Vitamin C - Why Is Vitamin C Important In a Child's Diet?
Posted on June 04 2021,
Vitamin C, also known as L-ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning it is delivered to cells in the body but not stored for long periods. This requires regular supplementation of vitamin C to ensure enough remains within the body. Vitamin C is commonly found in fruits and vegetables, as well as in various supplements products on the market. It is an essential dietary component because human bodies are unable to produce it themselves. (1)
What is vitamin C good for? Some crucial roles of vitamin C are its contribution to healing wounds, controlling infection, and preventing the formation of free radicals due to its antioxidative property. It also synthesizes collagen, a protein that functions in many body systems, including nervous, immune, bone, cartilage, blood, hormonal, and others. (2)
Vitamin C is found in higher amounts in red and green peppers, citrus fruits, tomatoes, potatoes, broccoli, strawberries, brussels sprout, and cantaloupe. Dosing recommendations vary by age, unique health conditions and lifestyle. Deficiency of vitamin C can lead to poor skin and hair health, poor immune functions, anemia related to iron deficiency, inflammation and other issues. To ensure that your child is getting an adequate amount of vitamin C, consult with your doctor or a nutritional specialist to establish the best practice of diet and supplementation. Children’s multivitamins typically contain vitamin C alongside other essential vitamins as a critical nutrient for children’s overall health and wellbeing.
How Does Vitamin C Function in Your Child’s Body?
Vitamin C strengthens the body’s capacity to absorb iron in the bloodstream by binding itself to less absorbable iron extracted from plant sources. Inadequate vitamin C admission causes scurvy, which is described by exhaustion or fatigue and weakness in the organs accompanied by iron deficiency. This makes it equally important for both children and adults to receive sufficient vitamin C.
Studies have found that oxidized vitamin C enters cells via facilitated glucose transporters which help its uptake in the body before then converting to ascorbic acid (vitamin C). The human body is capable of controlling vitamin C concentrations in tissues and blood. The total body content of vitamin C ranges from 300 mg to about 2 g. High levels of vitamin C are maintained in cells and tissues and are highest in white blood cells, eyes, adrenal glands (glands that produce hormones over kidneys), and the brain. Relatively low levels of vitamin C are found in fluids outside the cells, such as plasma (in the blood), red blood cells, and saliva. (1)
Why Do Children Need Vitamin C?
Your child’s body requires sufficient nutrients, including vitamin C, in order to function and develop properly. Without enough vitamins, your child will lack the needed support to carry out basic functions and maintain their health. Vitamin C supports children in several ways listed below.
Below are several benefits of vitamin C for both you and your child:
- Prevents chronic diseases
- Reduces severity of common cold
- Fights against age-related vision problems
- Protects memory
- Optimizes immunity
- Prevents skin aging/ wrinkles
- Controls uric acid levels
- Prevents iron deficiency
- Controls blood pressure
- Reduces risk of heart diseases
Prevents chronic diseases: American kids are now more prone to chronic diseases than in the past. This is due to a general shift from a healthy diet to one more saturated with “junk food.” A vitamin C inclusive diet includes many fruits and vegetables, great foods to prioritize when working to prevent the development of diseases in children.
