Nutrition

Vitamin C Benefits: What Does Vitamin C Do?

What is vitamin C good for when it comes to health and wellness? This nutrient can help prevent a type of arthritis. And vitamin C benefits your immune system and protects against eye disease.

SUMMARY

What does vitamin C do for your health? A vitamin C supplement can bolster your immune system and help lower high blood pressure. Also, vitamin C benefits heart health, and it can help prevent gout attacks. 

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Vitamin C benefits your well-being in profound ways, and it plays an integral role in the health of your body. 

This nutrient is an antioxidant that works hard to battle the free radicals that can compromise wellness. You can get more vitamin C by eating lots of fruits and vegetables. You can also up your intake via a vitamin C supplement. 

What is vitamin C good for on your journey to improved health? Let’s dive in. 

In this article, we will:

  • Explain what vitamin C is, and discuss how it supports the body
  • Share insight on key vitamin C benefits
  • Discuss vitamin C foods
  • Find out if there are any vitamin C side effects
  • List vitamin C dosage

What is vitamin C?

Vitamin C is also known as ascorbic acid. It’s a water-soluble vitamin that your body uses to fight oxidative stress; it’s also used to build cartilage, connective tissues, blood vessels, muscles and collagen. Additionally, vitamin C benefits the healing process. This potent antioxidant works to support and speed up wound healing. 

Your body can’t make vitamin C on its own. However, you can obtain this antioxidant from foods or a vitamin C supplement. 

To understand how vitamin C works, it’s important to know a thing or two about free radicals. 

Your body produces molecules called free radicals when it’s breaking down food; free radicals are also produced in response to pollutants such as radiation and tobacco smoke. Your body needs free radicals to maintain good health, but if these molecules become too large in number, they can compromise wellness. A body with an excessive amount of free radicals is at higher risk for chronic health problems such as heart disease.  

In its role as an antioxidant, vitamin C helps protect your body from the effects of free radicals. It helps make sure that the amount of free radicals in your body remains manageable. By doing this, vitamin C benefits wellness. 

Vitamin C benefits

What does vitamin C do to support a fit and happy lifestyle? And what is vitamin C good for as you strive to optimize your health?

Here are some key vitamin C benefits:

Vitamin C benefit #1: May reduce the risk of heart disease

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Cardiovascular disease kills one person every 36 seconds in this country. And heart disease causes the death of about 655,000 Americans each year. 

Research shows that vitamin C benefits heart health. This nutrient may be able to help reduce the risk of heart disease. 

2004 meta-analysis looked at the effect of vitamin C supplements on cardiovascular disease. The study showed that those with higher supplemental vitamin C intake had a lower risk of heart disease. 

Vitamin C benefit #2: May reduce harmful LDL cholesterol

What does vitamin C do when it comes to cholesterol? Before we begin, it’s essential to gather some insight into cholesterol itself. 

There are two types of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL).

LDL cholesterol is harmful. It can accumulate in your arteries, making them hard and narrow. This can prevent healthy blood flow throughout the body. 

HDL cholesterol works differently and is good for your health. HDL cholesterol helps transport excess cholesterol back to your liver. In this way, it helps the body detoxify. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, if you have a high LDL cholesterol level, it puts you at an elevated risk for ailments such as a stroke or a heart attack. 

Research shows that vitamin C benefits wellness by working to maintain healthy cholesterol levels. 

2008 meta-analysis looked at the effect vitamin C supplementation had on cholesterol levels across 13 randomized controlled trials. The data showed that supplementation with at least 500 mg of vitamin C per day for a minimum of four weeks caused a notable decrease in harmful LDL cholesterol. 

Vitamin C benefit #3: May prevent gout

Gout is a form of arthritis, and it’s more likely to affect men. It occurs when uric acid crystals accumulate in the joints. The body makes uric acid crystals when it processes purines. Purines are found naturally in your body, and they’re also found in the foods you consume. 

Typically, gout affects just one joint at a time. This condition often affects the big toe. It can cause intense pain, swelling, redness and heat. 

So, what does vitamin C do when it comes to gout? Research indicates the vitamin C benefits healthy uric acid levels in ways that may help prevent gout. 

2008 study looked at the effect of vitamin C intake on uric acid in 1,387 male participants. The data showed that higher vitamin C intake in men is linked with lower uric acid levels. By lowering uric acid in this way, vitamin C may help prevent gout from developing. 

