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Effect of Vitamin C Supplements on Physical Performance

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.

Braakhuis AJ. Effect of Vitamin C supplements on physical performance. 1. Curr Sports Med Rep. 2012 Jul;11(4):180-4.

Vitamin C is an essential component of the diet and may reduce the adverse effects of exercise-induced reactive oxygen species, including muscle damage, immune dysfunction, and fatigue. However, reactive oxygen species may mediate beneficial training adaptations that Vitamin C attenuates; indeed, from a total of 12 studies, Vitamin C in doses >1 g?d impaired sport performance substantially in four of four studies, possibly by reducing mitochondrial biogenesis, while a further four studies demonstrated impairments that were not statistically significant. Doses of 0.2 g?d of Vitamin C consumed through five or more servings of fruit and vegetables may be sufficient to reduce oxidative stress and provide other health benefits without impairing training adaptations.