Antioxidants, including vitamin C, protect the body from free radicals and strengthen the immune system. Oxidative stress harms the body and leads to chronic disease due to the production of free radicals. Antioxidants help control free radical damage, and vitamin C serves as one of the strongest to protect your child’s body and prevent disease development during their lifetime. (3)
Vitamin C also regulates genetic functions, and a deficiency will cause impairment to immunity and increase one’s risk of disease. Unfortunately, disease will also decrease vitamin C levels even further. However, this vitamin supplement can help reverse respiratory and systemic infections. This is why parents must allow enough supply of vitamin C in children’s diets, especially via citrus fruits and guava. (4)
Reduces severity of common cold: Some may believe that vitamin C prevents the body from the common cold, but research better describes its relationship to colds. Rather than prevent, research indicates that vitamin C can reduce the severity and duration of colds, helping the body recover more quickly. Some trials suggest that the amount of vitamin C in a typical multivitamin taken at the start of a cold may ease symptoms early on. Understandably, children and adolescents become irritated by the disruptive nature of colds, and seeking vitamin C serves as a good remedy. (2)
Fights against age-related vision problems: Cataracts, an eye disorder, is commonly caused by a vitamin C deficiency. Balancing your child’s diet with sufficient vitamin C early on helps decrease the chance of developing such a condition later on. Research supports this benefit, showing that a diet rich in vitamins from the intake of fruits and vegetables often results in fewer incidents of cataracts in a given population. It also prevents macular degeneration, a disease leading to blurry vision over time. (2)
Protects memory: Academic learning problems are not uncommon amongst children, and a vitamin C deficiency may be partially to blame. Research shows that poor thinking and memory loss, known as dementia, affects over 35 million people worldwide. Dementia risk increases by oxidative stress and inflammation near the brain, spine, and nerves. Vitamin C serves as an essential antioxidant to lower these inflammation rates. Diets rich in vitamin C, whether through natural resources or nutritional supplements, have been shown to have a positive effect on thinking and memory as one ages. While this more commonly occurs in older adults, prioritizing vitamin C in your child’s diet is crucial to supporting proper cognitive development and providing healthy, preventative care early in life. (5)(6)
Optimizes immunity: Does vitamin C actually help immune system? Absolutely! Vitamin C helps optimize immunity by directly playing a role inside the cells and supporting clearing infections from body sites. It is a free radical scavenger that activates white blood cells, such as lymphocytes and phagocytes. It also strengthens the skin, which is the first barrier of protection against infection, due to its antioxidative property. Additionally, vitamin C encourages wound healing whereas a deficiency will often lead to poor health outcomes. For example, a pneumonia patient with low vitamin C will typically take much longer to recover. To best ensure your child can fight off infection, prioritize giving them sufficient vitamin C through diet and supplements. (7)(8)
Prevents skin aging and wrinkles: Vitamin C protects skin from degenerative processes, like aging. Many dermatologists recommend using topical vitamin C products for reducing face aging symptoms and giving skin a healthy glow. It aids in the reduction of wrinkles, aging signs, and dryness that otherwise make one’s skin age more quickly and appear less attractive. Vitamin C supports healthy skin by protecting the body from free radicals, both inside and outside. If your child has dry or dull skin, consult a skin specialist for further information and advice. (4)(9)
Controls uric acid levels: Uric acid problems are more common in old age, but gradually accumulate throughout the years. To combat this, vitamin C can help throughout the aging process to better control uric acid in the blood. Without moderating this accumulation, one can develop extremely painful inflammation of the joints, called gout. People suffering from gout experience swelling and sudden, severe pain due to the buildup of uric acid in blood deposited into joints in a crystalline form. Studies confirm that vitamin C aids in lowering uric acid levels and preventing painful gout attacks. Another 20 year long study also found that people who took a vitamin C supplement had a 44% lower risk of developing gout. It was found that a 30-day vitamin C supplement did reduce blood uric acid levels in the subjects. (10)(11)
Controls blood pressure: Globally, hypertension is one of the leading causes of death and one in three Americans suffers from high blood pressure. Research indicates that the intake of vitamin C controls blood pressure regardless of whether or not an individual has hypertension. This occurs because vitamin C is able to relax blood vessels. Research showed that 4.9 mmHg systolic and 1.7 mmHg diastolic blood pressure was reduced after the introduction of vitamin C. Incorporating sufficient vitamin C into your child’s diet will aid in controlling a healthy blood pressure. (14)
What Is Vitamin C Deficiency?
If your child’s diet contains fewer than 10 mg of vitamin C daily for over a month, they can become deficient. Causes of vitamin C deficiency include poor diet, restrictive eating, following fad diets (especially among teenagers), smoking and drug abuse.
