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Will Vitamin C Boost the Immune System?

By Ruben J. Nazario

Vitamin C plays a part in the health maintenance of many tissues, and it is an integral component for the production of collagen, a protein involved in the healing of wounds, blood vessels and the skin. Along with its role in skin health and beauty, many scientific studies suggest that vitamin C can boost your immune system, but it is not a definitive fact.

How Much Vitamin C

Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is water-soluble. This means that the body does not store it, so you need a daily supply of this vitamin to avoid deficiencies. According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, the ideal daily dose of vitamin C ranges from 40 micrograms in babies to between 75 and 90 micrograms for adults. Breast-feeding mothers and smokers need a higher daily dose.

Sources of Vitamin C

Fruits and vegetables are natural sources of ascorbic acid. In particular, citrus fruits like lemons, oranges and grapefruits; berries, like blueberries and strawberries; and tomatoes are good sources of vitamin C. Other natural sources of vitamin C include potatoes, green peppers, broccoli, turnip greens and other leafy vegetables. Fortified breakfast cereals and dairy products are also good sources of vitamin C.

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Immune System Effects

According to the Linus Pauling Institute, the effect of vitamin C on the immune system remains controversial. Vitamin C has been proposed as a cure and prevention for the common cold and other respiratory infections. Although vitamin C may play a role in the prevention of pneumonia, for example, more studies are needed to confirm this benefit. Research on the positive effects of vitamin C on diabetes, asthma and heart disease has not been conclusive. According to Harvard Medical School, many studies looking into vitamin C’s effect on the immune system have not conclusively answered the question of its effectiveness.

Vitamin C Deficiency

If you don’t get enough vitamin C, you can develop signs of scurvy. According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, this condition causes inflammation and bleeding of the gums, weakness, easy bruising and poor wound healing. Other symptoms include joint pain, anemia and loose teeth. The treatment of scurvy includes increasing the consumption of vitamin C-rich foods or taking oral supplements. The symptoms of scurvy usually disappear within a week or two of taking adequate doses of vitamin C. Never add supplements to your daily routine without consulting a physician first.

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