Vitamin C and its importance in the immune system
Published: 21 September, 2020 - Updated: 27 October, 2022 | 3'
Summer is almost over and, although we still have a few warm days left, we are already starting to prepare the way back to the autumn season. Disorders of the throat and nose, among others, are usually the main problem during this season.
It is therefore important to prepare our immune system, which is responsible for protecting our body against external pathogens. It is crucial, therefore, to learn how to protect it by providing it with the necessary nutrients to maintain its good condition.
These nutrients include certain vitamins, which are essential for the functioning of this system, and which we can get through food, and which at certain times can be supplemented in the form of food supplements.
In addition, according to the EFSA, imbalance in vitamin C levels includes weakness and fatigue, very common during seasonal changes.
Immune system and defenses
First of all, we must know how the immune system works. According to the Spanish Society of Immunology, our defences are made up of a complex of cells and soluble factors that work in a coordinated way to maintain the integrity of our body, in other words, the set of factors that intervene in the response of the defences work in the most appropriate way.
This system protects our body from the invasion of viruses, bacteria or fungi, due to various processes, such as cell proliferation, improved protein synthesis and the production of mediators as well as physiological changes.
However, the cells of the immune system are vulnerable to oxidative stress and damage of their capacity to respond to these invasive microorganisms. This is why vitamin C plays an important role in the immune system function, helping to protect cells from oxidative damage.
The role of vitamin C in the immune system
Vitamin C, according to the Spanish Society of Immunology, is one of the essential nutrients that we must take within a proper diet, as it helps definitively to maintain normal defences, which are the key factorswhen it comes to fight infections.
Similarly, and according to the EFSA, vitamin C contributes to a normal function of the immune system.
Elderly people, individuals who are exposed to chemicals, or people practising intense exercise, generally need to take care of their diet and perhaps increase their intake of dietary vitamin C, as these situations sometimes require greater antioxidative capacity for the proper functioning of the defences.
Properties of Vitamin C
In addition to the contribution to the normal function of the immune system, vitamin C acts as an antioxidant and as an essential factor in many enzymatic reactions such as the biosynthesis of collagen in the skin, bones, cartilage and blood vessels. Therefore, it is essential for the proper functioning of a wide variety of cellular processes.
One of the most important role is its role in the functioning of the energy metabolism and in the absorption of iron.
How and when to take vitamin C?
Vitamin C is found naturally in foods, and there are food supplements that contain it and may complement the diet.
Recommended Daily Amount of Vitamin C
According to the EFSA, the minimum recommended amount of vitamin C in adult men is 90 mg per day, while in women it is 80 mg. As the body does not easily store it, it has to be taken through the diet, on a daily basis.
Foods containing vitamin C
The foods that are the richest in this vitamin are citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit as well as kiwi. Red and green pepper and other vegetables and fruits such as broccoli, strawberries, melon and tomatoes also contain this nutrient.
It is very important to have a varied diet to provide the body with the nutrients it needs for a proper functioning.
Food supplements with vitamin C
In addition to the usual diet, it is possible to take this vitamin through food supplements containing vitamin C, which can be available in various formats.
For example, the liposome format ensures the bioavailability of vitamin C in the intestine.
Is it possible to have an excess of vitamin C?
It is unlikely that an excessive intake of vitamin C is harmful. As indicated by the Spanish Food Safety Agency, food supplements should be taken at the recommended daily doses as per product label, and cannot replace a balanced diet that provides all the nutrients.
It is recommended to check with a healthcare professional to learn more about your specific body needs.
- Agencia Española de Seguridad Alimentaria. Complementos alimenticios.
- De la Peña, M. Instituto Europeo de Salud y Bienestar Social. Megadosis de Vitamina C.
- EFSA. Vitamin C related health claims. EFSA Journal 2009; 7(9):1226.
- EFSA. Vitamin C related health claims. EFSA Journal 2010; 8(10):1815.
- EFSA. Scientific Opinion on Dietary Reference Values for vitamin C. EFSA Journal 2013.
- Maggini, S. Immune-Enhancing Role of Vitamin C and Zinc and Effect on Clinical Conditions. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism 50(2):85-94. Feb, 2006.
- Sociedad Española de Inmunología. SISTEMA INMUNITARIO – ESTILO DE VIDA.