Vitamin C: Benefits, Sources, Deficiency, And More

Vitamin C: Benefits, Sources, Deficiency, And More

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Majority of those who take in vitamin C supplements do so to boost their immune system and improve their health. But did you know that there are several other benefits that comes with getting enough vitamin C?

There are a lot of health benefits of vitamin C. Recently, this vitamin has risen in popularity because cosmetic companies have claimed that vitamin C is good for the skin. Furthermore, it has been suggested that vitamin C benefits weight loss. But which claims are true, and which are not?

What is Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an essential dietary component because our body cannot synthesize or create this vitamin. To get vitamin C we must obtain it from our diet. Fortunately, vitamin C or L-ascorbic acid is present in most fruits and vegetables. Aside from that, they are water-soluble and are easily absorbed. In general, as long as you eat enough foods with vitamin C you will get all of the health benefits of vitamin C.

As mentioned, vitamin C is easily absorbed in our small intestine. However, the process of absorbing vitamin C requires energy. Another thing to note about the absorption of vitamin C is that moderation is key. Taking in 30 to 180 milligrams of vitamin C per day is the optimum rate of intake. When you go beyond that, the body’s efficiency in absorbing vitamin C begins to drop. For example, if a person were to take 1 gram of vitamin C per day, the efficiency of absorption falls from 80% to 50%. Since vitamin C is not absorbed 100%, the excess is excreted through the urine.

Vitamin C function

There are a lot of bodily processes that vitamin C is involved in. For starters, vitamin C is required in the creation of collagen. This ‘collagen’ may be quite familiar to you because there are a lot of beauty products out there that are labelled “with collagen”. Collagen’s popularity has to do with the fact that it is the main component of the fibrous connective tissue. Since collagen is an important component of the fibrous connective tissue, it is, therefore, an important component of body parts and organs that are made up of this tissue or whose functions are dependent on it. Examples of organs and body parts that are dependent on collagen are tendons, ligaments, eyes, cartilage, bones, the gastrointestinal tract, blood vessels, and the skin. Basically, collagen is important in keeping the skin healthy, that is the main reason you often see it in beauty products.

Another thing that makes vitamin C quite popular in the cosmetics and beauty-product industry has to do with its antioxidant properties. They are often paired with vitamin E, another vitamin with antioxidant properties, as vitamin C seems to enhance the antioxidant effect of vitamin E.

Of course, the benefits of vitamin C is not limited to making you look good. They are involved in the creation of L-carnitine, protein metabolism, and neurotransmitters. For those who are health conscious, vitamin C enhances our immune system and improves our absorption of dietary iron.

Most of the time, Vitamin C’s function is tied to its health benefits so we shall discuss this further in the next section.

Health benefits of Vitamin C

Health benefits of Vitamin C - The Giving Nature

Better wound healing

Collagen is an important component of the skin. Vitamin C is involved in the creation of collagen. Thus, in cases where breaks in the skin would occur such as in wounds, scrapes, etc., adequate vitamin C intake may help hasten the healing process. Aside from this, the antioxidant effect of vitamin C improves tissue repair by discouraging inflammation and preventing oxidative damage. Compelling evidence of the benefits of vitamin C on wound healing was uncovered in a study that was conducted in 1982. In this study, researchers observed that those who have breaks in their skin, like surgical wounds, decubital ulcers, etc., exhibited faster wound-healing after they were given 500 to 3,000 milligrams of vitamin C.

Boosts immunity

A lot of people are aware of the benefits of vitamin C on our immunity. Most people would take vitamin C to make themselves resistant to certain diseases. This is due to the fact that our body’s defence force, the white blood cells, are known to function better when a person has an adequate intake of vitamin C. This vitamin also encourages the production of more phagocytes and lymphocytes, two types of white blood cells with specialized functions. On top of this, the antioxidant property of vitamin C protects the white blood cells from free radicals which the cells may be exposed to when they carry out their functions.

While white blood cells protect the body from the inside, our skin creates a physical barrier against pathogens on the outside. Since vitamin C keeps the skin healthy then the skin may carry out its protective function efficiently.

Studies were conducted to try and understand how vitamin C enhances the immune system. To sum up the findings of the studies, vitamin C acts as an enzyme co-factor in enzymatic activities related to the regulation and proper functioning of the immune system. In other words, vitamin C makes the immune system function better by facilitating certain biological processes.

Makes you resistant to Heart Diseases

The antioxidant property of vitamin C can make a person who takes it in sufficient amounts resistant to Chronic Diseases that are caused by free radicals. Diseases like heart disease have been linked to free radical exposure, so it is logically sound to assume that vitamin C is good for preventing heart disease.

