Vitamin C has dozens of benefits, comes from dozens of foods, and may be one of the most popular - and most well researched - supplements out there. In this blog we cover:
- How to eat to get the most out of your vitamin C
- When to consider a vitamin C supplement
- How much vitamin C should you take?
- Can you take too much vitamin C?
Take your supplement game to the next level and read on!
Vitamin C: The Front Line Antioxidant
Your body has a multi-tiered way of handling the stress that comes its way. Ascorbic acid, commonly known as “vitamin C”, features as a critical component of the front-line of this system.
If you imagine your body as a calorie burning furnace, every now and then hot embers pop out that you need to handle. Vitamin C’s antioxidant action is that first step in neutralizing those damaging particles known as “reactive oxygen species”. As your stores of vitamin C get used up fighting little fires in your cells, you have to replenish your levels on a regular basis with what you eat. Read more on how to support your antioxidant system starting with part 1 of our 5-part series on your antioxidant system.
Besides acting as an antioxidant, vitamin C also works as a “cofactor” to help the machinery of your cells function properly. Essentially, it plugs into certain enzymes to let them do the work of making the hormone norepinephrine, carnitine (required for the fat-burning process of shuttling fat in and out of your mitochondria, the “powerplant of your cells”), other signalling molecules, and stabilizing other hormones.
Perhaps the most important role of vitamin C as a cofactor is its role in making collagen - the critical piece of your connective tissue that determines the strength of your bones, the health of your joints, the resilience of your organs, and even how well your cuts and wounds heal.
The Institute of Medicine sets the recommended amount of 90 mg per day based on how much 97-98% of Americans need for antioxidant protection in red blood cells .
Who Should Supplement With Vitamin C?
About 46% of Americans don’t get enough vitamin C in their diet to prevent inadequacy.
That’s right, check the data here. Even fewer get the 90 mg that covers 97-98% of American’s needs.
So if more than half of Americans aren’t getting enough vitamin C, then who should be supplementing?
Well, let's back up a bit. Why are most people not getting enough vitamin C? I think the highly processed foods that typify most Western diets is the culprit.
In fact, just by eating a couple of vegetables a day, you can get more than enough vitamin C - and the beneficial natural phytochemical antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients found alongside it in whole food sources.
Here’s how much of the most common whole-food vitamin C sources you need to eat to get the recommended amount of 90 mg every day:
- ½ cup sweet red, yellow, or orange bell pepper
- ½ cup black currants
- ½ cup mustard greens
- ½ medium guava
- ¾ cup orange juice or grapefruit juice
- 1 ½ medium oranges or 1 ½ kiwis
- 1 ½ cups green bell pepper
- 1 cup strawberries, or cooked broccoli or brussels sprouts
- 1 cup canned tomato juice (watch out for added sugar or preservatives!)
- 1 large grapefruit
- 2 cups cantaloupe, or cooked cabbage, cauliflower, or kale
As you can see, if you eat a variety of colorful fruits and veggies you’re likely getting enough vitamin C.
There is one notable superfood that packs in the largest dose of vitamin C in a single serving: one half cup of acerola cherries provides 822 mg, or 913% of your daily value of vitamin C. Acerola cherry extract is where the vitamin C in Resync Collagen comes from.
This is great and all, but sometimes you can’t always get the vitamin C you need from foods. Some people need more vitamin C than the baseline recommendation. Plus, there are a lot of benefits shown from supplementing with vitamin C.
Who Needs More Vitamin C?
Like I said before, vitamin C is a crucial antioxidant and plays a major role in a number of processes. Some people need more vitamin C than others, here’s the short list, according to the federal government’s Institute of Medicine:
- Smokers need an extra 35 mg of vitamin C to combat the oxidative stress caused by inhaling cigarette smoke. People exposed to secondhand smoke need more vitamin C too.
- People who drink too much alcohol also need more vitamin C, both to combat the stress put on their bodies and because they don’t get enough high-quality calories in their diet.
- People with restrictive diets, whether by choice or due to a condition, might not get enough vitamin C. If it’s due to a condition like inflammatory bowel disease, there’s two hits: one from not eating enough vitamin C-containing foods, and another due to the oxidative stress of their condition.
- People who are overweight or obese tend to have low levels of vitamin C, although it’s not certain which one - obesity or vitamin C insufficiency - is the chicken or which one’s the egg.
- Other people who put their bodies through high amounts of intense activity. Athletes may benefit from a range of supplements, vitamin C being one, but there’s a happy medium here: too much might make you lose the gains from your workout, read on to learn more.
What are the Benefits of Vitamin C Supplements?
There is some evidence that getting extra vitamin C may prove beneficial for your health. Some researchers suggest getting at least 200mg per day to help manage the many chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, hypertension, chronic inflammation, and H. pylori infection.
Vitamin C And Connective Tissue Health
Are you one in four American adults who suffer from the debilitating pain of arthritis? Do you feel the long-term effects of an old tendon or joint injury?
A collagen supplement has been shown in research studies to have beneficial effects for these people, but there’s something you should know about how you take it.
To absorb the most collagen and get the most effective collagen synthesis in your body, you need to make sure your collagen also delivers vitamin C.
This study clearly shows the collagen-enhancing benefits of a hydrolyzed collagen supplement combined with vitamin C. A marker of collagen synthesis was doubled when 15 grams of collagen was taken alongside just 15mg of vitamin C when compared to taking a lower dose of vitamin C or a lower dose of collagen.
