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Oranges and Vitamin C
Written By : Mark Rosenberg, MD 
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At the first sign of a runny nose many of my patients load up on Vitamin C for its protection and relief from the common cold. Some take vitamin C in supplement form whereas others prefer to stock up on juices and fruits. What most people are surprised to learn is that an orange does not top the list of fruits for vitamin c content although it is the most common. Other fruits such as guava, kiwi, and strawberries actually contain more vitamin C than citrus.

Vitamin C is also known as ascorbic acid which literally translated means "no scurvy." Also known as vitamin C deficiency scurvy is caused by a lack of ascorbic acid, a nutrient found in fresh fruits and vegetables, especially citrus fruits. When navy sailors went on long journeys it was noted that some suffered with scurvy and others did not. Those who consumed lemons, limes, oranges, tomatoes, or green peppers did not show signs of scurvy which linked their health to the miracle of this vitamin.

Regardless of whether you take supplements, eat fruit, or drink juice, vitamin C has long been touted as a necessary dietary ingredient. The benefits of vitamin C date back to the 1970s when Linus Pauling, better known as the Father of Vitamin C, wrote the popular book "Vitamin C and the Common Cold." Americans spread the word and before you know it everyone was taking high doses of vitamin C to cure colds and flu. Until the 1990s it became an accepted practice until studies showed that vitamin C did not actually prevent the common cold but rather reduced the severity and even shortened the duration.

The question my patients frequently ask is, "How much vitamin C is enough"? This is a very controversial subject. The FDA recommends a daily allowance of 60 to 90 mg/day but many doctors feel anywhere from 50 to 500 mg/day is beneficial. Clinical studies have shown that heavy doses do not provide any extra benefit. In fact, for as little as 250 mg/day which is the equivalent of 4 oranges, you can get protection against colds and flu.

Why Oranges?

Oranges are one of the most popular fruits in the world and is available from winter through summer with seasonal variations. Oranges may not be the best source of vitamin C but they are packed with other nutrients that make them an essential part of your diet. Just one orange provides 116.2% of the daily value for vitamin C and is the primary water-soluble antioxidant in the body. It helps prevent free radical damage both inside and outside your cells.

Oranges also provide substantial amounts of vitamin B1, dietary fiber, potassium and folic acid. A fiber found in citrus known as Pectin is responsible for lowering blood cholesterol levels and potassium protects against sodium-induced high blood pressure.

The juice from oranges helps replenish electrolytes in children with diarrhea. Folic acid is important because it can decrease the risk of rectal, cervical and other cancers. Orange juice can provide 100 micrograms of folic acid per 8 oz. serving. Citrus also contains active phytochemicals that protect your health. There are over 170 phytochemicals in oranges including carotenoids, flavonoids, terpenoids, limonoids, glucarates.

You may have read the word flavonoid in other articles. Flavonoids have been known to reduce the risk of thrombosis and are inhibitors of tumor cell growth. As you can see taking Vitamin C does much more than reduce the common cold. It is an important anti-oxidant that helps protect you against cancers, heart disease, stress, and provides energy. Vitamin C is essential for sperm production, aids in the health of cartilage, joints, skin, and blood vessels.

It is recommended by the National Cancer Institute that you eat 5 or more servings a day of fruit and vegetables, especially green and yellow vegetables and citrus fruit. It is easy to see why oranges are a good choice for fulfilling your necessary allotment of vitamin C.

When you get hungry for a snack, reach for an orange! It not only tastes good but may just be your fountain of youth.

Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
Institute For Healthy Aging

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