Although further studies are still needed, one promising review did show that vitamin C intake may normalize blood pressure and improve vascular function. The review also mentioned that healthy human adults who took vitamin C supplements exhibited a reduction in their systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure by as much as 3.8 mmHg and 1.5 mmHg respectively. Those who have high blood pressure, on the other hand, exhibited a reduction in their systolic and diastolic blood pressure by as much as 4.9 mmHg and 1.7 mmHg.

Heart diseases are often associated with unhealthy blood cholesterol profile and triglyceride levels. The Low-Density Lipoprotein or LDL, in particular, has been closely associated with the development of heart diseases. Other studies mentioned that vitamin C has the ability to prevent harmful oxidative changes to LDL. This property of vitamin C may prevent heart diseases by promoting a healthy blood cholesterol profile. Furthermore, the study also presented the following finding; vitamin C supplements reduced LDL and triglycerides by up to 7.9 mg/dL and 20.1 mg/dL respectively.

All of these are promising evidence that links vitamin C intake to heart health. However, those who do have heart diseases are advised not to treat vitamin C as a kind of therapeutic drug for their condition.

Better Mental Ageing

It is a displeasing and undeniable truth that our minds wouldn’t be as sharp as it was in our prime, that as we grow older our mental capacity would begin to fail us. Symptoms of poor mental abilities specifically thinking and memory is referred to as dementia and it may occur to us as we age.

Studies have linked the age-related neurological decline to oxidative stress. Since vitamin C possesses antioxidant properties then it may resolve the root cause of the problem, ultimately delaying the degenerative process. Additionally, when vitamin C levels are determined in the blood of those with dementia, they are almost always low. This further strengthens the inverse relationship between vitamin C levels and dementia.

Easier weight loss

One study reported that those who have adequate vitamin C intake burned fat faster than those who have low vitamin C levels in their blood. This supports the idea that vitamin C benefits weight loss. One thing that should be noted is that the participants in the study had to perform moderate-intensity exercises. This means that vitamin C would only help you lose weight if you exercise.

Benefits of Vitamin C Against COVID-19?

Ever since the pandemic started, a lot of pharmacies have run low on Ascorbic acid supplements. Most people believe that vitamin C can prevent respiratory diseases like common colds and pneumonia. This led them to believe that Vitamin C may be effective against COVID-19. But is it really?

With no cure or vaccine available, healthcare professionals are risking their career testing whatever may be effective for COVID-19. A medical team from China’s Xibei Hospital tested vitamin C on several patients with severe COVID-19 symptoms. The team then revealed their results in a press release and claimed that high doses of vitamin C given intravenously can improve lung function on those who have severe COVID-19 symptoms. But don’t get your hopes up yet, vitamin C’s efficacy against COVID-19 is still up for validation. Furthermore, the patients were given high doses of vitamin C. Something we don’t normally do and may be detrimental to our health if done for a long time. All of this means that there is still not enough evidence to prove that adequate vitamin C intake can prevent COVID-19 infection. The best way to prevent infection is still physical distancing and proper hygiene. Nevertheless, it is still a good idea to get adequate amounts of the vitamin from your diet to maintain health in general.

What is Vitamin C good for?

What is Vitamin C good for?

Infections like tuberculosis

When we have infections, like the common colds, our immune system will quickly respond to this and try to defeat the pathogen that is causing the infection. Since vitamin C is capable of enhancing our immune system, then vitamin C is good for infections.

In 2013, researchers showed how effective vitamin C is against certain infections. In this study, researchers gave vitamin C along with the TB drugs to their TB-positive patients. At the end of the study, the researchers observed that those who took vitamin C along with the TB drugs became TB-free faster than those who did not.

Stress-induced immune weakening

Stress is an inevitable part of life. Despite this, we should still try to manage our stress levels because it can affect our immune system negatively. Fortunately for us, vitamin C can still effectively boost our immune system even in times of stress. If you are meeting your daily recommended intake of vitamin C, then you wouldn’t have to worry about stress-induced immune weakening.

Common Colds

A lot of people have this misconception that vitamin C can be used as a cure for the common colds. But studies have shown that vitamin C is not a cure. What vitamin C does is reduce the duration of the infection, reduce the severity of the symptoms, and prevent serious complications such as pneumonia. So even though this vitamin does not cure colds, it is still a good idea to eat a lot of vitamin C rich foods during your sick days.

Preventing Premature Skin Ageing

The current trend among anti-ageing beauty products is to feature collagen, vitamin C and vitamin E, and they are right to do so. Studies have shown that those who get enough vitamin C would have fewer wrinkles at the age of 40.

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Supporting Cancer Treatment

Cancers are caused by mutations in the cells that compromise their replication safeguards. Insults to the cell’s genetic material are often the cause of these cancerous mutations. Free radicals are known to be capable of doing this kind of damage and are therefore associated with causing cancer. Luckily for us, vitamin C has antioxidant properties that can combat the effects of free radicals and therefore can prevent cancerous mutations to a cell’s genetic material as well.

