What Does Vitamin C Do? Benefits of Vitamin C for Diabetes

by Cindy

Benefits of Vitamin C for Diabetes

lemons... |explore|
Creative Commons License photo credit: xavi talleda
Vitamin C is an important nutrient that is well-known for its powerful anti-oxidant properties.  Many people are aware that vitamin C is a popular supplement that has been used by numerous people to keep healthy but it can also be used in other chronic health conditions. 

So what does vitamin C do? Vitamin C is used as an anti-oxidant.  An anti-oxidant is a substance that captures unstable oxygen molecules that can disrupt metabolic processes and have been known to cause cancer. 

Diabetes is a chronic health condition that is associated with the disruption of the normal processing of sugars within the body.  It is associated with the production of unstable oxygen molecules called free radicals.  These free radicals place stress on the body and can contribute to diabetic complications. It is for this reason that many patients are interested in taking addition supplements of anti-oxidants, such as vitamin C.

What is Vitamin C?

Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin that is also known as ascorbic acid. It is a vitamin that must be obtained through the diet because humans cannot make their own vitamin C.  Most people are aware of common vitamin C foods and make them a part of a well balanced, healthy diet.

Sources of vitamin C include:

  • Fruits such as oranges, limes and lemons
  • Red Peppers
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Broccoli

Why is Vitamin C Important: Vitamin C Deficiency Symptoms

So what does vitamin C do for the body? Vitamin C plays a role in many different processes within the body including the formation of bone, blood vessels and connective tissues.  It is also used in nerves and anti-oxidation reactions.  Vitamin C deficiency occurs when people do not get the recommended daily amount of this important water soluble vitamin.  The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin C is:

  • Adult Males: 90 mg/day
  • Adult Females: 75 mg/day 

When people do not obtain the recommended daily amount of vitamin C they can develop vitamin C deficiency symptoms of scurvy.  Symptoms of vitamin C deficiency include:

  • Easy bruising and bleeding
  • Hair Loss
  • Dental Disease
  • Joint Pains and Swelling

Diabetes and Vitamin C Benefits

Studies have shown that many patients with diabetes also have low vitamin C levels.  Some studies have demonstrated that diabetic patients with poorer a1c blood test results have lower vitamin C levels.  A few isolated studies have demonstrated that high doses of vitamin C supplements can improve blood sugar levels and reduce cholesterol. 

Scientists have theorized that low vitamin C levels in diabetic patients can result in a “latent scurvy.”  Vitamin C deficiency symptoms include abnormal cholesterol levels and vascular disease with plaque formation and hemorrhages.  These symptoms are very similar to many diabetic complications such as retinal disease and diabetic kidney damage.  It is hypothesized that high blood sugar levels decreases the amount of vitamin C that is absorbed by the body, resulting in vitamin C deficiency symptoms that scientists termed latent scurvy.  Interestingly, two separate studies documented that these symptoms could be reversed when patients and laboratory animals were given vitamin c supplements.

It remains unclear how exactly high blood sugar levels and vitamin C deficiency symptoms are related.  More research is necessary to better understand this relationship and how best to treat these symptoms.  In addition, more research is needed to understand how vitamin C relates to other common health problems that affect diabetic patients, such as heart disease and stroke.

Research has indicated that vitamin C may also help reduce the risk of other health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer and cataracts. Patients with diabetes are at particularly high risk for heart disease and stroke.  A large study found that diabetic women who were taking vitamin C supplementation were found to have a lower incidence of heart disease and stroke.  However, another study suggested the opposite.  At this time, there is not enough evidence to suggest that vitamin C can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke in diabetic patients. 

How Much Vitamin C Should I Take?

At this time there is no conclusive evidence that vitamin C helps improve blood sugar levels, lower hemoglobin a1c or that it prevents diabetes.  More research is needed to determine if there truly is a relationship between diabetes and vitamin C deficiency and to determine the proper way to treat that problem.  All individuals should aim to get the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C in their diet.  Some organizations due support the use of 400 mg of vitamin C per day to be taken as a supplement for the suspected health benefits of this vitamin. It is important for all patients to consult their physician before starting a vitamin C supplement because this vitamin can aggravate certain health conditions and may interfere with medications.  In addition, high dose vitamin C may cause vitamin C overdose or toxicity because studies have not been done to determine the effects of high doses of vitamin C. 

As of now, it is unclear of the exact answer to the question of what does vitamin C do for diabetic patients.  Research does suggest that vitamin C may help to improve glucose levels, reduce cholesterol, decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke and possible prevent other chronic health conditions.  Until more research is done, diabetic patients should aim to get their daily requirements of vitamin C through a healthy, well-balanced diet.  For those thinking about using a supplement for additional vitamin C, it is best to consult a physician or endocrinologist first because there are no official recommendations for the use of this vitamin to prevent or treat any of the above conditions.

Previous post:

Next post: