Vitamin C benefits for immune system

Vitamin C is critical to immune function as it is involved in antibody production and white blood cell function and activity. Other functions include the production of interferon, an antiviral and anticancer substance. Vitamin C requirements are raised when the immune system is under stress. In a study published in 1997, French researchers assessed vitamin C levels in 18 elderly patients in hospital. The patients were divided into three groups: those with acute infection, those who were malnourished, and a control group. Those with acute infection had considerably lower vitamin C levels than those in the other groups.

Vitamin C benefits for immune systemA 1994 study tested vitamin C benefits or placebo supplementation on 57 elderly patients admitted to hospital with acute respiratory infections (bronchitis and bronchopneumonia). The researchers found that patients supplemented with vitamin C showed significantly more improvement than those on placebo. This was particularly the case for those starting the trial most severely ill, many of whom had very low plasma and white cell vitamin C concentrations.

Vitamin C benefits for immune system recover from exposure to toxic chemicals. In a 1997 study, researchers studied the effect of vitamin C on the function of several immune cells (natural killer, T and B cells) in patients who had been exposed to toxic chemicals. Fifty-five patients were given buffered vitamin C in water at a dosage of 60 mg per kg body weight (around 4g for the average man). Twenty-four hours later, the researchers tested immune cell function. The results showed that natural killer cell activity was enhanced up to ten-fold in 78 per cent of patients. B and T cell function was restored to normal.

Vitamin C may reduce the duration of the common cold and also the severity of symptoms such as sneezing, coughing and sniffling. Its use as a cold treatment is controversial but it seems to have several effects, including reducing blood levels of histamine which can trigger tissue inflammation and a runny nose. It may also protect the immune cells and surrounding tissue from damaging oxidative reactions that occur when cells fight bacteria.

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