Vitamin C Truths and Myths

Ever since Dr. Linus Pauling wrote about vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and its ability to fight the common cold, controversy has persisted about the value of vitamin C, how much is needed, and how to get it into the body. Let’s discuss some truths and myths about vitamin C…

MYTH: Blast a cold with vitamin C. It can fight it off! Though a lot of people ramp up their vitamin C intake during the winter months in the quest to avoid getting a cold, this unfortunately may not be as helpful as we think. While some research found that those who take vitamin C regularly may be sick for a slightly shorter duration (about 8% in adults, and up to 18% in kids that took 1-2 g/day or 1000-2000 mg/day) or have milder symptoms, for most people, boosting vitamin C does not reduce the risk of coming down with the common cold.

TRUTH: In many Western countries, like the United States and Canada, vitamin C deficiencies are rare. Although our bodies cannot produce vitamin C and we have to get it from food, most residents in richer countries are successful in getting enough in their diet to avoid deficiency symptoms such as bleeding gums, nosebleeds, joint swelling, dry/rough skin, and bruising. The minimum daily dose to target is 75mg for women and 90mg for men, though many experts believe this should be increased to 200mg/day, which is the minimum needed to saturate the body. Scurvy can be prevented with as little as 10mg/day.

MYTH: Citrus is the best source of vitamin C. Just one cup of bell pepper offers 200-300mg of vitamin C compared with 70mg from an orange. Other good (and non-citrus) sources include broccoli, brussels sprouts, kiwi, strawberries, papaya, pineapple, and cantaloupe.

TRUTH: Reduce obesity risk by improving vitamin C intake. A study conducted by researchers at Arizona State University found that a low blood level of vitamin C has been linked to having a higher BMI, body fat percentage, and waist circumference. Researchers report that vitamin C plays a role in the body’s ability to use fat as a source of fuel during both exercise and rest.

MYTH: You can’t overdose on vitamin C. You can! Because we can’t store vitamin C, the excess surplus when taking over 2000mg/day has to be eliminated through the kidneys in urine. Though many easily tolerate that dose and more, a megadose can trigger bloating/gut upset, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, headache, insomnia, and kidney stones.

If you have any questions about vitamin C or other facets of nutrition or overall health, feel free to ask your doctor of chiropractic during your next visit.


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