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10 health benefits of vitamin C: Immunity, colds & bones

Two glasses of fresh juice, fruit squeezer and ripe fresh oranges on blue wooden table top
From immunity support, such as helping to clear colds and flu, to keeping our cartilage and bones strong, Vitamin C has many benefits. Learn more now.

Almost everyone has heard of vitamin C and knows how important it is for our health. But do you know why?

Hearing about all the brilliant benefits of vitamin C may have you reaching for a glass of OJ more often, or scouring the beauty aisle for vitamin-C enriched skin goodies!

Are you ready to see what vitamin C it can do for you? Discover some of the best benefits vitamin C has to offer in this handy guide.

What is vitamin C?

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is an essential vitamin that you can find in lots of fresh fruits (especially the citrus variety) and veggies.

Our bodies can’t make or store it, so we need to make sure we are getting enough in our diets or by taking supplements...

As you will discover, this useful vitamin is very important for a variety of body functions, from supporting our immune systems to helping to reduce the appearance of those fine lines and wrinkles...  plus, so much more!

Top vitamin C benefits:

Let’s find out what vitamin C is good for!

  1. Supports energy-yielding metabolism

Our bodies need vitamin C in order to efficiently convert the food and drinks we consume into energy. It also helps us to absorb other vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients to keep our bodies ticking over nicely.1

  1. Helps maintain psychological function

When your body is very deficient in vitamin C, you are at high risk for scurvy . Personality changes and low mood listlessness and general malaise are some of the symptoms of scurvy, making vitamin C vital for normal mental health.

Vitamin C also helps our body cells communicate with each other and contributes to the synthesis of the hormones (noradrenaline and adrenaline).¹

These hormones help to regulate your mood and ability to concentrate. They also work with other hormones to help the body respond better to exercise and stress.²

  1. Supports the immune system

Our immune system is responsible for keeping us healthy – and the stronger it is, the better. Everyone’s immune system needs vitamin C to function normally, so keep it topped up!¹

It’s a famous immunity vitamin: most of us know about using vitamin C for colds. And it’s not just a myth! Researchers from the University of Helsinki found that taking a vitamin C supplement could reduce the rate of colds in active people by 50%.³

  1. Helps maintain bones and cartilage

Vitamin C plays a big part in keeping our cartilage and bones strong by helping our bodies to make collagen. Collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies and acts as a scaffold to provide structure and strength.

About 90% of the matrix proteins in our bones are collagen, so it makes sense that it is good for our bones and cartilage.

Some research suggests that higher vitamin C intake appears to be associated with higher bone mass density and lower bone loss. Very high vitamin C levels have also been seen to help protect against hip and other bone fractures.⁴

Another micronutrient needed for strong and healthy bones is calcium, so try this calcium and vitamin C recipe for a double whammy of bone support.

  1. Improves skin appearance

If you feel like your skin needs a boost, – vitamin C could help!

Do you ever wonder why we get those fine lines and wrinkles as we age? The decline in elasticity and ‘plumpness’ in our skin is due, for the most part, to our natural collagen levels decreasing as we age.

Vitamin C is also found in many serums and eye creams as it’s particularly good for under eyes, helping to brighten bags and reduce the appearance of dark circles.

There are two main options in using vitamin C to help your skin:

  • Dietary: getting enough vitamin C through your diet or by taking supplements will support your body’s natural collagen production, – helping to fight support healthy skin ageing from the inside out.
  • Topically: you have probably seen a lot of beauty products that have been enriched with vitamin C. Applying vitamin C-rich skin products can help to promote normal levels of collagen production and reduce the appearance of ageing skin, according to New York dermatologist Howard Sobel.
  • It can also help to tackle blemishes and brown spots.⁵
  1. Reduces tiredness and fatigue

Feeling tired and fatigued sometimes is normal, – especially if you lead a busy lifestyle or exercise a lot.

However, if you’re feeling exhausted all the time, it’s a sure sign that your body is struggling to convert the energy you give it into action.

If you are fuelling your body with the food and drink it needs and still feeling the fatigue, it could mean that your body is lacking in certain micronutrients, like vitamin C.

Weakness and fatigue are among the symptoms of a vitamin C deficiency, so it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough.

A cause and effect relationship has been established between the intake of adequate levels of vitamin C and reduced tiredness and fatigue.8

  1. Helps create vitamin E

When our bodies perform certain tasks, e.g., fat oxidisation, by-products get left behind.

Some of these by-products can be upcycled with the help of vitamin C to make a reduced form of vitamin E. Clever, eh?

It’s hard for the body to “‘scavenge”’ them if too many accumulate, creating oxidative stress, therefore, vitamin C is important to reduce the chance of this happening.⁶

  1. Helps iron absorption

Not only does vitamin C do a good job on its own, but it can also help other micronutrients do their job too!

Vitamin C helps our bodies to absorb iron – one of the most important minerals for health. Iron is an important component of haemoglobin, which is found in our red blood cells and carries oxygen from our lungs to the rest of our bodies.

When we don’t consume enough iron – or it isn’t being absorbed properly in our bodies – it can have detrimental effects on our health.

It’s important to not let your iron go to waste. Make sure you have enough vitamin C for your body to put it to good use.