The following list provides the deficiency symptoms your child may present with:
- Hair loss
- Iron-deficiency anemia (fatigue, malaise)
- Damaged skin
- Spoon shaped nails
- Poor wound healing
- Bruising under minor pressure
- Bone related problems
- Lower immunity
- Severe inflammation
- Weight gain
- Gum inflammation and tooth loss
Hair loss: Girls and boys equally experience hair loss in their teenage years, often attributed to a vitamin C deficiency. This occurs because the protein structures become malformed, making them bent or coiled. One sign of a deficiency is corkscrew shaped hair strands. Hair may break and fall due to breakage, or falling from the roots themselves. Thankfully, vitamin C supplementation can help reverse this damage. (15)
Iron-deficiency anemia: Fatigue, dry and rough skin, frizzy hair, headache, pale skin, difficulty breathing and fingernails shaped like spoons are all symptoms of an iron deficiency. This results from the body’s impaired ability to absorb appropriate amounts of iron without the presence of vitamin C. Additionally, anemia can be caused by excess bleeding also attributed to a vitamin C deficiency. Children who experience anemia should have access to iron rich foods and vitamin C inclusive foods in their diet. (16)
Damaged skin: When a person is deficient in vitamin C, unhealthy skin is a common outcome, especially in the outer layer called the epidermis. This vitamin is important in caring for the skin, protecting it from smoke, the ozone, and damage caused by radiation and oxidative stress. Vitamin C serves a crucial role for maintaining skin health, promoting collagen production to help keep skin glowing and looking plump and youthful. Alternatively, low vitamin C levels can lead to damage and an unattractive skin appearance. (17)
Poor wound healing: Without proper vitamin C supplementation, which helps protect against infections and inflammation, children can experience poor, prolonged wound healing periods. Wounds heal slowly due to decreased collagen formation, for which vitamin C plays a major role. Research indicates that people who are vitamin C deficient can develop leg ulcers that are nearly impossible to heal at a chronic stage. In cases with extreme deficiency, old wounds may reopen and cause more damage and infection. If you notice your child showing signs of poor wound healing, checking their vitamin C intake is a great place to start. (19)
Bruising under minor pressure: If after falling or under a minor pressure your child presents with red or purple bruising on the skin, a likely cause is low vitamin C which leads to ruptured blood vessels. This rupturing of blood vessels creates bruising from blood leaking into adjacent areas under the skin. A vitamin C deficiency also decreases collagen production, which further decreases the body’s ability to heal itself. Bruises may appear as a small area saturated in purple dots under the skin, or may cover a larger surface. If you notice small or large bruises occurring more frequently on your child, investigating their vitamin C intake may be necessary. (20)
Bone related problems: With adequate vitamin C, bone fractures typically heal better and bones form more normally from the start. A deficiency decreases the body’s ability to repair bone, and fractures are more likely to occur. Research reminds us that children are continuously growing and developing, and they rely heavily on adequate vitamin intake to do so properly. Your child may experience faulty bone formation, or increased rate of bone loss and breakage if lacking enough vitamin C, through diet or supplementation. (21)
Lower immunity: As we know, our body’s immune system protects the body against disease, infections, and physical harm. The immune system will weaken when facing a loss of vitamin C and other nutrients, typically leaving your child more vulnerable to illness and severity than usual. Studies show that vitamin C supports the immune system by destroying disease-causing pathogens gathered inside white blood cells. This makes vitamin C a great defense from most disease, especially pneumonia. (22)
Severe inflammation: Vitamin C helps prevent cellular damage by neutralizing free radicals that can cause oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. Many chronic illnesses are tied to this problem, including heart disease and type 1 and 2 diabetes. Low vitamin C levels increase risk for these issues. Teenagers often experience this inflammation due to poor eating habits. Prioritizing proper vitamin C intake is crucial to minimizing these issues in your child’s life. (23)(24)
Gum inflammation and tooth loss: Red, swollen, and bleeding gums is a common sign of vitamin C deficiency and can be extremely painful for children. This deficiency leads to weak and inflamed blood vessels and easier bleeding. Teenagers with fully developed teeth may also experience tooth loss because of this deficiency. In later stages, a lack of vitamin C may even cause gums to appear purple and rotten, allowing teeth to completely fall out due to unhealthy gums. (25)
How Much Vitamin C Should I Take Daily?
Dosing recommendations for vitamin C are given in the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) developed by the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB). DRI describes the optimal amount of nutrients a person needs per day. It should be noted that people who are pregnant and lactating may require increased amounts of vitamin C, and you should consult with your physician for nutritional guidance if you or your child fall into these categories. (1)
|Age||Recommended daily amount in milligrams (mg)|
|0-6 months||40 mg|
|7-12 months||50 mg|
|1-3 years||15 mg|
|4-8 years||25 mg|
|9-13 years||45 mg|
|14-18 years||75 mg (male)/65 mg (female)|
|19+ years||90 mg (male)/75 mg (female)|
Should You Give Vitamin C Supplements to Your Child?
Vitamin C is usually found in natural foods in amounts close to what the body requires. Some vitamin C supplements are more available than others. The three most common vitamin C supplement sources are ascorbic acid, Ester-C®, and ascorbic acid with bioflavonoids. Studies show that there is no significant difference in how these interact with your body; however, doctors tend to recommend simple ascorbic acid over other vitamin C supplements.
