It’s no news that vitamin C is one of the most essential vitamins to the proper functioning of our body. This famous substance is appreciated by everyones bodies, whether it’s being enjoyed via supplementing or otherwise. While it is most well-known for its antioxidant effect, vitamin C actually offers a wide array of wonderful properties that you should know about in order to make sure you can profit from them.
We’ve all heard of vitamin C and its immune support properties, but we should note that vitamin C is also a compound that is essential in the production of collagen, which helps keep our skin, teeth and blood vessels in tip-top condition. Moreover, its ability to enhance the salutary effects of other supplements makes it the perfect ally for anyone interested in supplementation.
- 1 Weekly newsletter with the best personal finance tips
- 2 Key Facts
- 3 Our selection: The best vitamin C supplements
- 4 Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about vitamin C
- 4.1 What is vitamin C exactly?
- 4.2 What is the recommended dose of vitamin C?
- 4.3 What are the different functions of vitamin C in our body?
- 4.4 How is vitamin C absorbed by the body?
- 4.5 What are the consequences of vitamin C deficiency?
- 4.6 Who is at risk of suffering from a severe vitamin C defficiency?
- 4.7 What foods are rich in vitamin C?
- 4.8 What are the benefits associated with a healthy intake of vitamin C?
- 4.9 Who would benefit from taking a vitamin C supplement?
- 4.10 What types of vitamin C supplements are available?
- 4.11 How to take a vitamin C supplement?
- 4.12 Can vitamin C supplements cure or prevent colds?
- 4.13 Can vitamin C supplements trigger or bring forward menstruation?
- 4.14 Is it possible to ingest too much vitamin C?
- 4.15 Are there people who should not supplement vitamin C?
- 5 Shopping Criteria
- 6 Summary
- Vitamin C is considered safe to supplement with in an ongoing basis, although it should be noted that those with a more sensitive stomach may suffer from intestinal discomfort.
- Vitamin C is an essential substance that is needed for the maintenance of a normal metabolism, which contributes to keeping our body’s collagen levels in good condition.
- A deficiency of this vitamin can lead to scurvy, a terrible disease that can be lethal in its most severe cases.
Our selection: The best vitamin C supplements
We've designed the following section as a ranking of the very best vitamin C supplements available right now. By analysing factors such as quality, price, and user reviews, we came up with a comprehensive selection of products so that you can find the supplement that's right for you.
Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about vitamin C
Also called ascorbic acid, vitamin C is one of the most popular vitamins ingested through nutrition. It is essential for the maintenance of body tissues, the development of proper immunity and the protection of neuronal tissue. Since our body cannot produce this substance on its own, it must be obtained through our diet.
In 1749, a Scottish doctor named James Lind discovered that a substance found in citrus fruits could be used to cure scurvy, a disease that was common among sailors at the time. However, it was only in 1932 that Dr. Albert Szent-Györgyi isolated this compound and gave it the current name of ascorbic acid or vitamin C.
Ascorbic acid deficiency became a real problem and claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands. In societies today, severe lacks of vitamin C is very rare, but it is still possible to find too low levels in certain individuals — particularly smokers.
What is vitamin C exactly?
Vitamin C is part of a group called water-soluble vitamins: these are vitamins that can dissolve in water. This class of vitamins — which also includes B vitamins — are characterised by how easily they are evacuated through urine in the event of excessive intake. It is for this reason that it is deemed almost impossible to suffer from ascorbic acid poisoning.
Ascorbic acid is stored in the majority of body tissues, such as plasma, skin, neurones and glands. The highest concentration of vitamin C is retained by the suprarenal glands, the ovaries and the testes. Experts believe that these specific organs require high amounts n order to produce hormones.
What is the recommended dose of vitamin C?
In reality, experts simply have not been able to determine whether there is an optimal dose that can be applied to the general population. The assumption is that the amount of vitamin C required by our organism varies from individual to individual, depending on genetic differences, disease and each person's metabolic rate and diet.
People who follow diets rich in fruits and vegetables have an ascorbic acid intake that ranges between 200 and 250 mg per day. These individuals tend to have reduced rates of cardiovascular disease and an increased life expectancy.
What are the different functions of vitamin C in our body?
- L-carnitine synthesis: Vitamin C is an important cofactor for the creation of L-carnitine. This amino acid plays an important role in energy metabolism, helping accelerate the fat burning process which transforms fat into energy.
- Supports collagen formation: Vitamin C promotes the expression of genes that regulate the production of collagen. It also acts as a cofactor in stabilising the amino acids needed for the synthesis of this vital compound for your skin, hair, teeth and joints.
