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.
The recommended daily intake for vitamin C is 75 mg for women and 90 mg for men. While it’s commonly advised to get your vitamin C intake from foods, many people turn to supplements to meet their needs.
1. May reduce your risk of chronic disease
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can strengthen your body’s natural defenses. Antioxidants are molecules that boost the immune system. They do so by protecting cells from harmful molecules called free radicals. When free radicals accumulate, they can promote a state known as oxidative stress, which has been linked to many chronic diseases
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
2. May help manage high blood pressure
Approximately one-third of American adults have high blood pressure.
High blood pressure puts you at risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death globally. Studies have shown that vitamin C may help lower blood pressure in both those with and without high blood pressure.
An animal study found that taking a vitamin C supplement helped relax the blood vessels that carry blood from the heart, which helped reduce blood pressure levels
3. May lower your risk of heart disease
Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. Many factors increase the risk of heart disease, including high blood pressure, high triglyceride or LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, and low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. Vitamin C may help reduce these risk factors, which may reduce heart disease risk.
For example, an analysis of 9 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.
Stroke. Although research has been conflicting, one study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that those with the highest concentrations of vitamin C in their blood were associated with 42% lower stroke risk than those with the lowest concentrations. The reasons for this are not completely clear. But what is clear is that people who eat plenty of fruits and vegetables have higher blood levels of vitamin C.
4. May reduce blood uric acid levels and help prevent gout attacks
Gout is a type of arthritis that affects approximately 4% of American adults.
It’s incredibly painful and involves inflammation of the joints, especially those of the big toes. People with gout experience swelling and sudden, severe attacks of pain.
Gout symptoms appear when there is too much uric acid in the blood. Uric acid is a waste product produced by the body. At high levels, it may crystallize and deposit in the joints.
Interestingly, several studies have shown that vitamin C may help reduce uric acid in the blood and, as a result, protect against gout attacks.
5. Boosts immunity
One of the main reasons people take vitamin C supplements is to boost their immunity, as vitamin C is involved in many parts of the immune system.
First, vitamin C helps encourage the production of white blood cells known as lymphocytes and phagocytes, which help protect the body against infection.
Second, vitamin C helps these white blood cells function more effectively while protecting them from damage by potentially harmful molecules, such as free radicals.
Third, vitamin C is an essential part of the skin’s defense system. It’s actively transported to the skin, where it can act as an antioxidant and help strengthen the skin’s barriers.
Studies have also shown that taking vitamin C may shorten wound healing time.
What’s more, low vitamin C levels have been linked to poor health outcomes. For example, people who have pneumonia tend to have lower vitamin C levels, and vitamin C supplements have been shown to shorten the recovery time.
6. Protects your memory and thinking as you age
Dementia is a broad term used to describe symptoms of poor thinking and memory.
It affects over 35 million people worldwide and typically occurs among older adults. Studies suggest that oxidative stress and inflammation near the brain, spine, and nerves (altogether known as the central nervous system) can increase the risk of dementia
Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant. Low levels of this vitamin have been linked to an impaired ability to think and remember
7. Skin Aging
Vitamin C affects cells on the inside and outside of the body and it’s antioxidant properties can be beneficial when it comes to aging. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined links between nutrient intakes and skin aging in 4,025 women aged 40-74. It found that higher vitamin C intakes were associated with a lower likelihood of a wrinkled appearance, dryness of the skin, and a better skin-aging appearance. In addition, topical treatments with Vitamin C have been shown in some studies to reduce wrinkles
Vitamin C may help lower the risk of cataracts and slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration. However, more research is needed.
Experts believe that oxidative stress may be a factor in both conditions, so any benefit may be due to vitamin C’s antioxidant activity.
A deficiency in vitamin C is associated with many stress related disease. It is the first nutrient to be depleted in alcoholics, smokers, and obese individuals. And because vitamin C is one of the nutrients sensitive to stress, Moyad says maintaining levels of vitamin C can be an ideal marker for overall health.
A 2019 study looked at 31 people aged around 60 years to see whether or not taking vitamin C supplements made a difference to their glucose levels after eating.
After taking supplements for 4 months, the participants’ glucose levels and blood pressure improved, compared with taking a placebo. This suggests that vitamin C could, one day, be a treatment for diabetes.
Vitamin C enhances the absorption of iron, and some healthcare professionals recommend taking vitamin C supplements with iron tablets to improve absorption in people with iron deficiency anemia.
One 2020 looked at 432 people who took iron supplements for iron deficiency anemia. Some took vitamin C with their iron supplement, and others did not. However, both groups saw similar increases in iron, suggesting that vitamin C supplementation is unnecessary for this purpose.
Some has suggested that a combination of vitamin C and vitamin E may have an antioxidant effect that can help reduce symptoms of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
During an allergic reaction, the immune system triggers an inflammatory response that can lead to symptoms such as swelling and hives. During this process, the body produces ROS, which can lead to oxidative stress.
In a 2018, 71 people with skin or respiratory allergies received various doses of intravenous vitamin C, and the researchers observed the severity of the participants’ symptoms. Their paper concludes that taking a high dose of vitamin C may help reduce allergy symptoms. They also found evidence to suggest that low vitamin C levels were common in people with allergies.
12. Motion sickness
In a 2014, 70 people took 2 grams of either vitamin C or a placebo and then spent 20 minutes on a life raft in a wave pool. Those who took the supplement had lower levels of