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When we do not include enough vitamin foods in our diet, a shortage of vitamins and minerals occurs in our body which leads to chronic diseases, as we are going to see in this article. Diabetics in particular have to be careful in this area because insulin resistance causes vitamins and mineral deficiencies, making the condition much worse than it is.

In our 3-part mini-course we’ll take a look at 3 main vitamins that are essential to prevent and manage many chronic diseases and that can be easily obtained from foods. Today will look at vitamin C and its role in preventing or managing diabetes.
Vitamin C

Vitamin C plays multiple tasks in the body and it is a crucial vitamin for diabetics. However, because insulin helps transport vitamin C inside the cells, people with diabetes who have insulin resistance are the first ones to suffer from a deficiency of this vitamin.

Among the many roles vitamin C plays in the body are:

1. Strengthening of the blood vessels, especially the small capillaries
2. Boosting the activity of the immune system
3. Delaying wound healing
4. Fighting the formation of free radicals
A sugar called sorbitol

One complication of high levels of sugar in the blood is the conversion of glucose to a sugar called sorbitol which accumulates in certain areas of the body. In the eyes, sorbitol causes cataracts in the lens and initiates diabetic retinopathy. These conditions lead to blindness.

Within nerves, sorbitol causes degeneration of neurons resulting in the deterioration of nerve functions which lead to gangrene of the feet and fecal and urinary incontinence. It can also lead to dementia.

Studies have shown that a 60 day-therapy with vitamin C can reduce sorbitol in the blood when the amount of vitamin C is increased to about 600 milligrams. The researchers concluded that vitamin C is a highly effective therapy for diabetics.
Glycosylation or glycation

A second complication of high sugar levels is glycosylation, the link between glucose and protein molecules. Unfortunately, this link can continue even if the level of glucose in the blood goes back to normal. Because these links affect the circulatory system, they affect all parts of the body leading to heart attacks, strokes, gangrene of the feet and legs. Glycosylation also promotes the formation of free radicals.
Free radicals and the heart

Free radicals can damage the innermost layer of our arteries. This is how it happens: the inside wall of an artery is protected by a layer of cells called the endothelium. A healthy endothelium can be compared to a Teflon coating because it is non-sticky, a quality that allows the blood to flow easily through the arteries.

But when the cells of the endothelium are damaged, let’s say by free radicals, they fall off from the artery wall leaving that portion of the blood vessel unprotected. This process set the stage for the formation of plaque in the arteries.
Vitamin C and free radicals

Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant and is of particular importance in the fight against free radical formation. Vitamin C also helps return vitamin E to its active form. This means that once vitamin E has been used by our cells, vitamin C comes to the rescue and restores it to its original form, so it can be used again.
Study at the University of Cambridge

This study conducted in the United Kingdom and published in the Archives of Internal Medicine on July 2008 was conducted among 21,831 men and women aged 40 to 75 years. The level of vitamin C in the blood was analyzed at the beginning of the study and it was a clear indication of the level of fruits and vegetables consumption by the participants, stated Anne-Helen Harding, PhD, the leader researcher of the study.

This means that the people who ate less fruit and vegetable showed a lower level of vitamin C in the blood. On the contrary, the people who consumed more fruits and vegetables showed a higher level of vitamin C in their red blood cells.

“Higher vitamin C level in the blood and fruit and vegetable intake were associated with a substantially decreased risk of diabetes,” the study authors write. “Our findings highlight a potentially important public health message on the benefits of a diet rich in fruit and vegetables for the prevention of diabetes.”

The researchers also noted that low levels of vitamin C were present before the onset of diabetes and suggested that increasing intake is likely to offer protection against diabetes.
Why is very important to include fruits and vegetables in our diet?

Humans are unable to produce their own vitamin C. Thus, to make sure we have sufficient vitamin C to meet our requirements, we need to include adequate amounts of vitamin C foods in our diets.

Because fruit and vegetables are the main sources of vitamin C, the findings suggest that eating even a small quantity may be beneficial. Of course, the protection against diabetes increases progressively with the quantity of fruit and vegetables consumed since approximately 90% of vitamin C is obtained from them.
Vitamin C Foods

Vitamin C is found in most fruits and vegetables. Foods and vegetables high in vitamin C are:

1. Oranges, lemons, grapefruit, mandarins
2. Kiwis, Melons. Kiwis contain 5 more times the amount of vitamin C than oranges
3. Papayas, Mangos
4. All kind of berries: strawberries, raspberries, etc.
5. Tomatoes
6. Cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage,
7. Kale, spinach, green and red peppers, parsley
Vitamin C is easily destroyed

Vitamin C is quite fragile and can be destroyed easily by:

1. Contact with oxygen and light
2. Heat. Cooking destroys about 40% of this vitamin
3. Storage for long periods of time
4. Leaving vegetables in water
5. First and second hand smoking. One cigarette destroys between 25 to 40 milligrams of vitamin C
Final thoughts

As you probably have noticed, the moral of this article is that we need to go back to the basics. New technology in the medical field is great and has some merit for certain people, but it is my opinion that if nature has provided us with everything we need to enjoy good health, why are we always looking for miracle cures at the drug store?

Many supplements we buy at the pharmacy have been extracted from whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, etc. So, why don’t we go to the source? Vitamin foods perform a better job in our body than pills and they don’t have side effects complications, So, how about going back to fruits and vegetables both as a preventive measure and a cure?

To your fruit and vegetables intake!

Emilia Klapp, RD, BS
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