Several studies support the idea that vitamin C can support cancer treatment. One study found that, when given at a higher dose, vitamin C may slow down the growth of certain cancer cells. A different study suggests that vitamin C benefits those patients who have poor prognosis and have few treatment options. In a 2013 study, researchers reported evidence that, when given intravenously at large doses, vitamin C may help cancer treatment in various ways. In 2015, a study similar to the 2013 study was conducted and yielded similar results.

Some hospitals and doctors have even used intravenous vitamin C to improve the efficacy of cancer treatment and to boost the immune system of their immunocompromised patients. However, vitamin C is not a cure for cancer.

Stroke

One of the health benefits of vitamin C is the normalization of blood pressure. Stroke is often associated with high blood pressure. Thus, vitamin C may help in the prevention of stroke by lowering blood pressure. Another thing that increases a person’s risk of developing a stroke has to do with the amounts of Low-Density Lipoprotein or LDL in their blood. Those who have high levels of LDL are at a greater risk of developing a stroke. Vitamin C may help in this aspect for it can lower LDL levels in a person’s blood.

Gout

Another condition that comes with age is arthritis, specifically, gouty arthritis. The culprit behind this condition is excess uric acid. Once, uric acid reaches a certain concentration in the blood, they begin to crystalize and are deposited in the joints. This condition can be quite painful and debilitating.

Researchers have turned to vitamin C for the treatment of gout and uncovered some interesting pieces of information. One meta-analysis of published journals on the topic revealed that most research papers yielded results that say vitamin C can help reduce uric acid. Another study came to the conclusion that vitamin C is good for preventing gouts. A population-based study involving men also yielded promising results. Researchers of this study concluded that there is an inverse relationship between vitamin C intake and serum uric acid concentration. In other words, if you consume more vitamin C then your serum uric acid will go down.

Iron Deficiency

Like vitamin C, iron is also an essential dietary component because we are unable to synthesize iron. Vitamin C benefits those who have iron deficiency and those who have problems with regards to iron absorption. This vitamin is especially effective in assisting the absorption of dietary iron from plant-based sources. This property of vitamin C makes it invaluable to those who are following a meat-free diet.

Aside from this, studies have shown that vitamin C intake is beneficial to those who have iron deficiency anaemia in general. Taking in a total of 100 milligrams of vitamin C in a day may increase iron absorption by up to 60%

Top 20 Vitamin C rich foods

Vitamin C is considered to be one of a few health markers of the human body. With that said, we would like to promote adequate intake of this vitamin through dietary sources. Thus, we compiled a list of the top 20 vitamin C rich foods. We also included the amount of vitamin C present in each of the vitamin C sources. To make it a bit fair, we adjusted the serving size of each food item to 100 grams. Hopefully, this list will help you meet your daily vitamin C needs.

Food (100 grams each) Milligrams of vitamin C per serving Percent DV
Kakadu plums 2,907 mg 3230%
Acerola cherries 2516 mg 2796%
Rosehips 639 mg 710%
Chilli peppers 364 mg 404%
Guava 342 mg 380%
Sweet Yellow Pepper 183 mg 203%
Blackcurrant 181 mg 201%
Kale 180 mg 200%
Thyme 160 mg 178%
Kiwi fruit 139 mg 154%
Broccoli 133 mg 148%
Mustard Spinach 130 mg 144%
Red bell pepper 128 mg 142%
Lychees 107 mg 119%
Papaya 93 mg 103%
Strawberries 87 mg 97%
Orange fruit 79 mg 88%
Lemon 79 mg 88%
Brussels sprouts 62 mg 69%
Mango 54 mg 60%

You may have noticed from the list that foods with vitamin C are almost always plant-based food items. Another thing worth mentioning is the amount of vitamin C in orange, and where this fruit places in the top 20 list. It turns out there are other fruits with vitamin C that contain more of the vitamin compared to the orange fruit.

How much vitamin C per day?

