Welcome to another blog post in The Skin Series!
Are you ready to find out if Vitamin C in our diet can really prevent ageing skin?
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a key nutrient called a micronutrient - it is an essential cofactor in forming blood vessels, cartilage, muscle and collagen. Vitamin C is also vital to your body's healing process and helps your body absorb and store iron.
Vitamin C is also an antioxidant that helps protect your cells against the effects of free radicals (such as the molecules produced when your body breaks down food or is exposed to tobacco smoke and radiation from the sun, X-rays).
Why is this all so important for our skin?
Vitamin C helps to support our skin, normal skin tissues contain high concentrations of Vitamin C, compared to other body tissues - fending off the signs and by playing a vital role in the body’s natural collagen synthesis. As we age the production of collagen becomes less and less. The skin becomes thinner, drier, and less elastic. The loss of collagen leads to wrinkle formation. (If you would like to find out more about collagen and our nutrition, look at my other other blog posts!) Adequate dietary Vitamin C also helps to heal damaged or dry skin and, in some cases, reduces the appearance of wrinkles. Which are all problems we encounter on the ageing journey.
So what can we do...
The Vitamin C we need to nourish us internally we obtain through our diet, however, we can’t just consume or supplement loads and expect to start mass producing collagen, as much as we would all love that. It would never be that easy, would it.
A grim and unfortunate side effect of doing so - consuming lots of it or supplementing at high dosages (1000mg or over) would result in stomach pain and diarrhea. Of course, we definitely don’t want that. Mainly for the obvious reasons but also think dehydration, and a loss of other key micronutrients. Make sure you check the labelling if supplementing to avoid this.
So whilst, we can't ultimately "boost" or increase the production of collagen, it is clear dietary Vitamin C plays a role in our skin, healthy collagen production and overall health! We must consider, other areas of our bodies need Vitamin C too, not all of it will go to our skin and uptake into the skin will not necessarily be a priority when it is metabolised.
How much Vitamin C do we really need then?
Once our bodies take what we need (different organs of the body taking and needing different amounts), we will excrete the amounts of Vitamin C in our urine, as this is a water soluble Vitamin we cannot store this in our bodies. In fact, currently, very little is known about Vitamin C and the relationship between dietary nutrient uptake, and how much actually accumulates in the skin and there are little reliable studies that investigate this relationship. It is evident however, that Vitamin C when applied topically is better absorbed than when ingested - this would mean skin care products used directly onto skin.
Although this is the case, we do know it is important to have in our diet for our bodies and healthy skin. The Vitamin C deficiency disease scurvy, clearly shows this as it is characterised by skin fragility and impaired wound healing amongst other symptoms.
Do we need to take a dietary supplement Vitamin C to stop us ageing and maintain health?
To reach our dietary Vitamin C recommendations in the UK, adults aged 19 to 64 should aim for 40mg of Vitamin C a day. Remember Vitamin C cannot be stored in the body, so you need it in your diet every day.
If you have a varied and balanced diet you should be able to get all the Vitamin C you need from your daily diet without having to supplement.
Vitamin C is found in a wide variety of fruit and vegetables. Sources rich in Vitamin C include: Citrus fruits, such as oranges and orange juice, peppers, strawberries, blackcurrants, broccoli, and brussels sprouts.
The most important food tip is to choose a wide range of foods. No one food or food group can supply all the nutrients that our skin and bodies need. The evidence from lots of studies shows that following healthy eating guidelines will give you all the vital nutrients for skin health.