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 Vitamin C
(Ascorbic Acid)


open quote logo graphics Vitamin C is an essential and critical vitamin for your body. Although research studies seem to show conflicting results, one fact seems to be consistent across practically all research studies: Deficiency in this essential vitamin seems to cause many health problems and diseases.
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The health benefits of this vitamin are confirmed with extensive clinical studies. Citrus fruits and vegetables should be a "standard" part of your daily diet.  If not, taking supplemental vitamin C is highly recommended. We suggest a minimum of 250 mg daily for most adults. This will ensure you won't be deficient in this essential vitamin.

It is our very strong opinion that the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) set by experts is far too low for practically everyone. The importance of this vitamin is underestimated by many people.

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Table of Contents





Evidence of Benefits (Leaf Rating System)

Editor's Note: This is a very "strange" vitamin from a research point of view. There are massive amounts of well-designed research studies done but they seem to yield contradictory results! One study would show benefit and another study (equally in design quality) would show no benefit. Click here to jump to section below for a possible explanation.
 
leaf logo plant natural remedies herb herbal Cancer Prevention in General

It is well known through population studies that low levels of vitamin C increases the risk of prostate, stomach, colon, mouth and lung cancer. However, it is less clear whether taking large (mega dose) of vitamin C could prevent cancer.

There is disagreement among experts on the use of this essential vitamin. In lab studies, this vitamin is shown to be absorbed much more rapidly by cancerous cells, causing them to stop growing and to be killed.

leaf logo plant natural remedies herb herbal Atherosclerosis (Hardening of the Arteries)

Studies done to see if this vitamin can slow down atherosclerosis produced mixed results. Some studies show that this vitamin can slow down the atherosclerotic process.

Experts believe the benefits of using this vitamin might depend on the gender (man versus female), severity of the atherosclerosis, whether the person is initially deficient in this vitamin and perhaps several other factors.

leaf logo plant natural remedies herb herbal Gallstone, Gallbladder Disease and Gout Prevention

Clinical studies done in women show that taking this vitamin lowers the risk of developing of gallstone and gallbladder disease by 34%.
 
leaf logo plant natural remedies herb herbal Common Cold Treatment / Influenza (flu) Treatment

The use of Vitamin C for treating the common cold is highly controversial, despite extensive clinical research in this area. In several studies, taking high doses of this vitamin does seem to shorten the duration of the cold by up to one and a half days.

Extensive research studies conducted still showed mixed results. Some studies report benefits and other show it doesn't make a difference.
 
leaf logo plant natural remedies herb herbal Heart Attack (Myocardial Infarction / MI)

Studies show that those who are low in this vitamin have a higher risk of getting a heart attack.

One study showed that combining vitamin C with arginine helped to reduce the symptoms of angina (chest pain).

Note: The benefit only seems to apply when you are deficient in this vitamin.

leaf logo plant natural remedies herb herbal Immune System Enhancement

Studies have shown that vitamin C enhances the function of the immune system. This vitamin boosts the white blood cell count to better fight off infections. People with low levels of this vitamin seem to be more likely to get infections.
 
leaf logo plant natural remedies herb herbal High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

This vitamin is shown to lower blood pressure by enhancing the production of nitric oxide (which causes blood vessels to dilate).

leaf logo plant natural remedies herb herbal Skin Aging and Wrinkles

This vitamin is essential for collagen production. Collagen is a type of protein that is needed for skin, ligament, cartilage and cornea production and health.

Using a cream formulation containing 3% to 10% of this vitamin reduces the appearance of wrinkles in as little as 12 weeks.
 
leaf logo plant natural remedies herb herbal Wound healing (in burn patients)

A recent small (15 children) well-designed clinical studies done in children shows that taking this vitamin along with vitamin E and zinc helps wound heal significantly faster. Other studies also showed similar benefits for other types of skin problems.

Experts believed that a combination of antioxidant vitamins and mineral offered protection against oxidative stress and thus speed up the healing of the skin.

The dosage used was (simply) double of the recommended daily intake for the three ingredients. It did not require mega dose levels to show this promising result.
 
leaf logo plant natural remedies herb herbal Prostate Cancer

Experts  believe that antioxidants play a significant role in preventing cancers such as prostate cancer. Antioxidants prevent damage to DNA in cells that leads to the development of cancer.