If you really want to take the vitamin C - collagen benefits to the next level, consider trying Resync’s Collagen Blend. We pair standardized, quality-certified natural nitrates from unique sources to maximize the benefits to your connective tissue health.
Vitamin C and Immune Health
Vitamin C may be most well known for its supposed role in preventing the common cold. I have sad news to break, vitamin C isn’t going to be the most impactful supplement to take for infection control. Check out our two part series on eating and supplementing to support your immune health here.
Relatively high doses may have a slight benefit in reducing the length of a cold and limiting how bad a cold might get, but the research is mixed on whether vitamin C can prevent the common cold: you’ll have to experiment yourself to see what works for you.
Taking a lower dose of 200mg per day on a regular basis might not be helpful for preventing a cold in the first place unless you’re doing an endurance sport or working out in the cold, according to a Cochrane meta-analysis.
Otherwise, you have to take really high doses (2000mg/day) at the beginning of a cold to reduce your cold symptoms. I would be wary though: we cover the potentially negative effects on physical performance of such a high dose a little later in this blog.
Can I Get Too Much Vitamin C?
Wish vitamin C having no known toxic level and lots of benefits at moderate doses, one common question is “how much is too much vitamin C”?
There are a few situations where you do not want to take too much vitamin C.
If you have hemochromatosis, a disease where you absorb too much iron, you should limit the vitamin C you eat with iron, since vitamin C enhances iron absorption.
If you’re curious about IV vitamin C, check out this great article by Dr. Rhonda Patrick’s team for some great details, and talk to your doctor before doing anything radical!
What about vitamin C and exercise? Well the old saying “ dose makes the poison” is certainly relevant to vitamin C (even if there’s no “poisonous” dose of vitamin C!).
Vitamin C And Exercise: The Answer Is In The Dose
If you’re an athlete or just getting active, taking 1000mg of vitamin C and 400 IU of vitamin E was shown in one well-done study to blunt the oxidative damage from high intensity exercise. What’s the problem with that, you might ask?
Well a certain level of inflammation is necessary for your body to benefit from exercise. There’s certainly such a thing as too much, but high doses of antioxidants appear to diminish the returns you would be expecting from your workout.
Other studies show that supplementing with vitamin C is not helpful in diminishing delayed onset muscle soreness, increasing the high intensity workouts, and may even decrease endurance performance and reduce the insulin-sensitization benefits of exercise!
- More often than not, Americans are not getting enough vitamin C in their diets.
- There are plenty of fruits and vegetables that provide enough vitamin C that you might not have to supplement.
- Some people, especially those exposed to high levels of oxidative stress, may need up to 200mg of vitamin C.
- Studies that show that your body makes the most collagen from a supplement when taken with vitamin C below the 90mg RDA.
- Studies that show the benefits of vitamin C for managing chronic diseases like hypertension or cardiovascular disease use 200mg vitamin C or less.
- Studies that show no benefit or even a negative effect of vitamin C use 400 mg to 1000mg.
- Studies that show a benefit for immune health use high doses at the very beginning of cold symptoms
- Regular vitamin C supplements don’t seem to have much of a beneficial effect on how often you get a cold, unless you do high intensity physical activity outside in the cold.
- That being said, those people who need more vitamin C should defer to the moderately higher dose suggested by the Institute of Medicine.
The takeaway: get your vitamin C from foods. If you need more, supplement with some (200mg or less) vitamin C, but not too much unless you need it at the very beginning of a cold.
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Wishing you the best in your health and your safety,
The Resync Team
Arthritis | CDC. 25 Feb. 2019. www.cdc.gov, https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/factsheets/arthritis.htm.
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Hemilä, Harri, and Elizabeth Chalker. “Vitamin C for Preventing and Treating the Common Cold.” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, no. 1, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 2013. www.cochranelibrary.com, doi:10.1002/14651858.CD000980.pub4.
Office of Dietary Supplements - Vitamin C. ods.od.nih.gov, https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-HealthProfessional/. Accessed 15 May 2020.
Ran, Li, et al. “Extra Dose of Vitamin C Based on a Daily Supplementation Shortens the Common Cold: A Meta-Analysis of 9 Randomized Controlled Trials.” BioMed Research International, vol. 2018, Hindawi, 2018, p. e1837634. www.hindawi.com, doi:https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/1837634.
Ristow, Michael, et al. “Antioxidants Prevent Health-Promoting Effects of Physical Exercise in Humans.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 106, no. 21, May 2009, pp. 8665–70. PubMed, doi:10.1073/pnas.0903485106.
Shaw, Gregory, et al. “Vitamin C–Enriched Gelatin Supplementation before Intermittent Activity Augments Collagen Synthesis12.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 105, no. 1, Jan. 2017, pp. 136–43. PubMed Central, doi:10.3945/ajcn.116.138594.
Usual_Intake_gender_WWEIA_2013_2016.Pdf. https://www.ars.usda.gov/ARSUserFiles/80400530/pdf/usual/Usual_Intake_gender_WWEIA_2013_2016.pdf. Accessed 15 May 2020.
VitaminC-Content.Pdf. https://ods.od.nih.gov/pubs/usdandb/VitaminC-Content.pdf. Accessed 15 May 2020.
Written by registered dietitian, Detrick Snyder, MPH, RDN. Updated 09/22/2020