Pregnancy Use

Vitamin C is safe in pregnancy.

PRACTICE POINTS/PATIENT COUNSELLING

• Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for humans, as we are one of the few animal species that cannot synthesise it endogenously.

• Although vitamin C is found widely in fruit and vegetables, up to 100% can be destroyed during cooking and storing as it is sensitive to light, heat, oxygen and alkali.

• Although frank deficiency is uncommon in Westernised countries, marginal deficiency states are not uncommon, particularly in young children fed exclusively on cow's milk for a prolonged period, the institutionalised or isolated elderly, chronic alcoholics, the urban poor or cigarette smokers.

• Vitamin C is an antioxidant and is involved in a myriad of biochemical processes in the body, such as neurotransmitter and hormone synthesis, maintenance of connective tissue, immune function and adrenal function.

• Many studies have found a protective effect for dietary vitamin C intake on cardiovascular disease and cancer incidence, emphasising the importance of adequate dietary intake of fresh fruit and vegetables. Positive effects have also been detected for bone density and cataract incidence.

• Oral vitamin C supplements have been investigated in many different conditions. Positive results have been obtained in some of these studies, such as for reducing duration of the common cold, coronary heart disease prevention, prevention of several cardiovascular diseases and bone mineral density. Results in cancer treatment remain controversial for oral supplements.

• New research shows that long-term supplements do not increase the risk of kidney stones and do not interact with oral contraceptives.

ANSWERS TO PATIENTS' FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What will this vitamin do for me?

Vitamin C is necessary for health and wellbeing. Supplements have also been used for a variety of uses and in some cases shown to have benefits.

When will it start to work?

Studies have found that dietary or supplemental vitamin C may be required for at least 10 years before protection against heart disease or cancer incidence is detected.

However, other benefits may be experienced more quickly, depending on the dose used and indication. Are there any safety issues?

Vitamin C is considered very safe, although high doses may induce reversible loose bowels or diarrhoea. Supplements should be taken only under medical supervision by people with erythrocyte glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency, haemo-chromatosis, thalassaemia or sideroblastic anaemia.

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