As well, there are studies that show a diet low in vitamin C increases the risk of death from cancer in men (but not women).
 
leaf logo plant natural remedies herb herbal Cataracts

Low levels of this vitamin seem to be linked to an increased risk of developing cataracts.

However, high doses of this vitamin seem to increase cataract risks in animal studies. Click here to read the latest study showing the dangers of mega-dose therapy of this vitamin.
 
leaf logo plant natural remedies herb herbal Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

Several studies show that taking 500 mg of this vitamin along with zinc (80 mg), beta-carotene (15 mg) and vitamin E (400 IU) reduces the risk of vision loss and appears to slow down the disease.
 
leaf logo plant natural remedies herb herbal DNA Damage Prevention

Cancer can result when our genetic material (DNA) is damaged by oxidation. Thus, it is solid reason why taking this critical vitamin may be able to treat and prevent cancer.

A well designed clinical studies done with 40 patients show that the antioxidant properties of this essential vitamin was able to prevent DNA damage in a type of human white blood cells (lymphocytes) responsible for attacking and destroying germs found in our body.
 
The volunteers in this study drank grape juice amounting to 2.5 mL (1/2 teaspoon) for each pound of body weight each day. That's 250 mL or about a cup for every 100 lbs of body weight daily. This study shows that you don't need mega dose of this vitamin to see benefits.
 
leaf logo plant natural remedies herb herbal Infertility / Increase or Enhance Fertility

This vitamin can help in both men and women suffering from infertility issues. One clinical study showed that it helped to increase fertility in women suffering from luteal phase defect.

leaf logo plant natural remedies herb herbal Asthma and Allergies (Hay Fever)

Several studies have shown that a low level of this vitamin is linked to asthma and poor lung function. There are also studies to show that taking vitamin C supplements reduced asthma symptoms.

We will need to see well-designed studies to verify this benefit as there also studies that show that taking this vitamin did not help.
 
leaf logo plant natural remedies herb herbalAutism

One study lasting 10 weeks showed that children taking 1 gram of vitamin C per 20 pounds of body weight has less autistic symptoms compared to placebo.
 
leaf logo plant natural remedies herb herbal Stress

Animal studies seem to show that this essential vitamin can lower levels of stress hormones in the blood.
 
leaf logo plant natural remedies herb herbal Miscarriage Prevention

One small clinical studies done at the University of Antioquia (2009) showed that men with high levels of DNA damage or excessive oxidative stress benefited from taking antioxidants like vitamin C.

The researchers concluded that men taking foods rich in antioxidants could help with decreasing miscarriage incidences by maintaining the quality of the DNA in the sperm.
 
leaf logo plant natural remedies herb herbal Osteoarthritis (OA)

This vitamin is shown to prevent or at least slow down the degeneration of the cartilage for those suffering from osteoarthritis. This vitamin is required for proper health of the cartilage and its antioxidant benefit also protects against damage caused by oxidative stress.
 
leaf logo plant natural remedies herb herbal Pre-eclampsia (High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy)

Vitamin E (400 IU daily) combined with vitamin C (1,000 mg daily) seems to help prevent pre-eclampsia in certain groups of pregnant women.

A review of research data from the Cochrane Database System shows that taking vitamin supplements did not reduce the risk of miscarriage although it did bring down the risk of pre-eclampsia and increased the likelihood of having multiple births.
 
leaf logo plant natural remedies herb herbal Bladder Infection During Pregnancy

Taking this vitamin seems to reduce the risk of getting bladder infection in pregnant females.

leaf logo plant natural remedies herb herbal Sun-damaged (UV) skin / Sunburn

It seems that taking this vitamin along with vitamin E can help prevent sunburns and act as a sunscreen. Applying a cream formulation containing this vitamin, vitamin E and melatonin seems to offer a small amount of UV protection.

However, without additional sunscreen ingredients, these formulations do not offer much protection as a typical sunscreen.
 
leaf logo plant natural remedies herb herbal

Cold Sores (Herpes Labialis)

In lab studies, vitamin C was able to inactivate the cold sores virus. In one study, volunteers taking vitamin C with flavonoids cut the length of the symptoms by 57%.

leaf logo plant natural remedies herb herbal Dementia / Alzheimer's Disease

Taking this vitamin doesn't seem to prevent getting dementia or Alzheimer's disease. However, some population studies do seem to show that it may help prevent these two conditions if this vitamin is taken for longer period of time at higher doses.
 
