye's ability to deal with oxidative stress, and can delay the progression of advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and vision-loss in combination with other antioxidant vitamins and zinc.
Maggini S, Beveridge S, Suter M. A combination of high-dose Vitamin C plus zinc for the common cold. 1. J Int Med Res. 2012;40(1):28-42.
Vitamin C and zinc play important roles in nutrition, immune defence and maintenance of health. Intake of both is often inadequate, even in affluent populations. The common cold continues to place a great burden on society in terms of suffering and economic loss. After an overview of the literature on the effects of the separate administration of either Vitamin C or zinc against the common cold, this article presents data from two preliminary, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trials, conducted with a combination of 1000 mg Vitamin C plus 10 mg zinc in patients with the common cold. In both studies, a nonsignificant reduction of rhinorrhoea duration (range 9-27%) was seen. In pooled analyses of both studies (n=94), Vitamin C plus zinc was significantly more efficient than placebo at reducing rhinorrhoea over 5 days of treatment. Furthermore, symptom relief was quicker and the product was well tolerated. In view of the burden associated with the common cold, supplementation with vitamin C plus zinc may represent an efficacious measure, with a good safety profile, against this infectious viral disease.