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Needed Nutrient Helps Nuke Flab

Are you among the 10% of Americans who fail to get enough vitamin C? If so, that nutrient deficiency could make it harder to lose weight.

New research from Arizona State University shows that upping vitamin C intake boosts your body’s ability to metabolize fat. The study followed 20 obese men and women on a low-fat diet, which provided about two-thirds of daily vitamin C needs. The intervention group then increased its vitamin C intake by 500mg a day, (roughly the amount in one red bell pepper). Four weeks later, those in the high-C group were able to oxidize 30% more fat during moderate exercise than the control group! Why? Scientists point to vitamin C’s role in the manufacture of the amino acid carnitine, which helps flush fatty acids from the body.

Fortunately, meeting the DRI for vitamin C (75-90mg/day) is easy — and delicious. Just two fuzzy kiwis or one cup of strawberries (or broccoli, or Brussels sprouts) puts you over the top, while the above-mentioned red bell pepper provides several times your requirements (plus many other beneficial nutrients, as we explored in “The Swell Bell”). Vitamin C also helps promote:

Skin health by encouraging skin cell turnover and supporting collagen formation;

Immune function by enhancing white blood cell function and lowering levels of histamine, a chemical responsible for congestion;

Joint health by supporting formation of collagen, an important structural component of connective tissue;

Iron absorption by “prepping” iron atoms in plant sources to help them penetrate cell membranes. This is especially important for those 15% of premenopausal women who fail to get enough iron.

Published May 1, 2006

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