Helpful
Heart Disease

Vitamin C may be helpful in people with heart disease in many ways even though it doesn't lower high cholesterol. Being an antioxidant, it may play a role in preventing heart disease.

A recent study showed that this vitamin thickens the blood vessel wall which may reduce blood flow. This study seem to suggest not taking too much of this vitamin for those suffering from heart disease. More studies will be needed to verify this initial finding.

Note: The benefits of taking this vitamin do apply if you are deficient. Because a study showed that vitamin C appears to thicken blood vessel, avoid "mega doses" of this vitamin if you suffer from heart disease.
 
Helpful
Type 2 Diabetes (Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus)

Although taking this vitamin doesn't lower blood sugar levels, it does help to stabilize blood sugar levels and metabolism.


Common Cold Prevention - Probably not effective

Extensive clinical studies have shown that taking vitamin C on a daily basis didn't reduce the risk of getting the common cold.

However, taking high dose of this vitamin seems to shorten the duration of the cold symptoms modestly.


Stroke PreventionProbably not effective

There are conflicting results on proving whether taking higher doses of this essential vitamin could prevent stroke. Indeed, population studies do show that if you are low in vitamin C, taking supplements may reduce the risk of stroke.

However, taking this vitamin when you are not deficient doesn't offer any additional protection.


Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) - Probably not effective

This essential vitamin is needed to help build neurotransmitters (such as serotonin, adrenaline and dopamine) for the brain to work properly. It is speculated that too little vitamin C could be responsible for causing ADHD.

However, clinical studies show that taking high doses of this vitamin did not help treat ADHD.
 


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Suggested Benefits and Traditional Uses

Acne
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
Allergies (Hay fever)
Alzheimer's disease (AD)
Antioxidant benefits
Anti-aging benefits
Anemia
Antiviral benefits
Atherosclerosis
(Hardening of the arteries)
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
(ADHD)
Bladder infection during pregnancy
Bronchitis
Burns
Cancer prevention and treatment
Cataracts
Cold Sores
Constipation
Common cold prevention
Common cold treatment
Cystic Fibrosis (CF)
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)
Constipation
Delaying muscle soreness
DNA damage prevention
Dental plaque reduction
Depression
Dementia
Diabetes
Gallbladder disease

Gallstones
Gout
HIV infection
Heart attack
Infertility
Influenza (The Flu)
Lead toxicity
Helicobacter pylori infection
Heart disease
High cholesterol
High blood pressure
Infertility (male and female)
Miscarriage prevention
Osteoporosis
Osteoarthritis
Pre-eclampsia
Pregnancy
Pneumonia prevention
Prostate Cancer
Skin aging prevention
Stomach Ulcers
Stroke prevention
Sunburns
Sun-damaged skin
Scurvy
Tuberculosis
Wound healing
Wrinkles (skin)
Yeast infection (vaginitis)

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Facts and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is vitamin C?

Some facts. Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a vitamin that is water-soluble. What this means is that if you take too much and your body doesn't need the excess amount, it will be removed by the kidney. The human body cannot make vitamin C (unlike many other mammals) and thus relies on getting it from the foods we eat.

Severely low levels of this vitamin will cause a condition called scurvy, a common disease back in the 18th century when sailors don't get to eat any fruits or vegetables during their long voyage at sea. Today, this is a very rare disease.

Taking this essential vitamin daily is important as your body doesn't really store very much of this (unlike, for example, calcium).

How do I know if I have a deficiency in vitamin C?

Blood test can measure the levels of this vitamin in your bloodstream. Healthy adults typically have blood levels of at least 0.3 mg/dL. Levels lower than 0.2 mg/dL would put a person in a state of deficiency.

What are some foods sources high in vitamin C? Which is the best?

Food sources rich in this vitamin include citrus fruits and vegetables. Vitamin C is sensitive to heat so cooking and storage can reduce the amount that your body can absorb.

When possible, eat citrus fruits instead of drinking ready-to-drink juices (such as orange juice). Apparently, ready-to-drink orange juice contains more oxidized vitamin C than frozen orange juice. Oxidized vitamin C doesn't get absorbed very well.

