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Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)

This is a water-soluble nutrient and its properties were recognized as a preventative and cure for scurvy long before it was isolated in 1933.

It is also an antioxidant - so delays signs of ageing and age-related diseases, and is an antipollutant, it eliminates toxins from the body. It's thought to ease colds especially when taken with zinc.

However, its chief function is the production of collagen, the structural protein that holds the body together. As such, it hastens the healing of wounds, and strengthens capillaries and blood vessels - helping to prevent heart attacks and strokes.

In doses of at least 1,000mg a day, it helps to lower cholesterol by speeding its conversion to bile, and helps anaemia by aiding the absorption of iron.

Deficiency leads to a susceptibility to colds, inflamed gums and defective teeth.

Among the best natural sources are broccoli, Brussels sprouts, citrus fruits, kiwi and papaya.

The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) is 60mg for adults and 45mg for children but these are unrealistic and only enough to prevent scurvy, and a gram a day is recommended by most dieticians - if taking supplements those with added bioflavonoids are preferable. See 'Antioxidant', 'Bioflavonoids'; 'Cholesterol'; 'Vitamin', 'Vitamin B Complex', 'Vitamin B2', 'VitaminB5', 'Vitamin B6', 'VitaminB12', 'VitaminB15', 'Vitamin D', 'Vitamin E', 'Vitamin K', 'Vitamin P'. For more information on nutrition, see 'Nutrients A to Z' by Dr. Michael Sharon; Prion Books.

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