Barbara Burke

Good For You

By Barbara Burke

Wednesday, September 8, 1999

Load up on vitamin C
to ward off ills

THE next time you feel hungry, reach for something high in vitamin C. While research shows it won't prevent the common cold, vitamin C has many other health benefits.

According to the editors of "Environmental Nutrition," consuming adequate vitamin C can help prevent such diverse disorders as cancer, heart disease, gallbladder disease, and cataracts.

Diets high in vitamin C are linked with a reduced risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, and pancreas. High doses of vitamin C appears to inhibit H. pylori, the bacterium that causes most ulcers and may be associated with an increased risk of stomach cancer. Vitamin C may also help prevent cancer by neutralizing free radicals and by blocking the formation of cancer-causing compounds called nitrosamines.

There is evidence that vitamin C may help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Antioxidants, including vitamin C, may help prevent the "bad" cholesterol (also called low-density lipoproteins) from becoming oxidized. This, in turn, helps keep the arteries healthy.

Vitamin C helps increase the conversion of cholesterol to bile, thus reducing the risk of developing gallstones. In a University of California study, women with the highest levels of vitamin C developed only half as many gallstones as those with moderate levels.

A number of studies have shown that regular long-term use of vitamin C supplements can greatly reduce the risk of cataracts. It is not yet known how much vitamin C is needed. About 150 to 200 mg seems to be enough to saturate eye tissues.

The current recommended dietary allowance for vitamin C is 60 mg for adults (100 mg for smokers). But based on new data, Dr. Mark Levine and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health are recommending the RDA be revised to 100 to 200 mg. They encourage getting your vitamin C from fruits and vegetables rather than from supplements.

Eating five daily servings of vitamin-C rich fruits and vegetables will easily meet this goal. One-half cup of chopped sweet red pepper has 140 mg of vitamin C, a half a papaya offers 95 mg, six ounces of orange juice about 70 mg, and one-half cup cooked broccoli provides about 60 mg.

Vitamin C intakes above 400 mg appear to have no value, according to the NIH. And doses of 1 gram (1000 mg) or more could have adverse consequences in some people.

If you have a history of kidney stones, it's best to talk with your doctor before taking vitamin C supplements. High intakes of vitamin C can contribute to kidney stone formation in some people. In addition, don't take extra vitamin C if you have iron overload (hemochromatosis) or liver disease. Vitamin C may increase iron absorption, according to experts at the Mayo Clinic.

This salad from the "Family Circle All-Time Favorite Recipes" cookbook (Doubleday, 1999, $29.95) offers about 70 mg of vitamin C per serving.


1 sweet green pepper
1 sweet red pepper
1 cucumber
4 plum tomatoes
2 carrots, shredded
1 small bunch arugula
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Pinch of salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Cut peppers into strips. Slice cucumber. Cut arugula into 2-inch pieces. Whisk together oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Pour over vegetables, tossing to coat. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Makes 6 servings.

Approximate nutritional information per serving: 100 calories, 7 g total fat, 1 g sat fat, 0 mg chol, 105 mg sodium*

Barbara Burke is a Hawaii-Pacific University instructor
who has been teaching and writing about food
and nutrition since 1975.

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