Next in our series is vitamin C. Also known as ascorbic acid and ascorbate, vitamin C is an important nutrient that your body needs to boost your immune system and form blood vessels, cartilage, muscle and collagen in your bones.
What is Vitamin C?
Found naturally in foods such as citrus fruits, berries, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and spinach, this vitamin is an antioxidant that protects cells against the effects of free radicals and is vital to your body’s healing process. It also helps your body absorb and store iron. The recommended daily amount of vitamin C for adult women is 75 milligrams and 90 milligrams for adult men.
What does Vitamin C do?
Research has shown that vitamin C can be especially useful for the following conditions:
Eating foods rich in vitamin C might lower your risk of many types of cancer, such as breast, colon or lung cancers. However, taking oral vitamin C supplements don’t seem to have the same effect.
The Common Cold
Taking vitamin C supplements won’t prevent colds, but there is evidence to suggest that taking them will shorten the life of your cold and lessen the severity of your symptoms. Unfortunately, taking vitamin C after you develop a cold is of no help.
Taking oral vitamin C supplements in combination with other vitamins and minerals seems to prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD) from worsening. Some studies have shown that people who have higher levels of vitamin C in their diets have a lower risk of developing cataracts.
Can I get too much?
When taken in small doses, oral vitamin C supplements are considered safe to take. Side effects tend to be dose related. Taking too much vitamin C can cause:
When to see a health care provider
In some cases, the use of oral vitamin C can cause kidney stones. Long-term use of supplements over 2,000 milligrams a day increases risks of these side effects. If you have any questions about your vitamin C intake, you should contact your health care provider. Always discuss with your doctor to determine whether a vitamin C supplement is right for you. You should also tell your doctor that you are taking vitamin C supplements before you have any medical tests, since it might interfere with certain medical tests. Possible interactions include:
Taking vitamin C can increase absorption of aluminum from medications and can be harmful to people with kidney problems.
There is a possible connection between the use of antioxidants such as vitamin C during chemotherapy and a reduction of the drug’s effect.
Taking vitamin C with oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy might increase your estrogen levels.
Oral use of vitamin C might reduce the effect of these antiviral drugs.
Statins and niacin
Taking vitamin C with niacin could reduce its effect.
Warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven)
High doses of vitamin C might reduce your response to this blood thinner.
A healthy approach
Overall, vitamin C is one of the most effective nutrients. It may not be the cure for your cold, but its benefits include protection against immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, prenatal health problems and even skin wrinkling. By sticking to a balanced diet of fruits and vegetables and incorporating supplements if necessary, getting your daily dose of vitamin C is important to keep your immune system in top shape.