Stick with ready-to-drink juice that are freshly squeezed when possible rather than those packaged to sit on the grocery shelves for long periods of time.

What drugs could lower the levels of vitamin C in our body?

The following drugs may cause your body to use up more of this vitamin than normal.
  • Aspirin (ASA)
  • Diuretics ("Water Pills" such as Lasix)
  • Female Hormones (Birth Control Pills and Estrogens)
  • Proton Pump Inhibitors (Aciphex, Losec, Prilosec, Prevacid, Pantoloc, Protonix and Nexium)
Experts believe that this might apply only to those people who have low levels of this vitamin to start with. People with enough of this vitamin may not be affected.

Why are research studies showing conflicting results?

There are many reasons why it is so difficult to get clear conclusive answers on this essential vitamin despite exhaustive research studies.

Perhaps it is because this vitamin does so much in our body in combination with other vitamins and minerals? This further provides evidence to show how complex and delicate our body chemistry is.

It is next to impossible to just look at one vitamin's benefit to one disease (which is what every well-designed research study tries to do). We must treat our body as a whole and hence, we need to take a holistic approach to looking after our health.

Experts can't agree on the exact amount of health benefits from taking this vitamin but they do agree that a deficiency can cause health problems in the long-term.

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Side Effects, Toxicity and Warnings

What are some side effects of taking vitamin C?

The higher the dose of this vitamin, the higher the side effects you will experience. They may include nausea and vomiting, the most commonly reported side effects.

And at higher doses, it can cause heartburn, flushing, cramps, headache, diarrhea and upset stomach.

What are some toxicity if I take too much or overdose on vitamin C?

Mega dose of this vitamin has been linked to increased risk of kidney stones, deep vein thrombosis, increased risk of heart disease in women after menopause, thickening of the blood vessel walls and possibly increase the production of reactive oxygen species that can damage DNA. More long-term studies need to be done to verify this fact.

Consult a properly trained healthcare professional in this area if you plan to go on mega dose vitamin therapy.

What if I have kidney stones or suffer from kidney disease?

If you have kidney problems or suffer from kidney stones, this vitamin increases the risk further. Discuss this with your healthcare professional before taking this vitamin, especially if you are taking doses higher than 1 gram daily.

What are some known risk of taking too much of this vitamin?

A new study (Nov 2009) that took 8.2 years involving 24,593 women aged 49 to 83 showed that taking over 1,000 mg of this vitamin increased cataract risk by 38%. The experts suggest that high-dose of this vitamin may be associated with a higher risk of age-related cataracts in women.

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Dosage & How to Take It

The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) is listed below.

Population Group RDA (mg daily)
Men 90
Women 75
Women (pregnant) 80 mg
Women (breastfeeding) 95 mg
Smokers Add another 35 mg

The National Academy of Sciences has set the upper limit (UL) at 2,000 mg (2 grams) daily. There is disagreement among experts as some believe that the RDA is set far too low.

As this vitamin is water-soluble, the amount absorbed by the body that it doesn't need can easily be removed by the kidney. As you can see, the RDA is very conservative compared to what you can buy at your local health food stores and pharmacies. This vitamin is commonly available in dosage up to 1,000 mg (1 gram) per pill.



Sample of Commonly Used Dosages from Research Studies

Common Cold - Typical dose is 1,000 to 3,000 mg daily (divided into two doses)

Prostate Cancer - 125 mg of this vitamin along with selenium, zinc and vitamin E daily have been used.

Osteoarthritis - Dose of 250 to 1000 mg taken two or three times daily have been studied.

Enhancing Fertility in Women - Take 750 mg daily.


Mega Doses Commonly Used

We strongly advise seeking the guidance of competent healthcare professionals specialized in this area when taking mega doses of any vitamins or supplements.

Make sure you are aware of the common side effects and toxicity of taking huge amounts of this vitamin so that you can watch out for them.

With these mega doses, we suggest you use pure ascorbic acid powder or crystals instead. These can be purchased from any pharmacy or most health food stores. (You probably don't want to be taking 10 pills four times daily.)

Health Conditions Mega Dose Amounts (daily)
(Split dose into four to eight times daily
Common cold 30 to 60 g
Allergies (hay fever) 5 to 20 g
Flu 100 to 150 g

Note
: 1 g (gram) is equal to 1,000 mg (milligrams).


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