In the past few years, the whole world has been put on hold with travelling bans and restrictions, strict Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in various premises, ever-changing complicated quarantine regulations, etc. Many people have fallen ill and sick due to the Covid-19 pandemic. At the same time, many were anxiously fearing the risks of becoming the next victim of the Covid-19 infection. This is the period of time where many were struck with the realisation that a virus so tiny and unseeable to the eye has such a huge impact on human lives. Tiredness, fever, coughing, breathing difficulty, sore throat, loss of tastes are the more common symptoms of the Covid-19 infection, whereas the less common ones include body aches, headaches and many more. With so many symptoms coming into play, it is undeniable that SARS-CoV-2 has the fierce ability to hijack our cells and weaken or destroy our immunity.
At the mention of immunity, many may conjure up the idea of Vitamin C benefiting our health. Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a micronutrient and an essential vitamin that our body requires to carry out certain physiological and biochemical processes. Apart from being an immunity modulator, Vitamin C can also help with collagen synthesis as it acts as a significant cofactor for the enzymatic reactions to take place, thus promoting better wound healing and exerting possible anti-aging effects. Vitamin C is an antioxidant which is useful in reducing oxidative stress by neutralising free radicals that cause harm to the body cells and tissues, thus reducing inflammation as well.
On the side note, it is important to bear in mind that Vitamin C does not prevent and cure diseases, it only serves to improve immune functions. For instance, Vitamin C has no effects in the common cold incidence but is able to reduce cold symptoms as well as its duration. A study has reported that an average supplementation of 1 to 2 g of vitamin C per day has shown to significantly reduce common cold durations in adults (8%) and children (14%).
Vitamin C is not produced by our body. Therefore, it can only be obtained from our diets, such as from fruits and vegetables as they are natural sources of Vitamin C. However, when the fruits and vegetables are stored for a long period of time or are cooked, the ascorbic acid may deplete as they are water-soluble in nature and are sensitive to high heat. Thus, they are usually eaten in their raw forms. Apart from our diets, Vitamin C supplements serve as an alternative to achieve the required daily ascorbic acid intake but it is extremely important to understand that supplements can never be the substitute of a hearty and healthy diet.
Recommended Vitamin C Intake for Malaysians
Recommended Nutrient Intake (RNI) (mg/day)
0 to 5 months
6 to 11 months
1 to 6 years old
7 to 9 years old
10 to 18 years old
(Source: MyHEALTH Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia)
While we understand the role of Vitamin C in modulating our immune functions, it is also important to know how the intake of Vitamin C affects its absorption. When taken in dosages more than 1000mg at any one time, the absorption ability of Vitamin C in the body may reduce to less than 50%. Since Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, an excessive amount of Vitamin C which remains to be unabsorbed usually dissolves in water and is excreted out through urination. At the end of the day, balance is key. Vitamin C may turn from a beneficial antioxidant into a disadvantageous pro-oxidant when they are taken in high doses. At high ascorbate concentration (millimolar), Vitamin C is able to catalyse the free transition metal ions reduction, leading to oxygen radicals being formed which may cause damage to cells. Aside from that, high doses of Vitamin C may also be a contributor to kidney stones development as they potentially increase urinary oxalate. When there is too much waste in the liquid of urine, crystals will begin to form and adhere to one another, creating kidney stones. For instance, calcium can combine with oxalate to form calcium oxalate stones.
Many individuals are often stuck in a dilemma of which Vitamin C supplements to purchase. However, understanding the significance of intake requirements and absorption of Vitamin C can help with making a better decision. Due to its water-soluble nature, excessive Vitamin C dissolves in water instead of being absorbed into the body. Vitamin C supplements, either in capsules, tablets, etc. usually come in compositions of 500mg to 1000mg or even higher than that. The high Vitamin C doses are integrated as they aim to allow the body to at least absorb some portions of it before being excreted in urine. With the existence of this problem, technology nowadays has allowed ingredients to be made with the ability to enhance the absorption of Vitamin C through the cell membranes.
One of the emerging ingredients in the Vitamin C industry is PureWay-C®, where it is blended in fatty acids, allowing more efficient absorption as it is more easily recognized by cells. It has been proven to not cause any adverse side effects to the stomach such as abdominal pain, diarrhoea, heartburn, etc., and it also has a 233% higher retention rate which allows the Vitamin C to be absorbed more efficiently.