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Top 5 Health Benefits of Vitamin C

benefits of vitamin CIf you’re looking for an immune system boost, get some vitamin C into your diet! Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a water-soluble vitamin (which means that it dissolves in water. Leftover amounts leave your body as urine). Vitamin C is considered one of the safest and most effective nutrients to get into your daily life. Although it won’t cure your cold or flu alone, it may help protect you against serious complications.

Your body requires vitamin C for the healthy growth and repair of tissues in every part of your body. Vitamin C is needed to form blood vessels, scar tissue, tendons, ligaments, and collagen (an essential protein that makes skin). Vitamin C is also important to heal wounds, and to repair and maintain healthy bones, teeth, and cartilage. Vitamin C also helps with iron absorption.

Since your body doesn’t make vitamin C on its own and it doesn’t store this nutrient, it’s up to you to get enough vitamin C into your diet. Getting enough vitamin C will keep you healthy and feeling good. You can either take a vitamin C supplement, or eat foods containing vitamin C – such as oranges and citrus fruits.

Here are the top five health benefits of vitamin C:

1. Vitamin C is an Antioxidant

Vitamin C is a well-known antioxidant, so it may protect you from some serious health problems.

Antioxidants are vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that can protect and repair your cells from damage caused by free radicals (highly unstable molecules). Free radical damage may lead to cancer, heart disease, and arthritis. Antioxidants offer you health protection, since they interact and stabilize free radicals. As a result, they can block the potentially harmful effects of free radicals.

Free radicals can also interfere with your immune system; so getting enough Vitamin C into your diet can keep your immune system strong, giving it strength to fight off the cold and flu.

If you have a family history of cancer, you’ll want to get a healthy dose of vitamin C in your diet. According to the American Cancer Institute, there’s evidence from animal studies and laboratory evidence that indicates that antioxidants (like vitamin C) can slow and possibly prevent the development of cancer.

2. Vitamin C Helps Body Manage Stress Better

Stress isn’t good for you, or for your immune system. Recent research has proven time and time again that vitamin C is beneficial to people who have a weakened immune system due to stress. Vitamin C is a nutrient that’s very sensitive to stress, so it’s usually one of the first nutrients depleted in a stressful situation. When you get enough vitamin C in your diet, this antioxidant may help your body manage stress more effectively and boost your immune system in the process.

In a 1999 study from the University of Alabama-Huntsville, researchers found that providing rats with large doses of vitamin C stopped the secretion of stress hormones. The rats that did not receive vitamin C in the study experienced three times the level of stress hormones.

In a follow-up study, German researchers did a similar experiment on 120 people. They gave 1,000 mg of vitamin C to half of the group right before a public speaking task; the other half did not receive any vitamin C at all. The group that did not receive vitamin C had higher levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, and they had higher blood pressure. The group that got vitamin C reported that they felt less stress.

The bottom line – vitamin C can reduce your stress, and it boosts your immune system. And other studies have indicated that people with higher levels of vitamin C in their blood end to bounce back from stressful situations more quickly than people with low vitamin C.

3. Vitamin C Reduces the Severity of the Common Cold

Vitamin C may not cure the common cold or flu, but taking large doses of vitamin C can help reduce the duration and severity of a cold.

Unfortunately, there is no significant evidence that indicates that vitamin C will cure or even prevent a cold from occurring in the first place. The link between vitamin C in the prevention and treatment of the common cold and flu remains controversial in the medical community, and research is looking into this connection.

However, it’s a good idea that you take vitamin C when you have a cold or flu, since several studies have proven that this nutrient can prevent your illness from becoming worse – like turning into pneumonia or a lung infection.

In 2005, researchers compiled data from 55 studies to examine the effectiveness of vitamin C to fight a common cold. They found that in most cases, vitamin C didn’t protect you against getting a cold, but when people (especially kids) took vitamin C prior to their illness, the cold didn’t last very long.

In one large study, researchers found that already-sick people who took 8,000 mg of vitamin C on the first day of their illness became well much sooner than those who did not.

Interestingly, there was one group of people that got the most benefit from vitamin C: marathon runners, soldiers exposed to extreme cold or physical rigor, and skiers got sick 50 percent less often when they used vitamin C to prevent illness.

4. Vitamin C Gives You Healthier-Looking Skin

On top of its antioxidant and immune system boosting properties, getting enough vitamin C can actually improve the appearance of your skin.

Vitamin C is critical in the production of a skin protein called collagen. One-fourth of all the protein in your body is collagen. This is a major structural protein, and it connects and strengthens the tendons, bone, cartilage, and other connective tissues in your body. It also provides support to your internal organs, and it’s even in your bones and teeth.

If you don’t get enough vitamin C in your diet, this can slow the production of collagen and lead to health problems. If enough collagen isn’t produced, your skin will start to sag and look old. With enough vitamin C, this nutrient can strengthen the resiliency of your skin and strengthen its structural support.

A research study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at skin aging and vitamin C intake in over 4,000 women between aged 40 and 74. They found that women with lower vitamin C in their body were more likely to have a wrinkled appearance, dry skin, and an aged appearance. In contract, women with enough vitamin C looked better, had fewer wrinkles, and less drying of the skin.

In 2009, a study published in Free Radical Biology and Medicine, found that vitamin C protected your DNA from free radicals. (Free radicals have been associated with premature skin aging.) Vitamin C helped remove damage from DNA (which was caused by free radicals).

Although it’s no cure for the common cold or flu, Vitamin C definitely has other wonderful health benefits.

5. Vitamin C Protects Against Many Diseases

The many benefits of Vitamin C continue to be studied and researched, and the list of health benefits continue to grow.

Numerous studies have concluded that vitamin C can protect against immune system deficiencies (since it enhances absorption of other vitamins and nutrients). It also protects against cardiovascular disease (like heart problems and stroke), eye disease, and prenatal health problems.

What’s the Recommended Dosage of Vitamin C?

The National Institute of Health doesn’t recommend that you get more than 2,000 milligrams of Vitamin C each day. This high dosage can cause you to experience diarrhea and stomach upset. Vitamin C toxicity is rare, because your body can’t store this water-soluble vitamin and extra vitamin C passes out of the body as urine.

The Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine recommends the following daily vitamin C intake:

  • Newborn to 6 Months: 40 mg/day
  • 7 months to 1 year old: 50 mg/day
  • 1 to 3 years old: 15 mg/day
  • 4 to 8 years old: 25 mg/day
  • 9 to 13 years old: 45 mg/day
  • Girls 14 to 18 year old: 65 mg/day
  • Boys 14 to 18 years old: 75 mg/day
  • Adult Men 19 years old and up: 90 mg/day
  • Adult Women 19 years old and up: 75 mg/day

Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers need higher amounts of vitamin C. In general, pregnant women need at least 85 mg/day and breastfeeding women should get 120 mg/day.

Sometimes, getting too much vitamin C in pregnancy might raise your risk of preterm birth. To be on the safe side, you should ask your doctor about what he or she recommends for you.

About the author: DP Nguyen is founder and editor of Hip Chick’s Guide to PMS, Pregnancy and Babies. She’s an expert pregnancy and women’s health blogger. She is NOT a medical doctor and does NOT offer medical advice. Connect with her on Google+, Twitter and Facebook.

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