Vitamin C has a rich and surprisingly controversial history. On the one hand, science is clear that the body needs it, but the type, dose, and frequency are all up for debate.
What is Vitamin C?
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that is needed for many reactions within the body. Humans are not capable of making it internally (most other animals can manufacture it in their livers). Vitamin C is present in many foods, especially brightly colored vegetables like bell peppers and citrus fruits, among others.
Since the human body does not manufacture or store vitamin C, it must be obtained regularly from the diet (or supplements). Though low-level vitamin C deficiency is common, severe deficiency (also known as scurvy) is rare in modern times.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, meaning it can help protect the body from the damage of free radicals. On a practical level, this means that it protects cellular health, reduces the effects of aging, and boosts the immune system.
I first learned about the benefits of vitamin C in high school when I had to do a research paper on Dr. Linus Pauling, a Nobel Prize-winning chemist who is considered one of the fathers of biochemistry. He spent much of his career studying vitamin C and even wrote several books on the vitamin’s impact on health. His work provided much of the current understanding of this important vitamin.
How Much Vitamin C Do We Need?
Now, things are going to get hairy. The answer is that it depends on who you ask and when.
Modern research is divided and every health expert seems to have a different opinion. Like many aspects of health, the answer is likely that it depends and that it is different for every individual.
For many healthy people, it is likely possible to get enough vitamin C from rich food sources like certain fruits and vegetables. Certain supplements also contain just whole-food sources of vitamin C and can be beneficial for those wanting to slightly increase their vitamin C consumption.
Research shows that those with certain conditions may benefit from supplemental vitamin C as well, sometimes even in the form of an IV. In fact, some doctors are experimenting with high-dose IV dosing to help in recovery from serious illnesses, surgery, and even cancer.
Linus Pauling himself was rumored to take 12,000 mg or more of vitamin C a day (and he lived to 93)! Since up to a third of people are deficient in vitamin C, it can be important to supplement, but the type absolutely matters!
Benefits of Vitamin C
Today, even more, science backs up the benefits of optimal amounts of vitamin C. Here are the main health benefits of vitamin C according to current medical research:
1. Boosts the Immune System
Perhaps the most well-known benefit, and with good reason. Administering extra vitamin C is always part of my cold and flu protocol. Interestingly, this is also one of the more hotly debated benefits. Several reviews of all randomized controlled data showed little or no effect on colds from vitamin C supplementation. Most of these studies looked at small doses or at the effect after the onset of colds.
Other studies showed benefit from larger doses and from taking vitamin C before the onset of illness. Most notably, one study showed a reduction in symptoms and duration of a cold from one 8 gram dose of ascorbic acid on the first day of symptoms.
2. Supports the Brain
A lesser-known but equally important benefit of vitamin C (and why it is part of my daily routine).
The brain maintains vitamin C levels even with other parts of the body show signs of deficiency. In fact, the brain often has 100x concentration as the rest of the body and likely for good reason!
Vitamin C helps the brain in several important ways:
- reduces reactive oxygen species and protects against neural damage
- promotes the healthy development of neurons and supports the formation of myelin
- supports optimal neurotransmitter production
- leads to expression of BDNF (brain-derived-neurotropic-factor)
- may even help avoid Alzheimer’s Disease according to recent studies
3. Fights Oxidative Damage in the Body
As you are probably already aware, free radicals and oxidative damage are bad news.
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that correlates with reduced risk of disease and longer lifespan, likely because of its ability to reduce oxidative damage and free radicals.
Specifically, studies have found that vitamin C is especially effective at reducing damage in the lungs. This is why RDA guidelines recommend higher vitamin C intake for smokers. Ascorbic acid is also sometimes used in conjunction with cancer treatments to help mitigate oxidative damage.
For those of us who (hopefully) don’t smoke or have cancer, a diet rich in vitamin C and some occasional supplements will likely just help keep inflammation at bay.
