Ascorbic acid, or vitamin C, is a potent antioxidant with increasingly diverse uses in health promotion and disease prevention.
Every step in the progression of atherosclerosis can benefit from the antioxidant power of vitamin C, from preventing endothelial dysfunction and altering lipid profiles and coagulation factors to preventing blood vessel changes that can lead to strokes and other vascular catastrophes.
Vitamin C supplements reduce cellular DNA damage that is the vital first step in cancer initiation and also reduce the inflammatory changes that allow a malignant cell to grow into a dangerous tumor.
Vitamin C supplements enhance the health-promoting effects of exercise and reduce exercise-induced oxidative damage.
Vitamin C supplements also dramatically combat the oxidative damage caused by smoking and exposure to tobacco smoke.
In respiratory conditions, vitamin C supplements help avert or shorten the duration of common colds and may mitigate the risk of serious respiratory conditions like asthma.
Vitamin C supplements can speed the clearance of the stomach disease-causing bacterium Helicobacter pylori
Vitamin C and the Importance of Antioxidants
Oxidative damage and the resultant inflammatory changes are now known to lie at the root of most common chronic conditions in humans, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.5,35,48-51 Although for many years it was thought that tissue ischemia (lack of oxygen-rich blood) caused the damage from acute conditions such as myocardial infarction (heart attack) and stroke, today we recognize instead that it is the sudden restoration of vital oxygen and the consequent production of reactive oxygen species that wreak major havoc on surviving tissue.52 This so-called ischemia/reperfusion injury is also now recognized as a critical factor in brain injury following bleeding and head trauma.53
Reactive oxygen species are harmful in other ways as well—they contribute to the DNA damage that is the first step in converting healthy cells into malignant cancers54,55 and they impair many of the checks and balances inherent in our immune systems, rendering us potentially vulnerable to deadly infections and their consequences.56,57 Finally, healthy lifestyle choices such as exercise17,18 and unhealthy activities such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption14,24,58 produce reactive oxygen species that must be controlled to prevent tissue injury. Scientists studying all of these conditions are rapidly developing a strong appreciation for vitamin C’s powerful potential as a preventive and often therapeutic supplement.
and cut the risk of gastric cancer it causes.