Vitamin C is found in many foods, mainly fruits, and vegetables.
How Vitamin C Benefits Your Body
Vitamin C is an essential Vitamin, meaning your body can’t produce it. Yet, it has many roles and has been linked to impressive health benefits. It’s water-soluble and found in many fruits and vegetables, including oranges, strawberries, kiwi fruit, bell peppers, broccoli, kale, and spinach. While it’s commonly advised to get your Vitamin C intake from foods, many people turn to supplements to meet their needs. It functions as a powerful antioxidant in the body and plays essential roles in immune function, neurotransmitter production, collagen synthesis, etc.
The term 'scurvy' for the disease resulting from prolonged Vitamin C deficiency had origins in 'scorbutus' (Latin), 'scorbut' (French), and 'Skorbut' (German). Scurvy was a common problem in the world's navies and is estimated to have affected 2 million sailors. In 1747, James Lind conducted a trial of six different treatments for 12 sailors with scurvy: only oranges and lemons were effective in treating scurvy.
Scurvy also occurred on land, as many cases occurred with the 'great potato famine' in Ireland in 1845. Many animals, unlike humans, can synthesize their own Vitamin C. Axel Holst and Theodor Frölich fortuitously produced scurvy in the guinea pig, which like humans requires Vitamin C in the diet. In 1928, Albert Szent-Györgyi isolated a substance from adrenal glands that he called 'hexuronic acid'. Four years later, Charles Glen King isolated Vitamin C in his laboratory and concluded that it was the same as 'hexuronic acid'. Norman Haworth deduced the chemical structure of Vitamin C in 1933.
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Here are seven scientifically-proven benefits of taking a Vitamin C supplement.
1. May reduce your risk of chronic disease.
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that can boost your blood antioxidant levels. This may help reduce the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease.
2. May help manage high blood pressure
Vitamin C supplements have been found to lower blood pressure in healthy adults and those with high blood pressure.
3. May lower your risk of heart disease
Vitamin C supplements have been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease. These supplements may lower heart disease risk factors, including high blood levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides.
4. May reduce blood uric acid levels and help prevent gout attacks
Vitamin C rich foods and supplements have been linked to reduced blood uric acid levels and lower risk of gout.
5. Helps prevent iron deficiency
Vitamin C can improve the absorption of poorly absorbed iron, such as iron from meat-free sources. It may also reduce the risk of iron deficiency.
6. Boosts immunity
Vitamin C affects your immune health in several ways. Its antioxidant activity can decrease inflammation, which may help improve your immune function. Vitamin C also keeps your skin healthy by boosting collagen production, allowing the skin serves as a functional barrier to keep harmful compounds from entering your body. Vitamin C in the skin can also promote wound healing. The vitamin also boosts the activity of phagocytes, immune cells that can “swallow” harmful bacteria and other particles.
In addition, it promotes the growth and spread of lymphocytes, a type of immune cell that increases your circulating antibodies, proteins that can attack foreign or harmful substances in your blood. In studies of its effectiveness against viruses that cause the common cold, Vitamin C doesn’t appear to make you any less likely to get a cold — but it may help you get over a cold faster and make the symptoms less severe.
There’s also some evidence from animal research and human case studies that high dose or IV Vitamin C can reduce lung inflammation in severe respiratory illnesses caused by H1N1 (“swine flu”) or other viruses.
Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency include;
- Higher susceptibility to infections.
- Bleeding gums.
- Frequent bruising.
- Poor wound healing,
Vitamin C is vital for your immune system, connective tissue, heart and blood vessel health and other essential roles. While citrus fruits may be the most well-known source of Vitamin C, a wide variety of other fruits and vegetables are also rich in this vitamin and may even exceed the amounts found in citrus fruits. A diet rich in Vitamin C is an essential step toward positive health benefits and disease prevention.
What foods provide vitamin C?
Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of vitamin C. You can get recommended amounts of vitamin C by eating a variety of foods including the following:
Citrus fruits (such as oranges and grapefruit) and their juices, as well as red and green pepper and kiwifruit, which have a lot of vitamin C.
Other fruits and vegetables—such as broccoli, strawberries, cantaloupe, baked potatoes, and tomatoes—which also have vitamin C.
Some foods and beverages that are fortified with vitamin C. To find out if vitamin C has been added to a food product, check the product labels.
The vitamin C content of food may be reduced by prolonged storage and by cooking. Steaming or microwaving may lessen cooking losses. Fortunately, many of the best food sources of vitamin C, such as fruits and vegetables, are usually eaten raw.
What kinds of vitamin C dietary supplements are available? 
Most multivitamins have vitamin C. Vitamin C is also available alone as a dietary supplement or in combination with other nutrients. The vitamin C in dietary supplements is usually in the form of ascorbic acid, but some supplements have other forms, such as sodium ascorbate, calcium ascorbate, other mineral ascorbates, and ascorbic acid with bioflavonoids. Research has not shown that any form of vitamin C is better than the other forms.
Am I getting enough vitamin C?
