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Gimme a 'C.' (Vitamin C revives research interest as food additive)

Vitamin C's powerful antioxidant properties are getting new appreciation.

News junkies may have noticed that vitamin C already has made the headlines more than a couple of times this year. Although C did get a little bad press last spring when a British study concluded that high doses (500 mg) might be dangerous, other prominent researchers quickly countered the findings, pointing out serious flaws in the study.

Vitamin C's nutritional claim to fame is well-founded. For example, evidence that vitamin C can reduce the risk of several kinds of cancer (mostly of the gastrointestinal tract) is plentiful. Research suggests that the vitamin, as an antioxidant, may neutralize free radicals or block the formation of nitrosamines. An animal study suggests that high doses of C inhibit H. pylori, the bacterium that causes most ulcers and which may be responsible for an increased risk of stomach cancer.

Vitamin C and heart disease is also an exciting area of research, in which theories about the mechanism of the vitamin's protective effects are only just beginning to take shape. Studies comparing people from different countries show less risk of cardiovascular diseases for those who eat more foods rich in antioxidant nutrients like vitamin C. And evidence that being deficient in vitamin C puts one at a much greater risk of heart attack points to a strong link between the nutrient and a healthy heart.

According to Balz Frei, director of the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon Stats University: "The recommended daily value for vitamin C is enough to prevent scurvy, but not enough to provide optimal health." Frei believes that 200 mg. per day - as opposed to the current DV of 60 mg. per day - would provide consumers with more of the vitamin's health benefits.

Tropicana North America has always believed in the power of C, and it has recently upped its commitment to the vitamin with Pure Premium Double Vitamin C with Vitamin E, which gives consumers twice the vitamin C of regular orange juice - 144 mg. per eight-ounce serving. Because most people already associate orange juice with vitamin C, what was the motivation for this high-C formulation? Nancy Green, manager of nutrition sciences for Tropicana North America, says, "We've found that consumers are looking for ways to increase the antioxidant nutrients in their diets, and vitamin C is one of the best antioxidants around. Enhancing our orange juice is a convenient way to give consumers more of the nutrients they want."

Tropicana promoted its Double Vitamin C with Vitamin E juice in correction with cold and flu season last year, even though it acknowledges that vitamin C doesn't prevent colds. On the other hand, research does show that vitamin C may help shorten the duration and/or lessen the severity of colds. In addition, Tropicana is betting that consumers will value their vitamin-fortified juice for health reasons that go beyond colds.

"While water-soluble vitamin C works outside the cell walls, vitamin E - a fat-soluble vitamin - works inside the cell. Together, these vitamins play an important role in protecting cells to ultimately promote long-term health," says Green.

Vitamin C and orange juice is a given, but vitamin C and milk? H.P. Hood Inc. released its vitamin C-fortified milk late last year in conjunction with its LightBlock bottle. The milk, which provides 25 percent (15 mg.) of the recommended daily value for vitamin C, is the dairy's answer to consumer antioxidant demand. Hood nutrition consultant Liz Ward, R.D., notes that according to the USDA, more than 40 percent of adults don't get the recommended amount of vitamin C each day. Also, "Vitamin C contributes to health in many ways. It promotes bone health, is an antioxidant and helps keep the immune system strong," says Ward. "Now consumers can drink a glass of milk and get a significant amount of vitamin C as well as the many other essential vitamins and minerals that milk provides."
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Author:Broihier, Kitty
Publication:Food Processing
Date:Sep 1, 1998
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