February 01, 2020 6 min read
Everyone talks about taking Vitamin C to protect against the common cold and improve your immune system, but why is it that so many are still deficient in this critical vitamin, and is there more to it than this blanket statement?
To start off with, Vitamin C helps to form and maintain strong and healthy bones, skin, and blood vessels.
It is water soluble, which means the body can’t store it and keep it for a rainy day. Therefore to keep up sufficient levels of Vitamin C within the body, it is important that we ingest it on a daily basis.
Vitamin C occurs naturally in some foods, particularly in fruits and vegetables. Supplements are also a great way to top up on this vitamin to ensure you are consuming adequate amounts.
What it Does in More Detail
Vitamin C plays a key role in a number of bodily functions.
Healing Wounds, Cuts and Infections
The antioxidants present in Vitamin C help repair tissue and reduce damage from inflammation and oxidation (from free radicals). Studies show that consuming more vitamin C can increase your blood antioxidant levels by up to 30%. This helps the body's natural defenses fight inflammation.
And thanks to the collagen production and antioxidants, wounds, cuts and infections heal much faster than individuals with lower amounts of Vitamin C.
Lack of Vitamin C causes Scurvy, which is a condition that leads to swollen joints, bleeding gums, loose teeth, anemia and chronic tiredness.
Having high blood pressure puts you at a higher risk of heart disease. Heart disease is the number one cause of death worldwide. Vitamin C may help lower blood pressure, which in turn may lower your chance of heart disease.
An animal study found that taking Vitamin C supplement relaxed blood vessels helping blood pressure levels. 29 human studies showed reduced systolic blood pressure (upper value) by 3.84 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure (lower value) by 1.48 mmHg in healthy adults.
In adults with existing high blood pressure, Vitamin C supplements reduced systolic blood pressure by 4.85 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 1.67 mmHg, on average.
While these results are promising, it’s not clear if the effects on blood pressure are long-term. Moreover, people with high blood pressure should not rely on vitamin C alone for treatment.
Many factors increase the risk of heart disease, including high blood pressure, high levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol, low levels of “good” HDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Vitamin C may help reduce these risk factors, which may reduce heart disease risk.
For example, an analysis of nine studies with a combined 293,172 participants found that after 10 years, people who took at least 700 mg of vitamin C daily had a 25% lower risk of heart disease than those who did not take a vitamin C supplement.
Vitamin C may also help to widen blood vessels, and this could help to protect against heart disease, lower blood pressure and hypertension.
Gout is a type of arthritis which causes inflammation of the joints and is incredibly painful. The joints swell and sudden severe bouts of pain ensures.
Symptoms appear when the build up of uric acid in the blood is too high (waste product produced by the body); the uric acid eventually crystallizing within the joints.
Vitamin C may help reduce the level of uric acid in the blood, thus protecting against gout attacks.
For example, a study of 1,387 men found that people who consumed the most vitamin C had significantly lower blood levels of uric acid than those who consumed the least.
Another study followed 46,994 healthy men over 20 years to see if vitamin C intake was linked to developing gout. Interestingly, people who took a vitamin C supplement had a 44% lower gout risk.
Additionally, an analysis of 13 clinical studies found that taking a vitamin C supplement over 30 days significantly reduced blood uric acid, compared to a placebo.
Iron is an essential nutrient and is vital to making red blood cells and transporting oxygen around the body.
Vitamin C helps to improve the absorption of iron from poorly absorbed sources like plant-based iron, by assisting the conversing of iron into a more easily absorbed form. This is particularly important to those who do not eat meat.
Simply taking 100mg of Vitamin C daily may improve iron absorption by up to 67%. As a result, it may reduce the risk of anemia among people prone to iron deficiency.
In one study, 65 children with mild iron deficiency anemia were given a vitamin C supplement. Researchers found that the supplement alone helped control their anemia.
If you suffer from low iron levels, consuming more vitamin C-rich foods or taking a vitamin C supplement may help improve your blood iron levels.
Groups who are more likely to lack this nutrient include:
Individuals who smoke have higher oxidative stress, higher inflammation and damage to the mucous membranes of the mouth, throat, and lungs.
The best sources of vitamin C are fresh fruit and vegetables. Raw foods are best, alternatively, steaming minimizes nutrient loss.
Recommended Vitamin C Supplements
Consuming excess amounts of Vitamin C is unlikely to cause any issues, it is just less likely to be absorbed.
However, consuming in excess of 1000mg+ of Vitamin C daily may lead to diarrhea and gastrointestinal discomfort.
People with hereditary hemochromatosis, an iron absorption disorder, should talk to their doctor before taking vitamin C supplements, as high vitamin C levels could lead to tissue damage.
The maximum recommended daily intake of vitamin C for adult males and females is 2,000 mg.