Scurvy is the infamous disease associated with vitamin C deficiency. It is the disease that has the claim to fame of wiping out entire crews and passengers on voyages that sailed the seas in centuries ago. Victims of scurvy died a painful death usually succumbing to infections and internal bleeding. So, in a country such as Australia with an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables how could such an age old disease become a public health concern? The prime candidates for scurvy are diabetics. At Sydney’s Westmead Hospitals scurvy in diabetics was diagnosed due to poor wound healing.
Diabetics in an effort to try and avoid raising their insulin levels will avoid fruit. It is common that diabetics and Australians in generally don’t eat enough vegetables either. The few vegetables diabetics consumed are usually overcooked and void of any nutritional content. Even in the more nutritionally aware diabetic it is important to consider that the demands for vitamin C are significantly greater for diabetics than non-diabetics. Vitamin C plasma levels in diabetics are 30% lower than non-diabetics.
Nutritional advice that is given to diabetic patients is really quite basic and based on a standard that patients as long as they eat something to stabilise their levels that’s enough. Endocrinologists rarely give advice on supplementation to reduce the oxidative effects of diabetes or to compensate for dietary insufficiency.
As a nutritionist I encourage a diet that is rich in vitamin C, consume a rainbow of foods and that should cover it. However, as humans we do not make our own vitamin C and diabetics require more vitamin C than non-diabetics. Therefore, it makes good sense that vitamin C supplementation is part of long term treatment plan in diabetics. Vitamin C is highly unstable in its natural form and oxidises easily.
HOW DOES VITAMIN C SUPPLEMENTATION SUPPORT DIABETICS?
Vitamin C supplementation in general reduces the oxidative stress associated with diabetes:
Reduces high cholesterol in diabetics
Improves wound healing and reduces recovery time in infections. Vitamin C may reduce the risk of ulcers and gangrene.
Protects the blood vessels and improves circulation
May assist in reducing hypertension associated with diabetes.
It improves insulin sensitivity
Supports cognitive function reducing the risk of dementia
BEST DIETARY SOURCES OF VITAMIN C: rosehips, cherries, blackcurrants, rock melon, citrus, berries, and papaya are great fruit sources. Best vegetable sources of Vitamin C include: broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, horseradish, asparagus, ripe tomatoes, radish, all green leafy vegetables and herbs. Sauerkraut is an excellent source of vitamin C as it is preserved in the fermentation process.
Vitamin C is highly unstable and is oxidised easily. In an effort to preserve natural vitamin C content avoid overcooking vegetables and cook them in as little water as possible. Vitamin C is destroyed by contact with copper, brass, steel and cast iron. Try to select the freshest produce which is likely to have more nutrients retained. Freezing does preserve vitamin C but is then loss in thawing.
For comprehensive nutritional management for diabetes consider making an appointment with a nutritionist.
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