Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is probably one of the most highly publicized, yet least understood of all of the vitamins. Championed by Nobel laureate Linus Pauling, Ph.D., and advocated by many nutrition buffs, vitamin C is vital for both general and dental health, preventing a wide range of debilitating conditions.
Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits such as oranges, limes, grapefruit and vegetables including tomatoes, green pepper, potatoes and many others. A deficiency of vitamin C causes the disease scurvy. In the mouth, scurvy causes inflamed and bleeding gums, loose teeth, and eventually teeth that fall out. Scurvy also causes poor wound healing (purplish spots called petechiae), easy bruising, bumps of coiled hair on the arms and legs, pain in the joints, muscle wasting and many other problems.
A Scottish physician named James Lind first advocated fresh vegetables in 1753 and ripe fruits to prevent scurvy. The British Navy adopted his advice some forty years later. The navy men were ever after nicknamed "limeys" because they took lime juice on long sea voyages to ward off scurvy. (It is interesting to note that most animals can produce their own vitamin C, but humans, other primates (e.g.; apes, chimps) and guinea pigs do not have this ability. Partly due to this similarity with humans, guinea pigs have been subjected to experimentation over the years.)
Proper nutrition, oral hygiene and visiting the dentist are vital to maintaining a healthy mouth. A balanced diet including fruits and vegetables will help ward off most vitamin deficiencies. Although vitamin C is easily damaged during the food preparation stage (when chopped, exposed to air, cooked, boiled and submerged in water), the amount of vitamin C is still high enough in most foods to supply an adequate supply.
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of vitamin C is 60 milligrams per day and the average American gets about 72 mg a day, more than enough. As little as 5-7 mg a day will prevent scurvy, and as a backup, the liver stores about a three months supply of vitamin C as well.
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