- Production of intercellular matter: This matter acts as a cement by binding cells and tissues and providing stability to the body's components.
- Cutaneous enzymatic defence: Vitamins C and E work together to capture and eliminate free radicals — which are partly responsible for the ageing of our skin.
- Proper neural development: Studies have shown that brain tissue — in particular developing neurones — require large quantities of ascorbic acid to mature.
- Neural protection: Mature neurones consume huge amounts of vitamin C to protect themselves from the oxidative stress generated by their frenetic activity.
- Cardiovascular protection: Experts believe that ascorbic acid can have an antioxidant effect on LDL or bad cholesterol. It helps avoid its oxidation and it’s subsequent accumulation in the arteries, which is what may give rise to the feared atheroma or cholesterol plaque.
- Iron absorption: Vitamin C is able to bind to iron molecules (either through diet or supplementation), altering its structure to support its absorption in the intestinal tract.
- Melanogenesis inhibition: Melanogenesis — the creation of pigmented cells, or melanocytes — is inhibited by vitamin C, preventing the formation of patches on the skin, such as chloasma or age spots.
Scientists are still investigating more potential new functions of this vitamin, which is currently used as an experimental treatment for different allergies (such as hay fever), age-related ocular degeneration, cystic fibrosis or even as a possible cancer therapy.
How is vitamin C absorbed by the body?
On the other hand, the absorption rate of the substance when administering a very high dose (around 1,000-2,000 mg) is drastically reduced to 40%. Not only that, most of the vitamin C that our body obtains this way won't exert its beneficial effect and will be eliminated in our urine over the next few hours that follow ingestion.
This is why, to ensure proper optimal absorption of this substance, it is advised to use small doses of vitamin C (30-100 mg) spread throughout the day. Your organism has the ability to store up to 2,000 mg of ascorbic acid, excreting the surplus of vitamin C and thus preventing that its excess accumulates in our organisms.
What are the consequences of vitamin C deficiency?
There are two different phases in scurvy, the first one manifesting itself as unexplained fatigue. It may also come with a metabolic imbalance that favours weight gain and eventual obesity. This type of hypovitaminoses C is the most frequently found in societies today.
The second stage of scurvy, which will occur if the ascorbic acid deficiency intensifies, is potentially lethal. Nowadays, this phase is particularly rare, only affecting individuals suffering from extreme malnutrition. Here are the symptoms and signs of this stage of scurvy:
- Severe infections: To develop the enzymatic compounds responsible for fighting infections, our immune system requires large amounts of vitamin C. The lack of this essential nutrient will therefore influence our risk of suffering from a number of diseases.
- Bleeding and spontaneous haemorrhages: The intercellular cement that binds cells togethers will deteriorate without proper vitamin C levels. This means the blood vessels are weakened and will therefore bleed easily.
- Apathy, sadness and psychiatric disorders: Ascorbic acid is essential for the maintenance of neuronal health. A lack of this substance will lead to a series of psychiatric and neurological symptoms, ranging from simple apathy to paranoia and hypochondria.
- Difficulty in healing wounds: Vitamin C is essential for the healing and synthesis of collagen. Without it, wounds may not heal or they may do so very slowly.
- Fatigue and weakness: It is difficult to obtain energy without ascorbic acid, leading to the appearance of asthenia or tiredness.
- Weakened gums and teeth: When intercellular joints become fragile, gums bleed easily and teeth can fall out.
- Anaemia: Anaemia can be triggered by excessive bleeding and a difficulty absorbing iron, which is also caused by vitamin C deficiency.
Who is at risk of suffering from a severe vitamin C defficiency?
- People following restrictive diets: There have been reports of hypovitaminosis C in people who suffer from allergies and whose diets have little variety. By the same token, people who do not consume fruits and vegetables for whatever reason, are also facing a higher risk of suffering from scurvy.
- Smokers: Regular smokers face an increased probability of suffering from ascorbic acid deficiency (18% vs. 5% of the general population).
- Dependent persons: Children and elderly people need a daily supply of ascorbic acid. Their diets should be carefully planned, or they will be at risk of suffering from a vitamin C deficiency.
- Alcoholics: People who consume alcohol excessively tend to suffer from numerous nutritional deficiencies, including vitamin C.
- Women taking oral contraceptives: The use of such contraceptives has been linked with a decrease in vitamin C levels in women.
- Eating disorders: People following very restrictive diets — such as anorexia nervosa — may suffer from ascorbic acid deficiency.
