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C Your Way to Good Health

posted on 28 October 2010 | posted in Health Tips

Vitamin C is the most written about and most supplemented vitamin, so its value tends to get taken for granted or even inadvertently downgraded, for familiarity may unfortunately breed contempt. However as we shall see vitamin C is an immensely important nutrient, and its popularity is richly deserved.

Aids Collagen Synthesis

The best known role of vitamin C is in the formation of collagen. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, and is the 'glue" that gives integrity to connective tissue, muscles, tendons, cartilage, skin, blood vessels, bone and teeth. The devastating symptoms of scurvy, which results from gross vitamin C deficiency, include multiple haemorrhages, joint disintegration, loosening of teeth and muscle pain and are mostly due to impaired collagen synthesis.

One molecule of collagen contains about 1000 amino acid molecules are bonded together with another amino acid, hydroxylysine. The enzymes that produce hydroxyproline and hydroxylysine (prolylhydroxylase and lysylhydroxylase respectively) are vitamin C-dependent which helps explain vitamin C's pivotal role in collagen synthesis. In fact it would seem that all hydroxylation reactions in the body (i.e the addition of an OH group to a molecule) require vitamin C.

Helps Hydroxylation

Other important vitamin C-dependent hydroxylation reactions involve the production of dopa from tyrosine, noradrenaline from dopamine, serotonin from tryptophan, carnitine from lysine, prostaglandin E1 from DGLA, and bile acids from cholesterol.

Without vitamin C these conversions cannot occur, so it is little wonder that vitamin C deficiency is associated with a multitude of symptoms as diverse as anxiety, an inadequate response to stress, high blood fats, fatigue, heart failure, high blood pressure, thrombosis, arthritis, susceptibility to infections, pre-menstrual tension and depression!

Improves Iron and Folic Acid Status

Folic acid must be converted to folinic acid to be active, and this metabolic activation, which occurs in the liver, is enhanced by vitamin C. Iron uptake from the gut and its utilization within the body is also dependent on vitamin C, so vitamin C deficiency impairs the status of these two important nutrients.

Boosts Immunity

Another major action of vitamin C is to enhance immunity. It does this in several ways, including the boosting either of the levels or activity of interferons (antiviral proteins), B-lymphocytes (which produce antibodies), T-lymphocytes (which attack invading organisms directly), or complement (an enzymic system that attacks bacteria and viruses). Enhanced T-lymphocyte function probably results at least partially from vitamin C's action in raising prostaglandin E1 levels.

Powerful Antioxidant

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant nutrient, which means that it can protect us against toxins produced in the body called free radicals. These are implicated in the causation of cataracts, arthritis, atherosclerosis, premature aging, cancer and several other pathological states.

Other mechanisms whereby vitamin C inhibits cancer formation include its immune boosting effects, a direct toxic action on cancer cells, the detoxification of carcinogens such as benzpyrene, and the prevention of nitrosamine formation from nitrites. Certainly in the test system that we employ, vitamin C appears to be an excellent anti-tumour agent, on a par with selenium and the now beleaguered germanium.

It also excels in our tests for antiviral activity, and it is clearly being under-utilized in these two areas. Its antihistamine effect also deserves wider recognition in the treatment of allergies.

Dose Dilemma

Drs Irwin Stone and Linus Pauling have tirelessly led the crusade to make known the therapeutic value of vitamin C in conditions ranging from the common cold to cancer. These researchers have argued cogently that the human requirement of vitamin C is vastly in excess of that provided by modern diets.

The majority of animals produce their vitamin C, and their daily output has been measured. When body weight differences are allowed for, these measurements suggest that a daily intake of about 10g would be optimal for humans. In fact modern diets yield only around 60 mg/day, leading Pauling to comment: 'Most people in the world receive only one or two per cent of the amount of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) that would keep them in the best of health. The resulting hypoascorbaemia may be responsible for many of the illnesses that plague mankind.