Last updated on November 2nd, 2018 by Garrick Dee
Vitamin C is should be an integral part of our diet.
Since our body doesn’t have the capability to product it, it is important that we get our daily recommended dose.
The good news is there are lots of fruits and veggies that easily fill this need.
The bad news is that we’re so busy that we opt for unhealthy, easy to cook food.
In this article, I’ll share with you the health benefits of Vitamin C, some of which can save lives in the long run.
Have you noticed?
As you grow older, it seems as if our immune system gets weaker.
With technology at the helm, our busy schedule prevents us from eating healthy foods.
We want things fast – so that means fast food and store-bought juices.
These are extremely unhealthy food choices and could damage our immune systems.
One reason could be is we don’t feed our body enough Vitamin C.
Instead of eating fruits or vegetables, we munch down on burgers and pizza which don’t have an ounce of Vitamin C.
Men should consume at least 90 mg and women around 75 mg of Vitamin C in their diets every day.
One popular option would be taking supplements but the better option would be getting from fruits which we’ll look at later on in this article.
Without further ado here are the 19 health benefits of Vitamin C.
1. Vitamin C helps protect us from cardiovascular disease
Built-up of plaque in our arteries can lead to heart attack or stroke and recent studies have shown that vitamin C plays a role in reducing this build up.
One study revealed that taking 250mg/day of vitamin C supplements can reduce monocyte adhesion by 37% .
Monocyte adhesion if you’re not familiar with the term is the initial stages of plaque formation in the arteries.
Vitamin C can help our body produce vital proteins that will help reduce heart disease at the molecular level.
Another study done on 100 patients with mild-to-moderate aortic stenosis (or narrowing of the aortic valve) further reinforces this finding.
Those who took vitamin C supplements had a reduction of adhesion molecules. This helps reduce potential inflammatory damage to heart valves .
2. Can lower high blood pressure
Having high blood pressure increases an individual’s risk to having cardiovascular disease.
Studies have shown that vitamin C consumption can help lower blood pressure.
British researchers did a study on 40 men and women, between 60 and 80 years old.
They did this study in a crossover design were both groups each tool either placebo or 500mg or Vitamin C per day for a period of three months with a one week interval .
Individuals who had the highest blood pressure had as much as a 2mm Hg decrease in their daytime systolic blood pressure levels.
Women in the study also had an increase in their HDL (or good cholesterol) levels. HDL plays a role in lowering LDL levels
The researchers concluded that higher vitamin C intake can help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease or stroke.
Other studies like this and this again revealed the positive effects of consuming vitamin C supplements.
There’s no doubt that it can lower blood pressure, the big question is how effective is it long term.
3. Helps reduce risk to chronic diseases
One of the biggest benefits of vitamin C is its high antioxidant content.
Antioxidants help boost our body’s immune system by protecting it from free radicals and oxidation .
Free radicals and cell oxidation when left unchecked can lead to serious chronic ailments.
Research shows that consuming antioxidants like vitamin C can increase our blood antioxidant levels by up to 30%.
4. Strengthens the immune system
On way to prevent colds in the first place is to get enough vitamin C in our diets to strengthen our immune system.
Vitamin C does it three ways:
- It helps our body increase white blood cell production that in turn helps fight infection.
- Improves white blood cell function by protecting them from free radicals.
- Strengthens barriers on our skin by improving its defense system.
Just in case you get colds, consuming vitamin C will only help our body combat this condition.
Take note that it isn’t a cure for colds but it helps indirectly by improving our body’s defense mechanism to fight infection.
5. Essential for our brain’s health
Did you know that our brain is the perhaps the biggest consumer of vitamin C when you compare it to the other organs in the body?
Research has shown that vitamin C plays an important role in cognitive performance of our brain.
Some of these include:
- Helps in the development of new blood vessels (or angiogenesis)
- Protects the brain from oxidative damage
- Prevents hypothyroidism that’s associated with neuronal damage
- Participates in neuronal maturation and myelin formation
- Removes toxic metals (such as mercury and aluminum)
- Defends it from neurodegenerative diseases
- Improves blood flood to keep it nourished
Our brain also needs this vitamin to convert dopamine to serotonin.
