Worried about getting a chilly or the flu? For many people, the knee-jerk motion is to take an enormous dose of day by day vitamin C. For a few years, C has been the vitamin with the largest advertising and marketing funds (thanks partially to the citrus business). Now, within the period of COVID-19, with many people attempting to determine eat to greatest assist our immune methods, let’s separate truth from hypothesis. Can vitamin C actually assist to forestall colds, flus, and different viral infections? How does vitamin C work within the immune system, and is it price contemplating taking a day by day vitamin C complement? And in that case, which of them are greatest?

What is Vitamin C?

Vitamin C, often known as L-ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin and a strong antioxidant. Unlike fat-soluble nutritional vitamins like A and E, water-soluble nutritional vitamins aren’t saved within the physique. Whatever you don’t use right now is excreted by way of urine, so regardless of how a lot you’re taking right now, you could get extra tomorrow and daily after that.

While most animals can synthesize their very own vitamin C, people can’t. Other exceptions embrace apes and different primates, guinea pigs, fruit-eating bats, bugs, fish, sure reptiles, and a few chook species. Since we are able to’t make it, and it’s essential for our well being, we should eat meals that accommodates vitamin C. This, plus the truth that vitamin C is the least secure vitamin, is why it’s a vital nutrient to eat (or complement).

Benefits of Vitamin C

little girl using oranges as glasses

Vitamin C has an a variety of benefits and makes use of in human well being.


As a potent antioxidant, vitamin C reduces oxidative stress in your physique. Extensive analysis exhibits that diets wealthy in day by day vitamin C are related to a decrease threat of many persistent illnesses, comparable to coronary heart illness, sure cancers, eye illnesses, and neurodegenerative circumstances that have an effect on cognitive well being. Vitamin C also can regenerate different antioxidants, comparable to vitamin E, by decreasing free radicals shaped when vitamin E scavenges oxygen radicals.

White Blood Cells

Vitamin C might also assist to advertise the manufacturing and safety of white blood cells, which assist your physique struggle off infections. This may be particularly related to COVID-19 as a result of many contaminated sufferers have a low white blood cell depend once they contract the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Skin Health

Vitamin C is a part of your exterior protection system as effectively, because it performs a main function within the well being and integrity of your pores and skin. This is as a result of day by day vitamin C is required to provide collagen, probably the most plentiful protein in your physique’s connective tissue. It helps strengthen your pores and skin’s boundaries, which is vital to struggle the unfold of COVID-19 and different viruses in addition to defend your pores and skin with the entire hand-washing you’re doing. (You are washing your arms rather a lot, proper?)

Iron Absorption

Vitamin C boosts iron absorption, which might help forestall iron deficiency. For occasion, consuming a mix of tomatoes and lentils, or tomatoes and beans, on the similar time, can improve how a lot iron you soak up. A research revealed within the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition discovered that including 100 mg of vitamin C (as ascorbic acid) to meals boosted iron absorption by 67%.

Chronic Disease Prevention

Studies have discovered vitamin C to play a task in stopping coronary heart illness, primarily by managing blood strain. It’s additionally protecting in opposition to oxidative stress within the mind, particularly in terms of illnesses like Alzheimer’s and dementia. Your eyes can profit from day by day vitamin C too, which can even assist sluggish age-related illnesses like cataracts. It might also assist enhance fertility in males, primarily by enhancing sperm high quality.

How Much Daily Vitamin C Do You Need?

vitamin c rich foods

The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of vitamin C varies between 15 mg-120 mg per day. Pregnant and lactating girls, and the aged, ought to goal for the higher finish of that vary. The common grownup requires 75-90 mg of day by day vitamin C, which you’ll simply receive from a wholesome, plant-centered weight-reduction plan. For reference, one massive orange accommodates roughly 100 mg of vitamin C. Truth in promoting from the Florida Department of Citrus!

When you eat vitamin C in reasonable quantities (say, 30-180 mg per day), your physique absorbs round 70-90% of it. When you begin taking greater than 1,000 mg per day (almost not possible to do with out supplementation), absorption charges lower to lower than 50%. Leftover vitamin C passes out of your physique in urine.

What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Vitamin C?

Not getting sufficient day by day vitamin C has well-established destructive well being results. The main consequence of vitamin C deficiency is scurvy, a illness wherein folks expertise fatigue, pores and skin rash, open and unhealing sores, bleeding gums, and bruising. If untreated, it may result in dying.

The Discovery of Scurvy

The discovery of vitamin C and scurvy occurred on the similar time, within the 1920s, when vitamin C deficiency was a severe and pretty frequent situation. Sailors on lengthy sea voyages who subsisted on fish, dried meats, and onerous tack (a fundamental biscuit or cracker), with no entry to recent or preserved produce, continuously skilled signs of scurvy, a illness characterised by the breakdown of connective tissues.