Vitamin C benefit #4: Bolsters immunity

We need a robust immune system if our bodies are to fight off viruses and pathogens. What is vitamin C good for when it comes to immunity? Let’s take a look.  

To support immunity, the body naturally produces white blood cells. These cells are known as lymphocytes and phagocytes, and they work to defend against infection. 

Research published by the National Institutes of Health shows vitamin C benefits immunity. One way it does this is by supporting the production of white blood cells. 

Vitamin C deficiency can cause impaired immunity and make you more likely to develop an infection. And a vitamin C supplement can support your body’s immune system, helping prevent and treat respiratory and systemic infections. 

Age can sometimes harm our memory and our ability to think clearly. Sometimes this develops into dementia, but in other cases, the effects are more subtle.

Research shows that vitamin C supports clear thinking and a healthy memory, protecting against cognitive decline as we age. 

1998 study looked at the effect of vitamin C supplements on cognitive performance. The data showed that consumption of vitamin C supplements was linked with a lower prevalence of more severe cognitive impairment. 

And a 2007 study looked at the effect of vitamin C intake on the cognitive function of older men and women. The study showed that higher antioxidant intake from food and supplement sources of vitamin C may delay cognitive decline in older people. 

Vitamin C benefit #6: Supports healthy blood pressure levels

Blood pressure is a term used to describe the forces of blood as it pushes against the walls of your arteries. According to the CDC, if your blood pressure is consistently high, it can damage your heart. High blood pressure can also increase your risk for heart disease and stroke. 

Research shows that vitamin C benefits healthy blood pressure levels. 

2012 meta-analysis looked at the effect of vitamin C supplements on blood pressure. The data showed that vitamin C helps lower high blood pressure to healthy levels. 

Vitamin C benefit #7: Supports healthy skin

We’ve talked about the benefits of a vitamin C dietary supplement. But you can also reap benefits by using topical vitamin C to improve skin care. This typically takes the form of a vitamin C serum. 

It makes sense when you consider that vitamin C supports the generation of connective tissue. 

In serums, a vitamin C derivative called magnesium ascorbyl phosphate is typically used. 

A vitamin C serum can benefit the health and appearance of your skin in these ways:

Vitamin C benefit #8: Protects against eye disease

Age can affect the health of our eyes. As we grow older, conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration can compromise the quality of our vision. 

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), vitamin C can protect eye health as we grow older, and it can help ward off eye disease. The AOA recommends vitamin C supplementation to prevent cataracts and macular degeneration. 

To reduce the risk of getting macular degeneration, the AOA recommends that you take 500 mg of vitamin C per day. For best results, take this with vitamin E, zinc, lutein and zeaxanthin.

Vitamin C foods

As mentioned, you can obtain vitamin C via supplements, or you can get it from the foods you eat. 

Here are some foods that are high in vitamin C: 

  • Citrus fruits, such as oranges and lemons
  • Potatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Peppers
  • Brussels sprouts 
  • Strawberries
  • Guavas
  • Blackcurrants
  • Parsley
  • Kale
  • Kiwis
  • Papayas

Vitamin C side effects

Vitamin C is a nutrient that’s found in healthy foods. As you’d imagine, it has a strong record for safety and doesn’t cause side effects if taken in reasonable amounts.

Is it possible to take too much vitamin C? 

It’s almost impossible to get too much of this nutrient via food. But if you take high doses of vitamin C via supplementation, it can cause undesirable side effects. These include heartburn, nausea, skin flushing and diarrhea. 

Over the long term, high doses of oral vitamin C supplements may increase your likelihood of developing kidney stones. 

Taking over 2,000 mg per day of this vitamin supplement may increase your risk of developing unpleasant side effects. 

Vitamin C dosage

How much vitamin C should you take daily?

According to the Mayo Clinic, the recommended daily amount for vitamin C is 65 to 90 mg. 

As mentioned, the AOE recommends higher doses of vitamin C to protect eye health. That organization recommends a dosage of 500 mg per day. 

The Mayo Clinic says a safe upper limit is 2,000 mg per day. 

Here’s a common question: “Can I take vitamin C at night?” It’s safe to take vitamin C at any hour of the day. 

Next steps

What is vitamin C capable of doing for your health? To find out, supplement with this nutrient to boost your vitamin C levels. Or add more vitamin C foods to your diet. 

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