  1. It’s a potent antioxidant

Vitamin C is a natural antioxidant. Antioxidants help the body to protect its DNA, proteins, and lipids from oxidative damage caused by rogue particles in our bodies called free radicals.1

Free radical build up in the body can be detrimental to health, so the more protection we can get, the better.

  1. Supports gum and teeth health

Although a lack of vitamin C may not cause gum disease, research suggests that it can support healthy gums. A 2003 study on patients with periodontitis (a common type of gum disease) found that they had lower levels of vitamin C in their blood.7

  1. Supports overall skin health

Because topical vitamin C is acidic, it removes dead cells from the skin’s surface and makes way for new cells. This process essentially encourages the skin’s natural healing process by encouraging it to produce more collagen and elastin.8

It also contains a property that inhibits your skin’s melanin production, which is what causes skin discoloration, such as dark spots and hyperpigmentation.

When applied consistently and continuously, vitamin C has been known to: a) help prevent marks from forming and b) reducing the appearance of existing brown spots.5

  1. May help to ease UTIs

Cranberry juice is the go-to, but you might want to opt for orange if you’re looking to ward off UTIs.

Vitamin C makes urine more acidic, which helps to prevent bacteria from growing.10

However, it’s not yet known how many kinds of bacteria this works on, or its usefulness in preventing recurring infections.

  1. May help relieve allergy symptoms

It’s thought that vitamin C could help reduce mild seasonal or environmental allergies.

Instead of blocking histamine receptors (like antihistamine medications), vitamin C reduces the amount of histamine you produce.11

Certain studies have shown histamine levels to reduce by about 38% after taking 2000mg of vitamin C.11,12

It’s thought that taking intravenous vitamin C is the most effective form for reducing mild allergy symptoms.

If you get the odd sniffle in summer, it’s worth a try – however, you should never rely on vitamin C to reduce more serious allergy symptoms.

  1. May help to manage your weight

It shouldn’t be your go-to if you’re trying to lose weight, but there’s evidence to suggest that getting enough vitamin C is important for burning fat.

A 2005 review in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that individuals with enough vitamin C oxidised 30% more fat during moderate exercise than those who were deficient.13

Is vitamin C safe to use?

Because Vitamin C is a naturally occurring antioxidant, it has an excellent safety profile.14

This means that it’s ok for most people to use topically without experiencing any side effects.15

It’s also versatile when used topically, meaning you can use a higher or lower concentration depending on your skin.

Products tend to range from 5% strength to 30%. If you have dry or sensitive skin, then you may want to use a lower concentration. Meanwhile, oiler skin tends to be able to tolerant higher concentrations.16

However, you should always check the ingredients list if you have any allergies or sensitive skin issues. Some people can be allergic to vitamin C or its different forms, so it’s worth introducing with care.

Top tip: Serums are the most effective way of getting vitamin C as they are more concentrated.

How much vitamin C do I need?

Now we’ve covered the function of vitamin c in our bodies and all its wonderful benefits, let’s find out how much you need to stay healthy.

The NHS recommends that adults between 19 and 64 get 40mg of vitamin C per day.17

If you consume a healthy balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit and veg, you will probably be getting enough vitamin C.

However, our bodies cannot make or store vitamin C it. If you don’t hit your 5-a-day target as often much as you’d like, you may need to reconsider your diet or start taking a supplement.

Benefits of each type of vitamin C

Like most supplements, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to deciding how to take your vitamin C.

Tablets, gummies, and powders are the most common option – just take daily or dissolve into water.

In some cases, doctors might prescribe intravenous vitamin C for severe deficiencies or other chronic or life-threatening illnesses.

But is one form better than the other? No, but you might find there are benefits that work for you:

Vitamin C tablets

Tablets are popular for a reason: they’re easy to take and they store well. However, some people find that synthetic forms of vitamin C tablets (usually with L-ascorbic glasses) can irritate their gut.

 

Vitamin C gummies

This chewable form is ideal for anyone who finds swallowing tablets difficult (and they’re often in a fruity flavour). However, some gummies’ potency can deteriorate more quickly than tablets – so be sure not to leave them in the cupboard for too long!

 

Vitamin C powders

Just stir a powder into water and drink your vitamin C. Powders make it easier to adjust your dose if needed. Just be sure to store them somewhere dry to keep them their most effective.

 

Vitamin C gels

Take these on the go for an easy daily supplement.

 

Intravenous vitamin C

This is usually used to treat chronic conditions, rather than as a daily supplement. Intravenous administration means that more vitamin C reaches the blood than with oral supplements.

 

Slow-release vitamin C

Since our bodies get rid of excess vitamin C, taking a lot in a short amount of time will only go to waste. There are “slow release” supplements available, which deliver nutrients little and often to ensure maximum absorption.

 

What are the signs you’re not getting enough vitamin C?

It can be hard to know if you’re getting enough vitamin C in your diet, especially if you’re a smoker as this can affect how your body absorbs this helpful vitamin. If you are suffering from a combination of the below symptoms, you may be deficient in vitamin C:

  • Bruising easily
  • Bleeding gums
  • Not healing quickly
  • Dry and splitting hair
  • Depression
  • Fatigue

Please consult a medical professional if you think you or a member of your family may be experiencing vitamin C deficiency. If untreated it can cause a multitude of health problems.

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