4. Boosts Mood and Libido
I notice I am generally happier and feel better when I get enough vitamin C. But science supports my anecdotal finding…
Studies link a severe deficiency of vitamin C to emotional instability and anxiety. In one study adequate consumption led to a 35% reduction in mood disturbances and increased oxytocin. Yet another study found an increase in libido from 3,000 mg a day supplementation.
Yet another reason to start the day with lemon water!
5. Promotes a Healthy Heart
The jury is still out on this one, but some studies show that diets high in vitamin C seem to reduce the chance of heart disease and stroke. This is logical since vitamin C is naturally found in fruits and vegetables and consuming enough of these is also great for the heart.
Another study showed that vitamin C may increase HDL cholesterol and reduce small particle LDL. The latest research even shows that this vitamin may reduce arterial plaque and strengthen blood vessels.
6. Boosts Collagen Production and Improve Skin
Internal and topical vitamin C can help increase collagen production and improve skin health.
Vitamin C helps stabilize collagen and improves the connective tissue in the entire body, including the skin and bones. It is widely used in beauty products since it induces collagen synthesis. Studies even show that it may slow the natural aging process by protecting and improving the body’s collagen.
Topical treatments are clinically shown to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, lines, and sunspots. You can mix a little ascorbic acid powder into my face wash to get these benefits.
7. Supports the Adrenals
I also increase my intake of “C” when I’m stressed because it is directly used by the adrenals.
Though this tidbit is less well known, vitamin C is necessary for healthy levels of cortisol. It is found in high concentrations in the adrenal glands and can become rapidly depleted during times of stress.
When you’re taking a high dose of vitamin C, you can’t take it all in one dose. The simplest buffer is to put stuff in your stomach—water will reduce the acidity. Food. And if you have a really sensitive stomach you can get buffered Vitamin C.
If you start to get the rumble “down there” in your gut, that’s the point. That’s called loose stool. At this level, you’re at oral saturation and that’s where Vitamin C has its therapeutic benefit.
If you’re healthy, 15,000 mg a day is great. If you’re sick as a dog, then take more.
Vitamin C comes in chewable, pills, liquid—and even intravenous, which has been used to treat ovarian, pancreatic, and bowel cancer. Those particular cancers are very hard to treat, but there’s a very high cure rate. Vitamin C is not THE answer, but it’s an awfully big part of the answer.
Vitamin C is an incredibly effective antitoxin. Dr. Tom Levy goes over exactly how it works in his book, Curing the Incurable: Vitamin C, Infectious Diseases, and Toxins. It’s a coenzyme and an antioxidant and an antitoxin and more. How can one vitamin be all those Anti’s all at once?
Your body knows how to do a lot of things with a relatively low number of building blocks. Think about what your body can do with just water? The same is true for Vitamin C.
If your body can do all these things with one building block, imagine what happens when it’s not there?
C Vitamins are 400 times cheaper than Vitamin C from an orange. I think it’s a good thing to eat your fruits and veggies, but what if you’re broke? What if you’re sick? I’m interested in the results. I’ve taught chemistry, cell biology, nutrition—I’m interested in seeing people get well, and you’re one of them.
I recommend Dr. Andrew Saul, The MegaVitamin Man, you’ll learn how to take your health into your own hands with inexpensive, readily available, and easy-to-use vitamins.
Buffered Vitamin C Powder
Buffered Vitamin C Powder makes it easier for individuals with a sensitive or compromised digestive system to take a higher amount of vitamin C. Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a key antioxidant, protecting cells throughout the body from free radical damage.
Our Buffered Vitamin C Powder contains four buffering minerals, in addition to ascorbic acid. When mixed with water, it produces a reduced-acid solution that is non-irritating to the stomach and intestinal lining. The minerals also make it a more pleasant-tasting and healthful drink. The substances used in this product make it effervesce for a short while when it’s mixed with water.