Most vitamins, including vitamin C are considered essential. This means that they cannot be made by the body and therefore must come from your diet. It is found in especially high concentration in fruits and vegetables such as peppers, broccoli, berries, spinach, kiwi and oranges. In fact, this is part of the reason that it is recommended that your diet includes plenty of fruits and vegetables. It is recommended that you get 75mg daily if you are a woman and 90mg if you are a man.1 However, these are the levels at which you can avoid diseases associated with not having enough C. The amount you really need for optimal health is vastly higher than this, which is why so many people use supplements. The following are some PROVEN reasons to get lots of vitamin C.
Vitamin C is a Strong Antioxidant that Helps Prevent Disease
Antioxidants are molecules that boost the immune system by neutralizing free radicals. Basically, a free radical is a harmful molecule that is a natural product of cell function. Antioxidants are able to neutralize these free radicals so they cannot harm your cells and vitamin C is particularly good at this.2 In fact, when free radicals accumulate they create a situation known as oxidative stress, which has links to all sorts of diseases.3 According to studies, C can boost your antioxidant levels by as much as 30%. This strengthens your immune system by reducing the inflammation caused by oxidative stress.4,5 In other words, it makes for less work from your immune system.
C for Control Your Blood Pressure
Sadly, about 1/3 of Americans have high blood pressure.6 Those with high blood pressure at a much higher risk of heart disease, which happens to be the most common way to die in the world.7 Think about that. With all the dangers in the world, health and otherwise, the most likely way for someone to die is from heart disease!
Fortunately, vitamin C has been shown in studies to lower blood pressure. In fact, it even works for those that don’t have high blood pressure. According to animal studies, C relaxes the blood vessels, allowing more flexibility in them.8 In addition, a total of 29 human studies found that it reduce systolic pressure by 3.84mmHg and diastolic by 1.48mmHg.9 A pretty good analogy might be rubber pipes vs. PVC. The rubber pipes have a lot more give and are thus far less likely to burst.
It Decreases Heart Disease Risk
As I mentioned a minute ago, about 1/3 of people that die, die from heart disease.7 Several factors affect your risk including blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels. All of these can be better controlled by vitamin C. Studies that included almost 300,000 people over a 10 year period have shown this to be the case. Those with a daily intake of at least 700mg of C daily were 25% less likely to have heart disease.10 Another 15 studies found a link between C and heart disease. Once again, vitamin C seemed to lower heart disease risk.11
Thirteen more studies agreed, showing that those that took at least 500mg of vitamin C daily lowered heart disease risk. Specifically, it lowered cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood. LDL’s fell an average of 7.9mg/dL and triglycerides by 20.1mg/dL.12 So, it seems that consuming a minimum of 500mg daily of C can prevent heart disease. Of course, it could come from your diet, but that is not always practical. Besides, you may wish to take much more.
Vitamin C can Reduce Uric Acid Levels and Gout
If you have experienced gout, you hardly need an explanation of what it is, or what it feels like. For the rest of you readers, it is a painful type of arthritis. It affects about 4% of adults in the U.S. When joints experience inflammation, especially in the big toe, swelling follows with sudden and extreme attacks of pain. This is what defines gout.14
These symptoms result from a buildup of uric acid in the blood. Uric acid is a natural waste produced by the body that is normally eliminated before it accumulates. When it does not, it forms little crystals and likes to deposit in crevices like joints. In other words, tiny little spikes are deposited throughout your body and they hurt!
Fortunately, vitamin C saves the day once again. In fact, several studies indicate that it is no friend of uric acid and reduces its presence in the blood. One of these included nearly 47,000 men over 20. Some took vitamin C supplements and others did not. Consequently, the pill poppers showed a 44% lower risk of developing gout. 16 Another 13 trials showed that those who took a C supplement over a 30 day period, had much lower blood levels of uric acid than those that did not.17
Of course, your blood carries oxygen throughout your body. A molecule called hemoglobin allows blood to carry oxygen but requires iron. Without iron, your cells cannot get adequate amounts of oxygen. In fact, this is precisely why women who bleed a lot during their menstrual cycle often experience fatigue. They are losing iron in the blood from their period and so are limiting the ability of the remaining blood to carry oxygen.
Vitamin C can improve iron absorption from food and supplements and thus increase oxygenation. It actually helps convert iron into a form the body can more easily absorb.18 This is especially important for people who consume little or no meat, a great source of iron. Plant sources contain iron that is not so easily absorbed. Even just 100mg of C daily can increase absorption by as much as 67%.19 So, if you are prone to low iron (anemia), vitamin C can help a lot. One study of 65 children with iron deficiency were given vitamin C and just that alone was able to control their condition.20
Vitamin C for Skin and Immune System
A common reason to take vitamin C is for the immune benefits. In fact, many parts of the immune system need it to function properly. First of all, it promotes the formation of two important types of white blood cells called lymphocytes and phagocytes.21 The first is makes chemicals to kill off intruders. The second literally consumes them whole.
The second great reason to take vitamin C is that is a powerful antioxidant. This means that it neutralizes harmful wastes that otherwise might cause damage. Of course, white blood cells are no exception. It protects them too. In fact, it does the same for the skin. It protects it from damage, but also strengthens the barriers of the skin.22 The skin largely consists of a special type of protein know as collagen. Its structure requires vitamin C. No C, no collagen. Not enough C, not enough collagen.
Third, vitamin C can shorten wound healing.23,24 Remember, your skin consists mostly of collagen protein, which can only form with vitamin C. More C means your body can make more new skin faster.
Fourth, it has strong links to lousy health. For example, pneumonia sufferers who take more of it and sick for a shorter time. Those who do not get enough stay sick longer.25,26 Surely this is due to the fact that C boosts your immune function significantly as previously explained.
It’s Great for Your Brain
Dementia affects more than 35 million people around the world, usually among older folks.27 Those who suffer from it experience a limited ability to think and remember things properly. According to studies it is most often related to two things. First, too many toxins and not enough antioxidants to neutralize them. Second, inflammation.28 Remember, vitamin C is a strong antioxidant and it also helps control inflammation. Consequently, low levels cause thinking and memory problems.31.32 On the other hand, high levels show just the opposite.33,34