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Benefits of Taking Vitamins C & E

By Matthew Fox, MD

Vitamins are nutrients that are needed in small amounts in order for good health. They need to be supplied in the diet because they cannot be synthesized by the body. Vitamins are roughly classified into those water-soluble and those that are fat-soluble. Vitamin C is in the former category and vitamin E in the latter. There are benefits derived from vitamin C and E intake, however, excessive amounts of vitamins can be detrimental to health. It is important to consult with a health care professional regarding diet and health care decisions.

Vitamin C Functions

Vitamin C helps the body carry out a number of chemical reactions, according to "Robbins and Cotran Pathologic Basis of Disease" by Dr. Vinay Kumar. It helps to synthesize collagen, which is a connective tissue that helps give strength and flexibility to organs such as the skin. It is also an antioxidant, meaning it protects the tissues from damaging molecules called oxidants.

Vitamin C in Health

One benefit of taking vitamin C is to prevent the disease scurvy. Scurvy is characterized by easy bruising and bleeding, weakness and low blood counts, and can cause death. The disease is caused by vitamin C deficiency, and treated with vitamin C administration. Claims regarding the use of vitamin C to treat the common cold have largely been unverified, according an article titled "Vitamin C for Preventing and Treating the Common Cold" in the Cochrane Reviews in 2007.

Vitamin E Functions

Vitamin E is an important antioxidant. When the components of the cells of the body are attacked by oxidant chemicals, this sets off a chain reaction of further damage that is propagated throughout the cell. Vitamin E stops the chain reaction. Vitamin E may have other roles in the body, but these have not yet been well defined. According to the National Institutes of Health, vitamin E may also help the immune system and blood vessel functioning.

Vitamin E in Health

The National Institutes of Health notes that studies of vitamin E are limited and difficult to verify. However, vitamin E, when taken in the proper dosage, may prevent or delay disease in the blood vessels of the heart, called coronary artery disease, that can lead to heart attacks. It also may protect against cancer and certain eye diseases. Macular degeneration, a disorder in which tissues at the back of the eye responsible for vision fail to work properly, may be lower in those individuals with higher vitamin E intake, and the same may be true for cataracts, a condition in which the lens of the eye does not transmit light to the back of the eye. Finally, studies of the role of vitamin E in cognitive decline with aging have had mixed results, with most concluding it to not be helpful, and that more research is warranted.

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