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Vitamin C or ascorbic acid is necessary for the formation of bones, muscles, blood vessels and other supporting cells and tissues. Its role in disorders such as asthma, diabetes or cancer is being widely researched.
Vitamin C has also been presented as a treatment modality in cases of common cold and infections of the lung. The role of vitamin C in the immune system has been studied for many years and has been reported to control certain regulatory functions. The administration of vitamin C along with other micro and macronutrients is advised in individuals who are suffering from vitamin C-deficiency and are at high risk of developing infections related to the lungs.

Vitamin C and Immune Cells

The role of vitamin C in the functioning of immune cells is well proven. Vitamin C is especially required for the functioning of the phagocytes and T-lymphocytes. The major role of vitamin C is the protection of the immune cells against free radicals formed during the interaction of the immune cells with harmful microorganisms. The T-cells and other phagocytes engulf the microorganisms and employ oxygen in the form of superoxides to destroy them. These superoxides can be harmful to the phagocytes themselves. Vitamin C protects them against the free radicals and thereby maintains the integrity of these cells. A deficiency of vitamin C hampers the function and results in early destruction of the T-cells and phagocytes. Deficiency of vitamin C is associated with increased duration of the common cold and infections of the lung, signifying its role in protection against these conditions. The effect has been more pronounced in elderly individuals who tend to suffer from multiple deficiencies owing to their altered dietary pattern and the ability of the body to absorb the essential nutrients from the diet being consumed.1, 2

Vitamin C and Flu

Administration of vitamin C was noted to improve the concentration of immune proteins and certain components of the complement system. These proteins and the complement system have a vital role in maintaining the immunity of the body. The effects of vitamin C has been particularly been emphasised against infections such as the common cold and flu. Vitamin C when administered with other medications for flu and common cold significantly reduced the duration of these infections. Vitamin C supplementation is therefore advised along with regular medications in order to reduce the severity and duration of infectious disorders.2, 3

General Functions

Vitamin C along with other micronutrients has a role in the ability of the skin to fight against infectious microorganisms. Vitamin C enhances the functioning of the skin cells and helps them form an effective barrier against the harmful microorganisms. Deficiency of vitamin C and other nutrients reduces the ability of the skin to prevent infections.

  • 1. Ströhle A, Hahn A. Vitamin C and immune function. Med Monatsschr Pharm. 2009 Feb, 32(2):49-54
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  • 2. Maggini S, Wintergerst ES, Beveridge S, Hornig DH. Selected vitamins and trace elements support immune function by strengthening epithelial barriers and cellular and humoral immune responses. Br J Nutr. 2007 Oct, 98 Suppl 1:S29-35
  • 3. Wintergerst ES, Maggini S, Hornig DH. Immune-enhancing role of vitamin C and zinc and effect on clinical conditions. Ann Nutr Metab. 2006, 50(2):85-94. Epub 2005 Dec 21
  • 4. Field CJ, Johnson IR, Schley PD. Nutrients and their role in host resistance to infection. J Leukoc Biol. 2002 Jan, 71(1):16-32