Your body can’t make vitamin C, which is water-soluble and found in fruits and vegetables from kiwi to kale. However, vitamin C is linked to many health benefits and serves many roles in the body that you may find extraordinary.
1. It Helps Make Collagen
Collagen gives your skin a youthful appearance, but it is literally your skin’s infrastructure. Collagen is a protein that lies directly underneath your epidermis (outer skin layer) and contains a high concentration of vitamin C. Without vitamin C, your body can’t make collagen.
This vitamin’s job takes on several roles in relation to collagen: it’s like a glue that holds everything together. Vitamin C plays a role in both collagen creation and synthesis. If you have a vitamin C deficiency, you may notice corkscrew hairs, skin discoloration, impaired wound healing and bleeding gums.
2. It Acts as an Anti-Ager
Topical application of products containing vitamin C can help improve your skin’s glow, leading to less roughness, reduced wrinkles and increased collagen, according to two observational studies reviewed by Oregon State University. However, researchers also note that topical vitamin C had no effect on those who had a high intake of vitamin C in their diet.
As an antioxidant, vitamin C offers protection against free radicals and benefits your skin by preventing oxidative damage.
3. It Boosts Bone Mineralization
Remember vitamin C’s importance in collagen production? Well, collagen is also part of what makes your bone able to withstand fractures and retain flexibility.
Many people know that a vitamin C deficiency can put you at risk for scurvy, but one of the common symptoms is bone pain. See the link? Don’t shy away from a glass of orange juice with your cereal in the morning.
A 2020 study published in Nutrients found that vitamin C may play a role in preventing osteoporosis since it could reduce oxidative stress (from bone resorption and free radicals). Not only does it keep your bones dense, but vitamin C helps bones form.
4. It Could Help Manage Blood Pressure
One meta-analysis of 29 human studies discovered that supplementing vitamin C decreases systolic blood pressure by 3.8 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 1.5 mmHg in healthy adults. For those with high blood pressure, systolic blood pressure was reduced by 4.9 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 1.7 mmHg.
These promising results do not indicate a long-term benefit but rather a short-term effect, as more in-depth studies are needed. However, researchers have noted that vitamin C could help individuals better manage their blood pressure.
5. It Is Neuro-Protective
Did you know that inflammation and oxidative stress near the nervous system can contribute to the risk of dementia? Researchers have found that vitamin C offers a neuroprotective effect in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease. At higher concentrations, vitamin C performs a pro-oxidative role.
One systematic review of 50 studies conducted by researchers revealed a link between low vitamin C and cognitively-impaired individuals. Taking a vitamin C supplement or increasing your vitamin C intake can have a protective effect on memory and thinking as you age.
6. It May Improve Iron Absorption
WHO estimates that one-third of women of childbearing age have anemia, but it is a condition that also affects men and children. Over 40% of children under the age of five have anemia, WHO reports.
As a nutrient, iron supports several vital functions: moving oxygen around the body and forming red blood cells. Vitamin C can improve the absorption of iron from your diet, especially if poorly absorbed through a plant-based diet. Adding 100 mg of vitamin C to your diet can improve iron absorption by 67%.
7. It Could Reduce Risk for Chronic Disease
As an antioxidant, vitamin C helps protect the body from harmful free radicals that contribute to oxidative stress; linked with an increased risk for chronic disease.
Oxidative stress occurs when there is a precarious imbalance between antioxidant and oxidant levels in the body. In the long term, this can lead to damage of the body’s cells and organs.
How Much Vitamin C Should You Take?
According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the recommended daily levels of vitamin C for adults 19 and up are 75 mg for women and 90 mg for men. Women who are pregnant or lactating will need at least 85 mg. Those who smoke should consume an additional 35 mg of vitamin C since smoking can deplete vitamin C. Exceeding 1000 mg in vitamin C dosage can decrease absorption by up to 50%.
What Are Good Sources of Vitamin C?
The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health also recommends getting your vitamin C naturally from fruits and vegetables as they are the best sources for this vitamin. Include more citrus fruits in your diet, such as kiwi, grapefruit, oranges and lemons. White potatoes and cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower, are also good sources of vitamin C.