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Women Need More Vitamin C

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Aug. 14, 2001-- Healthy, young women may not be getting enough vitamin C. New government recommendations say women should be getting 90 milligrams of vitamin C every day. Until now, both women and men were urged to take 75 milligrams of vitamin C per day.

The new proposal suggests that women and men are not created equal when it comes to vitamin C needs.

So where should you be getting your vitamin C: supplements or foods?

"Five servings of fruits and vegetables per day should be more than enough to meet these new daily vitamin C needs," says Mark Levine, MD, chief of molecular and clinical nutrition and senior staff physician at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, a branch of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. Vitamin C-rich foods include oranges, grapefruits, sweet peppers, strawberries, broccoli, and potatoes.

"There is no need to take supplements to achieve this level. Five servings of fruits and vegetables actually provide about 200 milligrams," he tells WebMD. For maximum C-potential, Levine recommends not overcook them or drowning them in water.

Jane Higdon, RN, PhD, is a researcher at the Linus Pauling Institute of Oregon State University in Corvallis, Ore. "Try to get it in fruits and vegetables, but we recognize that less than half of the population actually gets their five servings a day, so we don't see anything wrong with a supplement either," she says.

She adds, however, that fruits and vegetables are the preferred source because you get other nutrients such as folic acid and fiber, too.

The recommendations, reported in the latest issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, or PNAS,are just that though, recommendations. Next, they will be reviewed by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences.

So why the change for women? Existing recommended dietary allowances for vitamin C were derived from studies of men -- the male data was just adjusted for a lower body weight. But the new recommendations are based on studies in women.

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