Most people in the United States get enough vitamin C from foods and beverages. However, certain groups of people are more likely than others to have trouble getting enough vitamin C:
People who smoke and those who are exposed to secondhand smoke, in part because smoke increases the amount of vitamin C that the body needs to repair damage caused by free radicals. People who smoke need 35 mg more vitamin C per day than nonsmokers.
Infants who are fed evaporated or boiled cow’s milk, because cow’s milk has very little vitamin C and heat can destroy vitamin C. Cow’s milk is not recommended for infants under 1 year of age. Breast milk and infant formula have adequate amounts of vitamin C.
People who eat a very limited variety of food.
People with certain medical conditions such as severe malabsorption, some types of cancer, and kidney disease requiring hemodialysis.
What happens if I don’t get enough vitamin C?
Vitamin C deficiency is rare in the United States and Canada. People who get little or no vitamin C (below about 10 mg per day) for many weeks can get scurvy. Scurvy causes fatigue, inflammation of the gums, small red or purple spots on the skin, joint pain, poor wound healing, and corkscrew hairs. Additional signs of scurvy include depression as well as swollen, bleeding gums and loosening or loss of teeth. People with scurvy can also develop anemia. Scurvy is fatal if it is not treated.
What are some effects of vitamin C on health?
Scientists are studying vitamin C to understand how it affects health. Here are several examples of what this research has shown.
Cancer prevention and treatment
People with high intakes of vitamin C from fruits and vegetables might have a lower risk of getting many types of cancer, such as lung, breast, and colon cancer. However, taking vitamin C supplements, with or without other antioxidants, doesn’t seem to protect people from getting cancer.
It is not clear whether taking high doses of vitamin C is helpful as a treatment for cancer. Vitamin C’s effects appear to depend on how it is administered to the patient. Oral doses of vitamin C can’t raise blood levels of vitamin C nearly as high as intravenous doses given through injections. A few studies in animals and test tubes indicate that very high blood levels of vitamin C might shrink tumors. But more research is needed to determine whether high-dose intravenous vitamin C helps treat cancer in people.
Vitamin C dietary supplements and other antioxidants might interact with chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer. People being treated for cancer should talk with their oncologist before taking vitamin C or other antioxidant supplements, especially in high doses.
People who eat lots of fruits and vegetables seem to have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Researchers believe that the antioxidant content of these foods might be partly responsible for this association because oxidative damage is a major cause of cardiovascular disease. However, scientists aren’t sure whether vitamin C itself, either from food or supplements, helps protect people from cardiovascular disease. It is also not clear whether vitamin C helps prevent cardiovascular disease from getting worse in people who already have it.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts
AMD and cataracts are two of the leading causes of vision loss in older people. Researchers do not believe that vitamin C and other antioxidants affect the risk of getting AMD. However, research suggests that vitamin C combined with other nutrients might help slow AMD progression.
In a large study among older people with AMD who were at high risk of developing advanced AMD, those who took a daily dietary supplement with 500 mg vitamin C, 80 mg zinc, 400 IU vitamin E, 15 mg beta-carotene, and 2 mg copper for about 6 years had a lower chance of developing advanced AMD. They also had less vision loss than those who did not take the dietary supplement. People who have or are developing the disease might want to talk with their doctor about taking dietary supplements.
The relationship between vitamin C and cataract formation is unclear. Some studies show that people who get more vitamin C from foods have a lower risk of getting cataracts. But further research is needed to clarify this association and to determine whether vitamin C supplements affect the risk of getting cataracts.
The common cold
Although vitamin C has long been a popular remedy for the common cold, research shows that for most people, vitamin C supplements do not reduce the risk of getting the common cold. However, people who take vitamin C supplements regularly might have slightly shorter colds or somewhat milder symptoms when they do have a cold. Using vitamin C supplements after cold symptoms start does not appear to be helpful.
Can vitamin C be harmful?
Taking too much vitamin C can cause diarrhea, nausea, and stomach cramps. In people with a condition called hemochromatosis, which causes the body to store too much iron, high doses of vitamin C could worsen iron overload and damage body tissues.
The daily upper limits for vitamin C include intakes from all sources—food, beverages, and supplements—and are listed below:
Does vitamin C interact with medications or other dietary supplements?
Vitamin C dietary supplements can interact or interfere with medicines that you take. Here are several examples:
- Vitamin C dietary supplements might interact with cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy. It is not clear whether vitamin C might have the unwanted effect of protecting tumor cells from cancer treatments or whether it might help protect normal tissues from getting damaged. If you are being treated for cancer, check with your healthcare provider before taking vitamin C or other antioxidant supplements, especially in high doses.
- In one study, vitamin C plus other antioxidants (such as vitamin E, selenium, and beta-carotene) reduced the heart-protective effects of two drugs taken in combination (a statin and niacin) to control blood-cholesterol levels. It is not known whether this interaction also occurs with other statins. Healthcare providers should monitor lipid levels in people taking both statins and antioxidant supplements.
Tell your doctor, pharmacist, and other healthcare providers about any dietary supplements and medicines you take. They can tell you if those dietary supplements might interact or interfere with your prescription or over-the-counter medicines or if the medicines might interfere with how your body absorbs, uses, or breaks down nutrients.