Historians estimate that between the primary voyage of Columbus and the rise of the steam engine within the mid-19th century, over two million sailors perished from the illness. Shipping firms and governments assumed that half of the sailors would die from scurvy on any given voyage.

After experimenting with ineffective and infrequently harmful therapies like vinegar, “elixir of vitriol” (a very alarming cocktail of sulfuric acid and alcohol), and numerous potent laxatives, seamen lastly found an answer within the mid-1700s. When a badly broken British naval fleet made their approach to Juan Fernández Island (off the coast of what’s now Chile) with only a few hundred males left alive out of the unique 1200, they (seemingly) miraculously reversed their scurvy as soon as they started consuming the meals available on the island: oats, clover, radishes, sorrel, and different vegetable meals wealthy in vitamin C.

While greens had been impractical to sail with, citrus fruits could possibly be taken on board and saved and distributed to sailors to maintain them wholesome. Once the sailors obtained recent fruit and veggies, scurvy could possibly be reversed and prevented. Navies and delivery firms started taking oranges, lemons, and limes on these voyages to deal with and stop the sailors’ illness. The tie is so sturdy that “ascorbic” within the chemical identify for vitamin C truly means “anti-scurvy.”

Scurvy Risk Today

Today, scurvy may be very uncommon, particularly in case your weight-reduction plan is wealthy in fruits and veggies. Most scurvy circumstances are related to a vitamin C consumption of lower than 10 mg per day. Some persons are extra in danger, nonetheless, together with those that smoke, infants fed evaporated or boiled milk (as this will destroy vitamin C), individuals who eat diets of restricted selection, and people who’ve absorption issues.

Can You Get Too Much Vitamin C?

If your physique simply eliminates extra vitamin C daily, is it doable to get an excessive amount of of it? The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for vitamin C is 2,000 mg, which means that that is the quantity that has been established as the very best quantity typically tolerated with out destructive results for most individuals.

The most typical negative effects of vitamin C, related to extreme consumption, are digestive disturbances — like diarrhea, nausea, and cramping — primarily on account of unabsorbed vitamin C sitting within the gastrointestinal tract.

For a smaller variety of folks, extreme vitamin C can result in extra important issues. For occasion, these with hereditary hemochromatosis could possibly be in danger for iron overload leading to tissue harm as a result of absorptive-boosting results of vitamin C on iron. People with renal issues might also have a heightened threat for negative effects if their vitamin C consumption is in extra of 1,000-2,000 mg per day. Kidney stones can kind on account of excessive quantities of vitamin C from supplementation, inflicting an elevated excretion of oxalate in your urine. Though that is uncommon amongst wholesome folks with reasonable vitamin C intakes.

Vitamin C might also have the potential to intrude with sure drugs, like cholesterol-lowering statins, Adderall for ADHD, and warfarin, which is used to forestall blood clots.

For most individuals, nonetheless, a reasonable quantity of vitamin C (2,000 mg or much less per day) appears to be pretty effectively tolerated.

Vitamin C-Rich Foods

infographic vitamin c foods
iStock.com/Alena Igdeeva

Fruits and greens are superb sources of day by day vitamin C. However, fashionable agricultural practices have depleted soil high quality all over the world, which means that the soils wherein crops are grown have far fewer vitamins than they used to.

An evaluation of nutrient information from the Kushi Institute, performed between 1975 and 1997, discovered that the common quantity of vitamin C in crops had decreased by 30%. We can assume that much more depletion has occurred within the almost 25 years for the reason that completion of that research.

Optimizing Your Dietary Vitamin C

How do you optimize your vitamin C consumption from meals? Start with selecting good sources of vitamin C (see listing beneath). Then, take note of the way you put together these meals. Certain preparation strategies can decrease the quantity of vitamin C in a meals. Boiling can considerably scale back the content material, whereas microwaving, surprisingly sufficient, preserved probably the most. In basic, the longer and the warmer the cooking methodology, the extra vitamin C was destroyed.

Storage strategies additionally play a task. Fresh and frozen produce tends to have extra vitamin C than canned. The longer you retain that recent produce in your fridge or in your counter, the much less vitamin C you find yourself with. Frozen produce is an effective possibility because the freezing course of can destroy among the enzymes that ultimately degrade vitamin C.

Though not effectively documented, the quantity of vitamin C in fruits and veggies might also differ considerably relying on the place they’re grown, how they’re grown, how lengthy they sit after harvest, what season it’s, and the way they’re saved. Even fruits grown on completely different branches of the identical tree can fluctuate of their nutrient content material!

The greatest approach to meet vitamin C wants is to include a wide range of fruit and veggies into your weight-reduction plan regularly. Good sources of vitamin C together with their approximate vitamin C content material, are listed beneath. Note that a few of these are additionally discovered on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen listing, which means that they’re usually excessive in pesticides when grown conventionally. So it’s a good suggestion to purchase natural produce at any time when doable.

