When the cough, sniffles, and aches start, many people will load up on extra vitamin C. Helping boost the immune system is a familiar benefit of the vitamin. But do you know what else vitamin C is good for? Or how much vitamin C you need?
Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning that it doesn’t build up in body tissues for later use like fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K). Rather, the body uses vitamin C when it needs it and then flushes the rest out. The benefit of this is that there is very little risk of toxicity from supplementation. However, that also means we have to constantly supply the body with vitamin C to reach effective concentrations to reap the health benefits it can provide.
How much vitamin C do you need?
Humans—along with primates and guinea pigs—are not able to produce the valuable vitamin. Instead, we must get it from our diets (bell peppers, kiwi, citrus fruits, etc.) or through supplementation. While the RDA is set at 75 milligrams per day for women and 90 milligrams per day for men, many scientists advocate doubling the RDA to 200 milligrams per day. In fact, doses of more than 1,000 milligrams have been shown to contribute to plasma and tissue saturation, optimizing the antioxidant properties of vitamin C.
Surprisingly, studies suggest that more than a quarter of people in the US are marginally deficient (not even reaching the RDA amount), and up to 20 percent are severely deficient in some populations.
Benefits of Vitamin C
By not getting adequate amounts of vitamin C, there are health benefits you could be missing out on. Here are four areas of health where the vitamin plays a vital role you may not be aware of:
1. Heart Health: Because of vitamin C’s ability to combat oxidative stress, it can have significant benefits for heart health, particularly in maintaining the integrity of the cells that line blood vessels. Cardiovascular problems can develop when these cells become damaged. For example, when the cells dysfunction, blood vessels can become very stiff, weakening their ability to keep blood pressure under control and deliver blood to various parts of the body.
In 2012, researchers from John Hopkins University (3) reviewed over 25 published clinical trials and found statistically significant improvements in blood pressure in subjects who supplemented with 500 milligrams of vitamin C. For those identified as having high blood pressure, the drop was even more significant.
2. Skincare: Oxidative stress from environmental (UV exposure, pollution, toxins) and internal (stress, poor diet, genetics) sources can cause damage to your skin and accelerate skin aging. Because of vitamin C’s antioxidant properties and its ability to stimulate collagen synthesis, it can greatly contribute to the health of your skin. In fact, the skin layers contain high levels of the vitamin, although it tends to decrease with age and exposure to oxidative stress.
Oral supplementation of vitamin C can increase levels within the skin; however, greater benefits have been seen in topical application. These benefits include increased skin hydration and decreases in the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines (4).
3. Respiratory Protection: One of the easiest avenues for toxins and chemicals to enter the body is through inhalation. Whether from car exhaust, cigarette smoke, or fumes from cleaning products, we breathe in hundreds of pollutants daily.
Vitamin C is present in high concentrations in the respiratory tract. One study found that the amount of vitamin C in the fluid lining the respiratory tract doubled just two hours after supplementation (5). With its high concentration in the respiratory system, vitamin C is your body’s first defense against the harmful chemicals that enter the body through the airway. These toxins can act as free radicals and attack your cells. As an antioxidant, vitamin C reacts with the chemicals and neutralizes them before they can harm cells.
One of the best examples of why vitamin C is needed in the defense against respiratory exposure to toxins is in cigarette smokers. In fact, the RDA for vitamin C is higher for smokers than for non-smokers because of the extra toxins smokers inhale and the protective properties of vitamin C in the lungs.
4. Exercise Recovery: Physical activity can be very stressful on the body both metabolically and mechanically. During strenuous activity, the body demands energy to perform, ultimately leading to increased oxidative stress and tissue breakdown. If the body is not supplied with proper nutrients to recover, muscle soreness, fatigue, and decreased physical performance can result.
In a four-week clinical trial, researchers found that 250 mg of vitamin C significantly reduced muscle damage and oxidative stress markers in trained female athletes (6). Reducing exercise-induced oxidative stress and muscle damage could allow athletes to recover faster and improve their endurance and power output.
With the growing body of research illustrating the many roles vitamin C plays in our health, its important to make sure that we are supplying the body with adequate amounts. Remember, our bodies can’t make the powerhouse vitamin so be sure to get enough from diet and through supplementation.
Sasazuki et al. Preventing the common cold with a vitamin C supplement: randomized controlled trial. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2006;60(1):9-17.
Van et al. Preventing the common cold with a vitamin C supplement: a double-blind, placebo-controlled survey. Adv Ther. 2002;19(3):151-9.
Juraschek et al. Effects of vitamin C supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012;95(5):1079-88.
Sauermann et al. Topically applied vitamin C increases the density of dermal papillae in aged human skin. BC Dermatol. 2004; 4:13.
Behndig et al. Augmentation of respiratory tract lining fluid concentrations through supplementation with vitamin C. Inhal Toxicol. 2009;12(3):250-8.
Taghiyar et al. The effect of vitamin C and E supplementation on muscle damage and oxidative stress in female athletes: A clinical trial. Int J Prev Med. 2013;4(Supp 1):S16-S23.
This article was originally posted at http://www.isagenixhealth.