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.
Kang SW, Hahn S, Kim JK, Yang SM, Park BJ, Chul Lee S. Oligomerized lychee fruit extract (OLFE) and a mixture of Vitamin C and Vitamin E for endurance capacity in a double blind randomized controlled trial. 1. J Clin Biochem Nutr. 2012 Mar;50(2):106-13. Epub 2011 Oct 18.
Antioxidant supplementations are commonly used as an ergogenic aid for physical exercise despite its limited evidence. The study aimed to investigate the effects of a polyphenol mixture and vitamins on exercise endurance capacity. Seventy regularly exercising male participants were randomly assigned to receive oligomerized lychee fruit extract, a mixture of Vitamin C (800?mg) and E (320?IU), or a placebo for 30 consecutive days. The study results showed that oligomerized lychee fruit extract significantly elevated the submaximal running time (p?=?0.01). The adjusted mean change was 3.87?min (95% CI: 1.29, 6.46) for oligomerized lychee fruit extract, 1.33 (-1.23, 3.89) for the vitamins, and 1.60 (-1.36, 4.56) for the placebo (p?=?0.33 in between groups). Oligomerized lychee fruit extract significantly increased the anaerobic threshold by 7.4% (1.8, 13.0). On the other hand, vitamins significantly attenuated VO(2)max by -3.11?ml/kg/m (-5.35, -0.87). Their effects on plasma free radical amount, however, were similar. Our results suggest that a polyphenol-containing supplement and typical antioxidants may have different mechanisms of action and that the endurance-promoting effect of oligomerized lychee fruit extract may not directly come from the scavenging of free radicals but may be attributed to other non-antioxidant properties of polyphenols, which requires further investigation.