Dietary supplements should only be taken per your physician’s recommendation. Supplements are typically prescribed when vitamin C blood levels in your child are extremely low and food can not make up for that. Vitamin C is commonly taken to prevent and treat common colds and other illnesses that come up in children. Otherwise, vitamin C supplements are commonly included in multivitamins to aid in your child’s overall health. (1)
What Are Vitamin C Foods?
In a typical American diet, tomatoes, potatoes, and citrus fruits are among the most common sources of vitamin C. Additional sources include red and green peppers, kiwifruit, broccoli, and strawberries, brussels sprout, and cantaloupe. Even though it is not found naturally in grains, some breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamin C.
It is important to know that storage and preparation of foods containing vitamin C can affect their nutritional density. Storing foods long-term and over-cooking significantly diminish vitamin C levels. This occurs because ascorbic acid is water-soluble and is destroyed by heating. Steaming or microwaving foods that contain vitamin C may help lessen losses of the vitamin through cooking. Loss of vitamin C in citrus fruits and some vegetables is less of a concern if they are consumed raw. Below is a list of foods that are rich in vitamin C. It is suggested that you focus on giving your children a total of five servings of fruit and vegetables per day in order to meet the daily vitamin C requirement. (1)
|Food Name||Serving size||Milligrams (mg) per serving||% daily value (DV)|
|Red pepper, sweet, raw||1/2 cup||95 mg||106|
|Orange juice||3/4 cup||93 mg||103|
|Orange||1 medium||70 mg||78|
|Grapefruit juice||3/4 cup||70 mg||78|
|Kiwi fruit||1 medium||64 mg||71|
|Green pepper, sweet, raw||1/2 cup||60 mg||67|
|Broccoli, cooked||1/2 cup||51 mg||57|
|Strawberries, fresh, sliced||1/2 cup||49 mg||54|
|Brussels sprout, cooked||1/2 cup||48 mg||53|
|Grapefruit||1/2 medium||39 mg||43|
|Broccoli, raw||1/2 cup||39 mg||43|
|Tomato juice||3/4 cup||33 mg||37|
|Cantaloupe||311/2 cup||29 mg||32|
|Cabbage, cooked||1/2 cup||28 mg||31|
|Cauliflower, raw||1/2 cup||26 mg||29|
|Potato, baked||1 medium||17 mg||19|
|Tomato, raw||1 medium||17 mg||19|
|Spinach, cooked||1/2 cup||9 mg||10|
|Green peas, frozen, cooked||1/2 cup||8 mg||9|
Risks and Side Effects of Vitamin C
Recommended amounts of vitamin C do not cause side effects in children. However, frequent and long-term overuse of the nutrient can cause diarrhea, nausea, abdominal cramps, and other gastrointestinal disturbances due to the osmotic effect of unabsorbed vitamin C in the gastrointestinal tract. An increase in uric acid and oxalate excretion in urine due to high vitamin C intake can lead to kidney problems in the future. If your child has inborn kidney problems, check with a doctor about their vitamin C requirements.
Tissue damage can also occur because of iron overload when vitamin C is over-consumed. It can even damage extra DNA levels. Copper and vitamin B12 levels are lowered if nutrient intake is not balanced. It is wise to only consume the recommended amount of vitamin C and other nutrients in order to have a healthy diet, normal development, and proper functioning of body processes. Teeth enamel can erode in children and adolescents and minor allergic reactions can occur when they consume too much citrus juice. Therefore, it is also advisable to seek nutrients from various sources rather than over-consuming singular foods. (1)
Above, we learned the various ways that Vitamin C intake is crucial for supporting your child’s growth and development. Iron absorption, tissue repair and regeneration is widely dependent on vitamin C. It is used to heal wounds, create scar tissue, and form an important protein used to make skin, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels. Vitamin C dissolves in water and is eventually excreted in urine, so your child must receive recommended amounts in their daily diet to prevent deficiency.
There are multiple ways to obtain sufficient amounts of vitamin C. A diet full of healthy, whole foods is the ideal way of meeting nutritional needs. In some cases, fortified foods and dietary supplements are useful when one struggles to meet their vitamin C needs through more natural forms, such as during pregnancy and lactation and during life stages when nutrient deficiency is more common. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans provides an abundance of helpful information on what to focus on in a healthy diet. It is always recommended that you consult with your physician or a medical professional to ensure that your family’s specific nutritional needs are attended to.
Disclaimer: The content of this blog post is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not use this information for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal or homeopathic supplement and with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.