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Vitamin C: Bridging The Immunity Gap For NCDs

Vitamin C (or ascorbic acid) is an essential micronutrient that plays a crucial role in supporting various aspects of the immune system.

Alongside good nutrition and diet, increasing the intake of micronutrients like vitamin C can enhance health outcomes and boost immunity

Good health and immunity are very important for all people and the last two years have borne witness to this fact. This is, in fact, essential not just now but also in the longer-term for both seasonal infections and non-communicable diseases (NCDs). It is a sad truth that NCD prevalence in India shows a spike in recent years and associated morbidity is also increasing by around 83 per cent in the last three decades. Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), cancer, respiratory diseases and diabetes are the leading NCDs that affect Indians and are the ones that account for the highest mortality rates. This is indeed unfortunate because, according to a ASSOCHAM report, around two thirds of patients in India, who are affected by NCDs, are from the 26 to 59 years age-group. This is also the most productive age.

Alongside good diet and nutrition to manage NCDs, you must adopt some self-care solutions to maintain optimal health. Of course, a healthy, balanced diet is essential for good nutrition. Here, it needs to be mentioned that vitamin C (or ascorbic acid) is an essential micronutrient that plays a crucial role in supporting various aspects of the immune system. It is a powerful antioxidant, which strengthens the body's natural defences. According to Dr Parag Sheth, Director, Global Medical Affairs, Abbott, says, "Vitamin C offers impressive health benefits, such as boosting immunity and antioxidant levels."

An essential nutrient to boost immunity

Vitamin C is vital for patients of diabetes or hypertension, as it can protect end organ damage and improve vascular function. It can also alleviate seasonal infections that exacerbate their conditions. As Dr Deepak Talwar, Director & Chair, Pulmonary Sleep & Critical Care, Metro Centre for Respiratory Diseases, Noida, says, "Vitamin C is an essential nutrient to boost immunity. It is observed that patients with common NCDs, like diabetes and hypertension, require more vitamin C than others, owing to the high oxidative stress seen in these patients." Dr Talwar further added that patients with diabetes have 30 per cent lower vitamin C concentrations than non-diabetics. He also gives tips to patients on how to boost their regular nutritional intake. He says that it can be done through vitamin C supplementation, in addition to a rich, balanced diet, comprising citrus foods and tomatoes.

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Risks of vitamin C deficiency

Many adults in India are deficient in this vitamin. According to data, around 74 per cent adults in North India and 46 per cent in South India are vitamin C deficient. This deficiency is also commonly observed in people who are suffering from NCDs. This means that such patients have lower immunity levels that may make it difficult for them to manage their condition. Common risk factors for vitamin C deficiency include an advanced age, malnutrition, exposure to pollution or pollutants like smoke, biomass fuels and high tobacco usage.

Protective benefits of this vitamin

Vitamin C also plays a role in protecting against seasonal infections like cold and flu during the winter season especially in people suffering from NCDs. In cardiovascular diseases or hypertension patients, the nutrient can protect end organ damage and improve vascular endothelial function, which helps regulate blood clotting.

To ensure adequate intake of the micronutrient and benefit from its positive outcomes on one's overall health, vitamin C supplementation can be beneficial.

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