What vitamins are depleted by smoking? Whether you’re an active or passive smoker, the cigarette smoke causes harm to the body and, therefore, the body requires additional nutrients , vitamin C to repair the damage.
One such nutrient is Vitamin C.
What are free radicals?
Free radicals are highly reactive molecules which damage the normal structure of DNA (genetic material), carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids/fats in our body. Such damage increases the likelihood of cancer and heart-related diseases. Apart from the normal metabolic processes in the body, environmental factors such as pollution, radiation, cigarette smoke and certain pesticides can also spawn free radicals.
How do antioxidants fight against damage due to free radicals?
Vitamin C and E are the 2 main antioxidants in the body that act as scavengers and neutralize the free radicals. Thus, they help prevent cell and tissue damage and reduce the risk of cancer and heart diseases. Vitamin E particularly reduces the risk of heart diseases by neutralizing the lipid/fat generated free radicals which are responsible for heart disorders. However, in this process vitamin E itself becomes a free radical and requires C vitamin for restoration. Hence, the body requires ample of antioxidants to fight off damage from free radicals.
Why do smokers require additional C Vitamin?
As discussed before, cigarette smoke generates free radicals in the body and keep in mind that free radical production is a chain reaction. Thus, smokers deplete their supply of vitamin C more rapidly than non-smokers due to increased exposure to free radicals. For this reason, it is recommended that smokers (active) consume an additional 35 mg of C vitamin every day. Passive smokers must ensure that they meet the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin C.
The RDA for vitamin C for Indians is 40 mg/day for children and adults. Pregnant and lactating women require 60 mg/day and 80 mg/day, respectively. Its best sources are citrus fruits (lime, orange, sweet lime, grapefruit, pomelo), red bell peppers, kiwis, tomatoes, melons, berries, cabbage, and potatoes.
It is important to remember that the C vitamin water soluble and heat-labile (easily destroyed by heat). Thus, prolonged storage and cooking reduce the vitamin C content of food by nearly 50 percent. So it is best to consume the vitamin C rich foods raw and ensure they are freshly cut.