It also helps keeps the blood vessels inside the brain healthy to help us maintain proper cognitive function as we get older.
Over 50 studies reveal the relationship between vitamin C and mental function.
Those who had vitamin C deficiency were cognitively impaired while those who had high levels of it were cognitively intact .
6. Important to our eye health
Scientists at the Oregon Health and Science University say after a study that nerve cells in our eyes need vitamin C to function properly. They went as far as saying that the cells inside the retina have to be “bathed” in high doses of vitamin C to maintain its function.
Vitamin C also helps maintain connective tissue such as collagen in the cornea.
7. Improves our mood (and may prevent depression)
There are a lot of factors that determine our happiness – some of them include relationships, performance at work and financial status.
But here’s a factor that research confirms – Vitamin C can help make us happy.
There are numerous studies done on both adults and children that prove that vitamin C can help reduce symptoms of depression.
Our body needs vitamin C to convert dopamine to norepinephrine which is an important hormone that prevents depression and mood swings.
This is a big reason why people who have low vitamin C will show symptoms of depression.
One study reveals that hospital patients who were given vitamin C said they were happier in as little as a week .
In fact, low vitamin C has been linked to depression in older people .
8. Reduces risk to heart disease
In 2017, data from CDC.gov reveals that heart disease is the number one cause of death.
The modern lifestyle that we have, increases our risk thanks to unhealthy diet, lack of sleep and overall stress contribute heavily to the high number of deaths.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is we can protect ourselves from this life threatening condition by increasing our consumption of vitamin C.
One of the best sources of vitamin C is fruit and vegetables.
One study done by the Nurse’s Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-Up Study on 126,000 healthy adults reveals that subjects who had the consumed the most fruits and vegetables had the lowest risk of coronary heart disease.
The study also said that eating vitamin C rich foods like green leafy vegetables will provide the most benefit.
In Sweden 1,725 men had similar results after consuming fruits and vegetables.
Research also shows that consuming at least 5 servings of fruits and veggies had a lower risk to coronary heart disease versus those who only had 3 to 5 servings .
However, these studies don’t tell us other facets of the diet, whether or not the subjects had a healthy lifestyle.
Vitamin C supplements can help reduce risk of heart disease.
In a massive study done on over 290,000 individuals over a 10 year period revealed that folks who took at least 700 mg of vitamin C supplement per day lowered their risk to heart disease by 25%.
Consuming vitamin C supplements daily can help lower bad cholesterol (or LDL) and blood triglycerides .
9. Helps in cancer prevention (and treatment)
In 2017 alone, Cancer.org says that there were 1,688,780 new cancer cases that were diagnosed and 600,920 cancer deaths in the US alone.
There is evidence that confirms the positive effect of vitamin C in preventing non-hormone-dependent cancer.
Out of the 46 studies, 33 found statistically significant protection with a high intake convening a twofold protective effect versus low intake.
For the cancer of the esophagus, larynx, pancreas, stomach, rectum, breast, cervix and oral cavity there is evidence of the protective effect of vitamin C.
Studies also reveal that vitamin C from foods or supplements can also have protective effects against lung cancer .
There are also clinical studies that show how a high-dose vitamin C treatment can help make cancer treatment more effective.
Take note that vitamin C was used in combination with traditional cancer treatment methods like chemotherapy.
Recent studies reveal that some patients had a slower progression of the disease.
Other studies say that the side effects of chemotherapy were less pronounced.
Most of the research done was to investigate whether a high-dose of vitamin C can increase the lifespan and quality of life for patients who were undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
The findings were encouraging.
Glioblastoma cancer patients who received high doses of ascorbic acid (or vitamin C) lived 18 to 22 months versus the typical survival rate of 14 to 16 months .
10. Lessens the risk of colds worsening (and shorten duration)
Drinking a capsule of vitamin C will not cure a common cold but studies show that it can prevent it from worsening to a condition like pneumonia and lung infection .
A 1 to 2 gram supplemental dose of vitamin C can shorten the duration of colds by 18% in children .