There is a general rule when it comes to health and nutrition. Too much and too little of something is always bad. Like everything else, you must take in the appropriate amount of vitamin C for your age and condition. So please be guided with the following Recommended Dietary Allowances for Vitamin C:

Age Male Female
Infant 0 – 6 months 40 mg 40 mg
Infant 7-12 months 50 mg 50 mg
Toddler 1 – 3 years 15 mg 15 mg
Child 4 – 8 years 25 mg 25 mg
Child 9 – 13 years 45 mg 45 mg
Adolescent 14 – 18 years 75 mg Smoker – 110 mg 65 mg Smoker – 100 mg Pregnant – 80 mg Pregnant Smoker – 115 mg Lactating – 115 mg Lactating Smoker – 150 mg
Adult 19+ years 90 mg Smoker – 125 mg 75 mg Smoker – 110 mg Pregnant – 85 mg Pregnant Smoker – 120 mg Lactating – 120 mg Lactating Smoker – 155 mg

Vitamin C supplements

Vitamin C supplements - The Giving Nature

Vitamin C supplements may come in various forms such as sodium ascorbate, calcium ascorbate, and ascorbic acid. The vitamin C present in these supplements would often have the same movement and behaviour as with the naturally-occurring vitamin C within the body. Whichever form of the vitamin is taken in, they are all expected to raise vitamin C plasma concentrations by similar amounts. However, ascorbic acid is absorbed easily compared to the other forms of vitamin C.

What are the Qualities of the best vitamin C supplement?

The determinants of the quality of a vitamin C supplement are the following; truthful labelling, the sufficiency of the active ingredient, safety, and performance. Take note that these determinants are not limited to vitamin C supplements but are applicable to all food supplements.

First of all, you have to be sure that the label in the bottle is actually accurately describing the contents. You wouldn’t want something that says vitamin C but it is actually vitamin E. So to be sure of the contents of a food supplement, purchase those that have the USP or the United States Pharmacopeia seal. This seal may be different in other countries, but as long as it has the seal of approval from an agency that does quality control on pharmaceutical products then it should be fine.

Next, there should be enough vitamin C in the supplement that it actually does its effect. Depending on what age-group the vitamin C supplement is intended for, it could contain as low as 45 milligrams of vitamin C or as high as 120 milligrams.

The vitamin C supplement should be safe. There shouldn’t be any additive that may affect your health negatively. In 2010, a Congressional Investigation on several food supplements revealed that some of them have dangerous levels of lead and pesticides. This is the main reason why you should only purchase pharmaceutical products that have the aforementioned seal. These products are tested for all kinds of harmful additives.

Food supplements may affect people differently. One vitamin C food supplement may work well for you but not for others. So don’t be afraid to try out different brands so that you’d be able to choose which one really suits you.

Vitamin C deficiency

Historically, vitamin C deficiency was quite common among sailors. Back then they were unaware that vitamin C deficiency is the cause of this condition. One may develop scurvy after a month of little to no vitamin C intake, about 0 to 10 milligrams per day.

Symptoms of the scurvy are closely associated with the weakening of collagen production. This disease may present with inflammation of the gums, petechiae, ecchymoses, joint pain, poor wound healing, and hyperkeratosis.

Nowadays, vitamin C deficiency is quite rare. However, some individuals with certain conditions or behaviours, such as smokers, may be more susceptible to developing vitamin C deficiency.

Overdose of Vitamin C

As mentioned previously, when it comes to health and nutrition, too much of something is bad for your health. This applies to vitamin C as well, even though it has low toxicity. When taken in at high amounts, the excess vitamin C may cause diarrhoea, nausea, abdominal cramps, and other gastrointestinal disturbances. These uncomfortable symptoms are caused by the osmotic effect of the excess vitamin C passing through the gastrointestinal tract. They create a concentration gradient within the intestine, drawing in too much water.

Excessive intake of vitamin C may negatively affect those who have hemochromatosis, a condition wherein the person affected builds up a lot of iron within the body. As mentioned previously, vitamin C may enhance iron intake. This is something which is unfavourable to those who have hemochromatosis. 

Under no circumstance should you exceed your vitamin intake beyond 2000 milligrams. Even consuming just half of that would lead to unfavourable and uncomfortable effects.

Frequently asked questions about Vitamin C

What is the best time to take Vitamin C?

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin. Most water-soluble vitamins are best taken in on an empty stomach. So the best time to take vitamin C should be around 30 minutes prior to eating or two hours after a meal.

Is Vitamin C good for your hair?

Collagen production is highly dependent on vitamin C. Furthermore, collagen is an important component of the dead keratinized cells that make up the hair. Thus, vitamin C is perfect for your hair

Additionally, vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant which is capable of protecting your hair follicle from oxidative damage which may hamper hair growth or damage the hair.

Does vitamin C give you energy?

Vitamin C may give you an energy boost. According to a 2012 study, high doses of vitamin C given intravenously is able to reduce fatigue. The reduction in fatigue even lingered the day after.

What does vitamin C do to your face?

Vitamin C does a lot for your face. First of all, vitamin C protects the face from oxidative damage which may cause premature ageing. Secondly, this vitamin promotes collagen production. When the skin gets enough collagen they are healthier and are more resistant to blemishes. Aside from this, vitamin C may lighten the skin and even out your skin tone, and replenish vitamin E stores in your skin.

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Luiz Presso
Luiz Presso