Individuals in these groups should be particularly attentive to the onset scurvy symptoms. The good news is that this condition is very easy to treat: consuming vitamin C-rich foods or including supplements and/or intravenous supplementation will relieve symptoms in as little as 24 hours.
What foods are rich in vitamin C?
|Food (100 grams)||Vitamin C content (mg)||% RDA (100 mg)|
|Potato (with skin)||20||20%|
Please keep in mind that the ascorbic acid values in the table above represent the content found in raw foods. Cooking fruits and vegetable will alter their vitamin C content, reducing it in most cases. This is why you are strongly encouraged to consume these foods raw or undercooked.
That being said, certain foods cannot be eaten raw, such as potatoes. In their case, you are advised to cook them for as little time as possible, preferably using cooking methods that are known to preserve most of the vitamins. One useful tip is, for instance, to bake your potatoes with the skin, as this preserves a higher content of ascorbic acid compared to peeled potatoes.
What are the benefits associated with a healthy intake of vitamin C?
- Healing of ulcers, burns and other wounds: High vitamin C levels contribute to the production of collagen and other skin components that are required for the prompt healing of wounds.
- Reduction of cardiovascular risks: Vitamin C can reduce your risk of cardiovascular complications by avoiding the oxidation and accumulation of atheromatous plaques.
- Increased energy and vitality: High enough ascorbic acid supplies will contribute to a normal metabolism of energy, which will counteract both fatigue and apathy.
- Lower uric acid levels: Excess uric acid is linked to the appearance of diseases such as gout. Various research have shown that vitamin C intake can decrease uric acid levels in the blood.
- Cutaneous protection: The ascorbic acid stored in your skin protects the epidermis from the negative action of sunlight and radiation.
- Reduction of the symptoms of anaemia: A diet rich in vitamin C favours the absorption of iron, hence alleviating anaemic symptoms. This is particularly interesting for vegan and vegetarian individuals, since the iron found in plant foods is absorbed with more difficulty than that of animal products.
- Weight management: Vitamin C is essential for the synthesis of L-carnitine and for the correct metabolism of fats. Optimal ascorbic acid levels boost lipolysis (fat burning) and contribute to a better management of body weight.
- Slowing down ageing: Vitamin C reduces the deterioration of your skin and other tissues, hence working to slow down the ageing process.
- Reduction of convalescence period: Certain studies have demonstrated a correlation between high ascorbic acid consumption and a shorter length in the life of a disease, as well as less intense symptoms.
There are still many studies on vitamin C underway. It is possible that this substance can also slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease, alleviate the symptoms of numerous allergic reactions, treat chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), or act as an analgesic. The latest research on ascorbic acid are indeed very promising.
Who would benefit from taking a vitamin C supplement?
Smokers who take oral contraceptives or those who are trying to lose weight will greatly benefit from ascorbic acid supplements. Furthermore, individuals who suffer from anaemia can also take vitamin C to promote the absorption of iron from their diet or medical treatment, therefore speeding their recovery.
Finally, a positive relation was identified between ascorbic acid supplementation and a decrease in high blood pressure. Researchers have indeed observed a reduction of 5 mm Hg of diastolic pressure and a drop of 1.5 mmHg of systolic pressure in hypertensive patients. This proves that vitamin C intake may help control hypertension.
What types of vitamin C supplements are available?
- Topical vitamin C: You can also find ascorbic acid creams, ointments and powders on the market. These products are purely cosmetic, and they work to blur appearing spots and skin tone irregularities. This method only allows a minimal quantity of vitamin C to pass into the blood stream.
- Ascorbic acid: This is the original form of vitamin C and it is available in its natural form and as an artificial formula. The effectiveness and degree of absorption of both types of ascorbic acid are very similar. Note that they can be hard to digest and produce diarrhoea or heartburn, especially when consumed in high doses.
- Vitamin C with bioflavonoids: Bioflavonoids are plant-based compounds that provide antioxidant properties while also promoting the absorption of vitamin C.
- Vitamin C bound to minerals or salts: Vitamin C is sometimes associated with minerals such as zinc, calcium or magnesium. This form is much more tolerable for the stomach and is recommended for individuals who have experienced intestinal discomfort after taking ascorbic acid supplements.
Individuals seeking to enhance their vitamin C absorption should therefore focus on ascorbic acid-based supplements, or products with bioflavonoids. On the other hand, people who regularly suffer from heartburn should opt for supplements with vitamin C and mineral salts.
How to take a vitamin C supplement?
As you can imagine, it is more difficult to divide capsules and tablets into various doses. So in this case we recommend you to opt for supplements in powder or liquid form. Keep in mind that consuming 100-150 mg of vitamin C with each of the three main meals in a day is considered to be the most effective way to increase your levels of this essential substance.