On adults, a dosage of 6 to 8 grams should be enough .
11. Improves iron absorption (and prevent anemia)
Iron is a vital mineral for our body to function properly. Our body needs it to help transport oxygen throughout the body.
Iron deficiency can lead to anemia were there isn’t enough iron in your blood cells. Some of the symptoms include fatigue, weakness, difficulty breathing and dizziness.
Vitamin C helps improve our body’s absorption of iron from the food we eat.
It helps our body covert iron from plant-based sources into a form that’s easily absorbed by the body .
If you’re vegan, this will help a lot in improving iron absorption from vegetables.
12. Helps reduce uric acid levels and prevent gout
My father-in-law suffers from gout and the symptoms of it can be debilitating.
He often times is immobile and just lays in bed, unable to walk.
Gout is the inflammation of the joints such as the big toes, knees and fingers.
Symptoms manifest when there is too much uric acid in the blood.
Uric acid is a waste product from our body and it crystalizes and accumulates in the joints.
Several studies prove that vitamin C can help lower uric acid in the blood and protect against gout.
Let’s go through each of these one by one.
One study done on 49,994 health men in a 20 year period reveals that subjects who took vitamin C supplement lowered their risk to having gout by 44% .
Researchers found out after monitoring 1,387 men that those who took the most vitamin C had lower uric acid levels in their blood versus those who took the least .
13. Boosts immunity
If I had one reason to convince you to take vitamin C daily, that would be to boost your body’s immune system.
Vitamin help improve our body’s immunity several ways:
- It helps boost production of white blood cells (or lymphocytes and phagocytes) – both these help fight infection .
- Protects these white blood cells from harmful molecules like free radicals.
- Strengthens our skin – our body’s primary defense mechanism against bacteria .
- Helps lower bad cholesterol
Studies have shown the positive effect vitamin C has on LDL or bad cholesterol.
A total of thirteen randomized controlled trials were done between 1970 and 2007.
They found that talking 500mg/d of vitamin C supplement for a minimum of 4 weeks can a significant decrease in LDL cholesterol.
But it did not have much effect in terms of raising HDL or good cholesterol levels .
14. Protects memory from declining as you age
As we get up there in years, one of the first things to go is our memory.
The clinical term of individuals who may suffer memory loss is dementia.
One of the causes of dementia is the inflammation and oxidative stress in areas close to the brain like the arteries.
Folks who have dementia may have lower levels of vitamin C based on studies .
In a study done on 260 elder individuals over 60 revealed that low levels of Vitamin C or B12 did worst in memory tests.
Take note that the subjects did not have any known medical condition nor were taking any medication.
15. Reduces risk factors from smoking and exposure to tobacco smoke
Smoking and exposure to second hand smoke can lead to long term damage to lungs and the overall cardiovascular system.
Research shows that high vitamin C intake can help combat the oxidative damage of smoking or exposure to tobacco smoke .
16. Helps with asthma treatment
The high antioxidant content of vitamin C can help with the treatment of asthma.
There are two studies that show how vitamin C supplementation will help both children and adults.
In the first study, asthmatic children who were given 250 mg of vitamin C and 50 mg of vitamin E can decrease environmental asthma triggers .
Next study we’ll look at was done on adults. This study shows that adults who tool 1,000 mg of vitamin C supplements per day reduced their need to use corticosteroid inhalers to combat asthma attacks .
17. Helps combat weight gain
A majority of people in the US are overweight. To be more specific that number is at 160 million. One concerning statistic is the rising number of overweight children.
Regular consumption of Vitamin C can help curb weight gain.
Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a magic pill that will eat away fat but it does help modulate body weight and adiposity.
One study shows that people who have adequate vitamin C levels in their body can burn 30% more fat when exercising moderately.
In a follow up done after 3 years, the study reveals that regular consumption of vitamin C can prevent weight and abdominal fat gain .
18. May help lower blood glucose levels
New research has shown that vitamin C can somehow help lower blood glucose levels in individuals who have type-2 diabetes and reducing the risk of complications .
19. Beneficial to the stomach
Our gut is one of the most important parts of our health.
