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Vitamin C is also a highly effective antioxidant. Even in small amounts vitamin C can protect indispensable molecules in the body, such as proteins, lipids (fats), carbohydrates, and nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) from damage by free radicals and reactive oxygen species that can be generated during normal metabolism as well as through exposure to toxins and pollutants (e.g. smoking). It is therefore linked to prevention of degenerative diseases - such as cataracts, certain cancers and cardiovascular diseases. Vitamin C may also be able to regenerate other antioxidants such as vitamin E.
All fruits and vegetables contain some amount of vitamin C, but it is easily destroyed by cooking. Foods that tend to be the highest sources of vitamin C include green peppers, citrus fruits and juices, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli, turnip greens and other leafy greens, sweet and white potatoes, and cantaloupe. Other excellent sources include papaya, mango, watermelon, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, winter squash, red peppers, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, and pineapples.
Although scurvy (severe vitamin C deficiency) is uncommon in Western societies, many doctors believe that most people consume less than optimal amounts. Fatigue, easy bruising, and bleeding gums are early signs of vitamin C deficiency that occur long before scurvy develops. Smokers have low levels of vitamin C and require a higher daily intake to maintain normal vitamin C levels.
Women with pre-eclampsia have been found to have lower blood levels of vitamin C than women without the condition. Women who have lower blood levels of vitamin C have an increased risk of gallstones.
People with kidney failure have an increased risk of vitamin C deficiency. However, people with kidney failure should take vitamin C only under the care of their primary healthcare physician.
Other deficiency signs and symptoms include:
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