  • 1 medium guava = 126 mg
  • 1 medium purple bell pepper = 152 mg
  • 1 medium orange = 70 mg
  • 1 cup of uncooked broccoli = 40 mg
  • 1 small lemon = 30 mg
  • 1 small papaya = 95 mg
  • 1 cup of uncooked Brussels sprouts = 75 mg
  • 1 cup of uncooked strawberries = 60 mg
  • 1 kiwi fruit = 64 mg
  • ¾ cup of diced pineapple = 48 mg
  • 1 cup of frozen cauliflower florets = 21 mg
  • 1 cup of uncooked cantaloupe = 57 mg
  • 1 massive tomato = 25 mg

Should You Take Vitamin C Supplements?

vitamin c supplement with orange halves

If you’re seeking to increase your day by day vitamin C consumption effectively past the RDA, you’ll be able to both eat a really great amount of vitamin C-rich meals like oranges, guavas, and purple bell peppers, or you might need to contemplate supplementation. And whereas getting vitamins from meals is sort of all the time greatest, there are some compelling research to again up the notion that for some folks, vitamin C supplementation could possibly be useful. Perhaps particularly within the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vitamin C supplementation has been discovered to cut back severity and shorten restoration time from sicknesses, together with viral infections like chilly and flu. It can assist your physique’s pure defenses and struggle irritation. And there’s some proof from animal analysis and case research in people that prime dose, or IV vitamin C, can scale back lung irritation in extreme respiratory sicknesses attributable to H1N1 (“swine flu”) or different related viruses.

Vitamin C for COVID-19

What about COVID-19? Some scientists imagine that vitamin C supplementation could possibly be useful in calming the cytokine storms that usually accompany this sickness. Cytokines are proteins launched by cells that ramp up your immune response. In some folks, an overactive immune system will get caught in a loop and releases so many cytokines that the lungs turn into infected. Severe lung irritation with COVID-19 may end up in respiratory misery and even dying. Until we have now research that check the usage of supplemental vitamin C within the remedy of COVID-19, particularly, we gained’t know if it helps to cut back cytokine storms or not. But it appears believable that it may.

Research is presently underway in China, as a number of research search to seek out out if excessive doses of IV vitamin C can shorten COVID-19 restoration time. So far, researchers have famous that it could scale back ICU size and shorten time on ventilators. Based on preliminary analysis, the Shanghai Medical Association endorsed the usage of excessive dose vitamin C as a remedy for hospitalized folks with COVID-19. However, extra research is important to know with confidence, whether or not and the way a lot vitamin C is useful.

Best Vitamin C Supplement

One approach to get very excessive doses of vitamin C is thru intravenous, or IV, remedy. However, this may be very expensive and isn’t almost as handy or accessible as oral vitamin C.

On the opposite hand, standard oral vitamin C dietary supplements, usually within the type of vitamin C capsules, lozenges, or gummies, can have some drawbacks. For occasion, they may comprise extremely processed components, synthetic fillers, and “natural” flavorings. Some additionally comprise added sugars.

Additionally, digestive points can accompany massive quantities of vitamin C by way of dietary supplements. Ascorbic acid — the supplemental type of vitamin C — has a really low pH, which means that it’s extremely acidic. When a complement doesn’t adequately buffer the ascorbic acid, it may result in cramping, diarrhea, and different stomach-related points in some folks.

Liposomal Vitamin C

Liposomal vitamin C is another choice to think about. This kind is encapsulated in liposomes or double-layered, protecting fats bubbles that ship vitamins to cells in your physique. Research exhibits that liposomal vitamin C is simpler and bioavailable than standard oral vitamin C dietary supplements.

Liposomes defend the vitamin C micelles from environmental threats and absorption boundaries discovered within the human digestive system. As they undergo your intestinal tract, the liposomes gently peel away, step by step releasing the vitamin C micelles and depositing them close to the intestine lining the place they’re higher absorbed.

Support Your Immune System with Vitamin C

little girl holding an orange slice

Vitamin C is a identified antioxidant, is present in among the healthiest meals on the planet, and appears to be good for immune well being too. Eating vitamin C-rich fruit and veggies in regular portions has no obvious draw back. And taking vitamin C dietary supplements could have some optimistic advantages, although there’s extra to be taught.

Whether or not supplemental vitamin C is useful within the prevention or remedy of COVID-19 is an open query. But there’s little doubt that consuming a weight-reduction plan that’s plentiful in vitamin C-rich meals is sweet for your well being — pandemic or no pandemic.

Tell us within the feedback:

  • What are a few of your favourite vitamin C-rich meals?
  • Have you heard of IV vitamin C as a remedy for viral illnesses like COVID-19? What do you consider that?
  • Do you’re taking day by day vitamin C? Why or why not?

Feature picture: iStock.com/Chinarius

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