It basically regulates digestion and a healthy gut benefits our immune system.
If you have gut issues, chances are you’re sick.
Vitamin C based on studies (on people) can protect the guy from oxidative damage from Helicobacter pylori.
This bacterium is a major cause of stomach ulcers and gastritis .
There’s also strong evidence that vitamin C can lower the risk of gastric cancer .
How much vitamin do you need daily?
Since vitamin C is water soluble which means our body will flush it out the excess amount it doesn’t use.
So it is important that we get our daily dose of vitamin C through the food we eat. If we don’t get enough through consuming foods then we have to rely on supplements to fill the gaps.
The recommended dose for vitamin C to prevent deficiency is 95mg/day for adult men and 75mg/day in adult women. Smokers should increase their vitamin C intake to 125mg/day for men and 110mg/day for women.
Studies however show that you’ll need to consume up to 400mg/day for optimal health. Some studies even suggest consuming several thousand daily .
Foods rich in vitamin C
The best sources of vitamin C come from fruits and vegetables and here’s some data that show which ones contain the most amounts of.
- Kakadu plums – 5300 mg/100 grams or 530% of DV (or Daily Value).
- Rose nips – Six rose nips will provide 119 mg of vitamin C or 132% of DV.
- Arecola cherries – 822 mg/49 grams or 913% of DV.
- Chili peppers – 109 mg/1 green chili pepper or 121% of DV. Red chili peppers will have 65 mg of vitamin C or 72% of DV.
- Guava – 126 mg/guava or 140% of DV.
- Sweet yellow peppers – 137 mg/75 grams or 152% of DV.
- Blackcurrants – 101 mg/56 grams or 112% of DV.
- Parsley – 10mg/8 grams or 11% of DV.
- Thyme – 45mg/28 grams or 50% of DV.
- Mustard spinach – 195mg/cup or 217% of DV.
- Kiwis – 71mg/medium kiwi or 79% of DV.
- Brussel sprouts – 49mg/one-half cup or 54% of DV.
- Broccoli – 51mg/one-half cup or 57% of DV.
- Lemons – 83mg/lemon (unpeeled) or 92% of DV.
- American persimmons – 16.5mg/persimmon or 18% of DV.
- Lychees – 7mg/lychee or 5% of DV.
- Papaya – 87mg/145 grams or 97% of DV.
- Oranges – 70mg/medium orange or 78% of DV.
- Strawberries – 89mg/152 grams or 99% of DV.
- Kale – 80mg/chopped kale or 89% of DV.
* Photo by Lukas from Pexels
What are the side effects of consuming too much vitamin C?
Vitamin C is an important nutrient that our body needs for our immune system to work at its peak.
Even without supplementation, you can get enough of it by eating the right amounts of fruits and vegetables.
It’s pretty hard to overdose in vitamin C just by consuming fruits and veggies.
However there are instances when taking too high a dosage in supplement for can be harmful to our health.
1. Consuming too much vitamin C may cause digestive issues
2. May lead to kidney stones
The waste product of excess vitamin C in the body is oxalate. Typically it goes out of the body through urine. But there are instances when these oxalates bind with minerals to form crystals and may lead to kidney stones .
Consuming too much vitamin C will increase the amount of oxalates our body produces. This will increase risk of stones forming inside our kidneys .
One research revealed that adults who consume a 1,000mg vitamin C supplement twice a day for six days will increase their oxalate output by20%.
Folks who consume more than 2,000 mg of vitamin C have been linked to the formation of kidney stones.
3. Can lead to our body to absorb too much iron
You already know in the list above that vitamin C helps our body absorb Iron better.
Studies show that taking 100mg of vitamin C will increase iron absorption by 67% in one meal .
This is a problem for most folks but for people who have like hemochromatosis, this can be a health issue.
If our body absorbs too much iron, it leads to a condition medical experts describe as “Iron Overload”.
Too much iron in the body can damage the heart, thyroid, liver and nervous system .
However, this shouldn’t be a concern for you unless you’re consuming insanely high amount of vitamin C. Iron overload occurs more often by taking too much iron in supplement form.