Since this vitamin Cis water-soluble, you are not obliged to take it with food. This means that its degree of absorption isn't affected by the way you consume it. However, vitamin C ingested on an empty stomach can lead to intestinal discomfort, which is why experts recommend taking it with food.
Can vitamin C supplements cure or prevent colds?
Vitamin C supplementation has also been trialled on people already sick with the flu or a cold, but the results were hardly positive. None of the studies carried out could prove a reduction in illness time or a reduction in the nasal congestion or discomfort that is associated with the catarrhal process.
That being said, it does not mean that ascorbic acid is useless against all infections. There have been reports of a significant reduction of the severity of catarrhal processes after supplementing with vitamin C in individuals subjected to excessive stress – a factor that increases our probability of getting sick.
Can vitamin C supplements trigger or bring forward menstruation?
This is probably the reason why many women consume vitamin C-rich foods or ascorbic acid supplements to induce menstruation and alleviate the discomfort associated with the premenstrual phase of the cycle. These include breast pain, abdominal swelling and irritability, among others.
In reality, no research has been able to back up the fact that ascorbic acid induces menstruation. However, many women claim that supplementing with high doses (about 1-2 grams) of vitamin C is helpful in alleviating the discomfort associated with premenstrual tension.
Is it possible to ingest too much vitamin C?
However, there is still a maximum recommended amount of 2 grams of this substance per day. When excessively high amounts of this acid compound are consumed, it can lead to intestinal discomfort such as acid reflux, stomach pain, difficult digestion, diarrhoea and vomiting.
Individuals suffering from different types of kidney disease – such as chronic kidney failure – should always check with their family doctor before supplementing with vitamin C. Affected kidneys may be unable to remove excess ascorbic acid, which can end up worsening the state of the existing disease.
Are there people who should not supplement vitamin C?
- Individuals suffering from specific endocrine and enzyme disorders: Some rare genetic diseases, such as G6PD deficiency, may be aggravated by the use of ascorbic acid supplements.
- Individuals with high levels of oxalates in their urine: Oxalates are small crystals found in urine which may form kidney stones and obstruct the flow of urine. The consumption of ascorbic acid can contribute to the appearance of new kidney stones in people with a predisposition.
- Individuals with excessively high levels of iron in the blood: A common symptom amongst several blood pathologies – such as thalassemia – is an unwanted increase in iron levels. This mineral can build up in vital organs such as the heart, lungs, liver and brain; increased iron absorption is therefore not recommended.
Pregnant and lactating women face another relative contraindication. It is true that ascorbic acid supplementation has been used successfully to prevent the onset of gestational hypertension in pregnant women; however, supplementing without doctors supervision is not advised for these women, and a thorough medical guidance is necessary.
There are a large number of vitamin C supplements available. It is therefore difficult to choose a product that perfectly suits the individual needs of each buyer. Our purchase criteria can help you narrow your search and find the perfect supplement for you.
- Combination with other supplements
- Vegan or vegetarian nutrition
- Pharmacological interactions
- Best value for your money
Ascorbic acid supplements rarely provoke allergic reactions. However, there have been reports of hypersensitivity reactions after an excessive consumption of vitamin C supplements. The artificial components bound to the vitamin may also lead to allergic manifestations.
You may see allergic symptoms within minutes or hours after taking the vitamin C supplement, the most common of which are: itching of the skin, swelling of the face, lips or mouth, appearance of rashes, difficulty breathing, vomiting and headache. It is essential that you seek immediate medical attention should you feel any of the above manifestations.
You should not forget to consider the form in which ascorbic acid is administered if you want to choose the product that's most tailored to your needs. As we've mentioned before, various dosage formats are available on the market. Below, we’ve listed the most popular and used formats:
- Intravenous: This form of vitamin C supplementation is only available for medical use. It is used as a semi-experimental medication to treat severe diseases such as Parkinson's or cystic fibrosis.
- Capsules or tablets: This option is the most comfortable and simple to administer. However, the majority of tablets come with an excessive dose of about 1 gram, far exceeding the RDA of 250 mg.
- Powder: Storing and using this format is more complicated than others, as it needs to be dissolved in liquid and mixed before you can take it. However, the fact that it is so easy to dose greatly increases its value for your money.
- Shakes, drinkable vials: You can also buy vitamin C in its liquid form, facilitating its intake. This will also allow you to divide it into smaller doses.
- Effervescent tablets: The ease of use and storage of this format are very similar to that of capsules and tablets, yet they are easier to ingest as they should be dissolved in liquid and often have good taste. However, the quality of the product will influence its taste.
