Question Answered by Tamara Cox, RN, Eastern Idaho Public Health Department
Continued from last week
Vitamin C: Vitamin C is a popular treatment for the common cold, whether by orange juice or in tablet form. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), vitamin C is considered “possibly effective” for treat the common cold, but is ineffective for preventing it (NIH, 2011). The review of many studies show conflicting results. Current conflicts in evidence for vitamin C’s effectiveness make it difficult to endorse as a remedy for colds.
Vitamin C is usually considered safe, even in sizable doses, because it is water soluble. Side effects, which are rare, include nausea, vomiting, headache, cramps, and heartburn. Doses over 2000 mg per day can cause kidney stones and diarrhea. It can also interact with certain medications and natural supplements. People with heart conditions, cancer, diabetes, blood disorders, and kidney stones should consult their healthcare provider before taking vitamin C supplements.
Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, is important to many functions in the body.
According to the NIH, the body uses vitamin C to make skin, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels. It also uses this vitamin to repair and maintain cartilage, bones and teeth, to heal wounds and to form scar tissue.
Vitamin C is one of many antioxidants that can protect against damage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals, as well as toxic chemicals and pollutants like cigarette smoke. Free radicals can build up and contribute to the development of health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and arthritis.
Other studies have suggested that vitamin C may also improve macular degeneration and support weakened immune systems.
How to Get More Vitamin C in Your Diet
The foods richest in vitamin C are citrus fruits, green peppers, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli, white potatoes, and sweet potatoes. Other good sources include dark leafy greens, cantaloupe, papaya, mango, watermelon, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, red peppers, raspberries, blueberries, winter squash, and pineapples.
You can test fruit at home to determine the amount of vitamin C it contains by using the vitamin C titration method.
In this experiment, iodine is an indicator. Iodine is a strong oxidant that reacts with both vitamin C and starch. When both vitamin C and starch are present in a solution, the iodine first reacts with the vitamin C because the vitamin is a strong antioxidant. Once the iodine oxidizes all of the vitamin C, the iodine begins to react with the starch.
Materials: Iodine solution, starch solution (1 part baking soda to 5 parts water), fruit and vegetable juices and other beverages, small paper cups, eye dropper, toothpicks or stirring sticks
- Pour about 1 ounce of each beverage into a separate cup.
- With the eyedropper, add about 10 drops of the starch solution to each cup. Stir each solution with a toothpick or stirrer (Photo 1).
- Begin adding the iodine to one of the solutions a drop at a time. You may see a temporary color, as shown here (the dark blue swirls) (Photo 2), that goes away when the iodine solution is mixed in. Make sure you count the number of drops you are adding.
- As soon as Iodine oxidizes all the vitamin C in solution, it begins to react with starch and the mixture will turn color, from orange to a grayish brown in orange juice (Photo 3) and a deep blue color in light-colored liquids. You will know when titration is complete when the color doesn’t change back to the original color over the next few minutes. The more iodine added, the more Vitamin C the beverage contains. This number will allow you to compare the amount of vitamin C in juices.
- Repeat the above procedure for each of the solutions you are testing.