All supplements, regardless of their format, should be stored at room temperature (unless the manufacturer's instructions state otherwise), away from sunlight and extreme heat. The good news is that their shelf life is very long, which means that they can be stored for years without losing their properties, as long as their packaging is kept in optimal condition ofcourse.
Combination with other supplements
One of the greatest properties of ascorbic acid is that it can be combined with other supplements to increase their salutary effects. In the table below, we've briefly explained the different supplement combinations you can find, and what effects they will have on your organism:
|Vitamin C + Vitamin E||Increased antioxidant capacity.||Decreased cardiovascular risk (reduced oxidation of atheroma plaques).|
|Vitamin C + Vitamin D||Increased antioxidant capacity and tissue regeneration.||Decreased cardiovascular risk (reduced oxidation of atheroma plaques), quicker wound healing, maintenance of bone health.|
|Vitamin C + Collagen||Increased tissue regeneration.||Improved skin appearance, rapid healing, prevention of ageing, accelerated healing of bone fractures.|
|Vitamin C + Magnesium||Increased collagen synthesis.||Improved skin appearance, prevention of ageing.|
|Vitamin C + L-carnitine||Increased overall L-carnitine levels.||Increased energy levels and destruction of fat.|
|Vitamin C + Selenium||Increased ossification.||Prevention of osteoporosis.|
|Vitamin C + Zinc||Regulation of immunity responses.||Reduction of rhinorrhoea (runny nose) and flu symptoms.|
Many manufacturers make supplements that directly include some of the combinations mentioned above, allowing you to consume both compounds in a single capsule. You can also simply buy both supplements separately and take them at the same time: the end result will be exactly the same.
Vegan or vegetarian nutrition
Vegan and vegetarian individuals will have no difficulty finding ascorbic acid supplements, as this substance can also be obtained from foods of plant origin. That being said, you should always be particularly careful with the other ingredients that make up the product: certain elements of animal origin are found as part of the capsule or as an excipient.
The very best vegan supplements tend to feature a vegan seal of quality on the product, indicating that it has been thoroughly examined and that no animal elements were found inside. This seal of quality provides a practical, comfortable and safe way to know that the supplement you're buying is perfectly suitable for your vegan or vegetarian diet.
Vitamin C can interact with a number of different medications, dramatically altering their absorption and effectiveness. The following table will show you the interactions most frequently observed as a result of combining ascorbic acid supplements with drugs:
|Medicine||Result of interaction with vitamin C|
|Antacids with aluminium (Almax®)||Increased aluminium absorption.|
|Oestrogen (contraceptives)||Increased oestrogen activity.|
|Antipsychotics (Fluphenazine)||Decreased quantity of medicine in blood.|
|Chemotherapy||Decreased effects of chemotherapy (suspected, currently under study).|
|Anti-HIV medication||Reduced time of activity of the medication.|
|Statins (hypercholesterolemia treatment)||Reduction of the effectiveness of the medicine (suspected).|
|Niacin (vitamin B3)||Decreased niacin effects.|
|Warfarin (anticoagulant)||Decreased medicine effectiveness.|
|Paracetamol||Increased time required to eliminate the medicine.|
|Aspirin||Increased time required to eliminate the medicine.|
|Nifedipine||Increased time required to eliminate the medicine.|
These effects are not considered to be particularly severe and should not generally pose a threat to your health. That being said, you are encouraged to wait two hours between taking the medicines above and any vitamin C supplement. As always, you should also check with your family doctor before taking ascorbic acid in combination with any treatment.
Best value for your money
Ascorbic acid supplements often provide very high doses of vitamin C (500-1,000 mg). Please bear in mind that the RDA for vitamin C is 100-250 mg/day. We strongly encourage you to divide your intake into smaller doses, helping you get the most out of your supplement. You'll save a lot of money while getting the same health benefits. Keep in mind that the shelf life of these supplements is very long, we recommend you opt for bulk products if you’re looking for continuous supplementation.
Vitamin C is one of the most popular supplements on markets, and it shouldn't be missing from your diet. Ascorbic acid can offer countless benefits to your body, helping you achieve optimal health in a very short time. You'll find this substance extremely useful, whether you want to increase your energy, improve the appearance of your skin or overcome apathy.
We hope our guide on vitamin C has helped you better understand this substance. You should now know exactly how to make the most of ascorbic acid supplements, and how to get the best products at the best prices. Give this supplement a chance, and we're ready to bet you'll be more than pleased!
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(Source of featured image: Roman Samborskyi: 123916641/123rf.com)