20 Benefits of Vitamin C
We started our Waxhead mission to find a better way to protect skin in the sun. In designing our nutrient bars, Vitamin C quickly became a must-have ingredient, simply because of the amazing things it does to defend skin from UV rays. We wondered, what are the other Benefits of Vitamin C?
And the more we learned, the more we wanted to tell our Waxhead tribe of the very well-rounded health protector that is Vitamin C.
So here’s a rundown of 20 benefits of Vitamin C and the great things it does for you, your skin and your body. We bet you’ll be surprised by a few and gain a whole new appreciation for this little powerhouse nutrient.
What are the Benefits of Vitamin C?
Vitamin C is one heck of a multipurpose health defender. Perhaps the best known antioxidant, it offers a big range of health benefits, protecting against cell damage and infection, boosting production of collagen (the connective tissue that holds bones and muscles together), and improving absorption of iron and folic acid.
Vitamin C and its immunity-boosting role has been studied possibly more than any other nutrient. This research has specifically shown that C increases production of both white blood cells and antibodies, while also strengthening cell-protective surfaces that prevent the entry of viruses. In fact, Vitamin C is one of THE best defenders against viruses, and it can neutralize a wide host of toxins. Some scientists have stated there are no RNA viruses currently in existence which Vitamin C cannot destroy, even Ebola.
The benefits of Vitamin C are an astounding array of solutions to the body-health, disease-fighter table. To get a better idea of its range, read on.
“Evidence documents Vitamin C as one of the best antiviral agents now available. It can neutralize and eliminate a wide range of toxins. Some scientists have stated that there are no RNA viruses currently in existence which Vitamin C cannot destroy, even ebola.”
General Health (and sickness)
1. The Great Antioxidant
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that removes free radicals, which are unstable molecules that steal electrons from healthy molecules in order to reach equilibrium. Unchecked, free radicals cause significant tissue damage and contribute to dry skin and premature wrinkling (and cancer). Skin’s exposure to the sun’s UV rays produces significant free radicals in the skin (UVB rays nearer the skin’s surface and UVA rays deeper within the skin). This occurs even more in the winter, when you’re less likely to use sunscreen while exposed to the sun.
Vitamin C is water-soluble, so it works mainly within cellular fluids, affecting cells on the inside and outside of the body. Based on multiple studies, these benefits rely on consistent, daily vitamin C intake of 500 milligrams, much higher than the daily value of 90 milligrams per day recommended for adults. So unless very large amounts of fruits and vegetables can be eaten regularly, a supplement is needed.
Greater amounts can be taken at a time, but because it’s water soluble, excess tends to pass through the body, especially if ingested orally. To increase absorption of greater intake levels, it can be taken intravenously – but the water-soluble trait will continue to limit absorption efficiency, and the best long-term approach is the slower, steadier 500mg per day, every day.
2. Immune System Booster
Vitamin C powers immunity more than any other nutrient, increasing white blood cells and the production of interferon, which helps lock cell surfaces from viruses.
White blood cells are the workhorse of your immune system, attacking infected cells by surrounding, killing and then cleaning them up. One study found even moderate to low drops in Vitamin C levels can produce significant drops in immune function. To maintain proper C levels, nutritional experts recommend a daily intake of 500 mg or more.
3. The Common Cold “Cure”
We’ve all heard it. Vitamin C fights a cold. But the science behind the maxim is a bit mixed. And if you use the Vitamin C approach, take a lot to enjoy significant benefit. A British researcher looked at all studies, from 1970 onward, in which cold-suffering subjects ingested 1,000 mg or more of Vitamin C per day, and he found positive results, including a 72% reduction in symptom duration. To further banish a cold, some doctors recommend daily intake of 2,000 mg of Vitamin C a day, dosed 4 times throughout the day.
Matters of the Heart
4. Reduce risk of Heart Disease
Atherosclerosis, one form of heart disease, is a serious heart ailment caused by plaque buildup in artery walls. The resulting narrower arteries are less able to move blood effectively, and if a clot forms, it can stop blood flow almost entirely. Such conditions can cause heart attacks, strokes, and a myriad of chronic health conditions.
Obviously, avoiding heart disease is essential for a healthy lifestyle. In addition to avoiding tobacco products, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and limiting stress, some doctors are beginning to recognize specific nutrients, particularly Vitamin C, Vitamin E and beta-carotene, as just as important for a healthy heart.
Researchers from Harvard Medical School, by comparing diets of over 70,000 nurses, found a diet rich in Vitamin C reduced risk of heart disease by 43%, believing the vitamin (in addition to Vitamin E and beta-carotene), works by neutralizing “bad” cholesterol (LDL) before it can get a significant foothold within arteries.
More specifically, LDL cholesterol may be unable to produce artery plaque unless the LDL particle’s internal fat turns rancid by a process called oxidation. And as a powerful water-soluble antioxidant, Vitamin C helps neutralize the free radicals that fuel the oxidation process. It does this by helping fat-soluble Vitamin E stop oxidation within LDL fat.
Many cardiologists stress the daily intake of 250 to 500 mg of Vitamin C to act effectively in thus protecting the arteries and the heart that depend on their clear passageways.
“When an LDL particle exhausts its Vitamin E, Vitamin C can regenerate the Vitamin E, thus renewing its ability to prevent artherosclerosis.”
Balz Frei, PhD, Boston University School of Medicine
5. Lower Blood Pressure
Several studies indicate the benefits of Vitamin C may factor in reducing blood pressure. For instance, researchers at Tufts University found those who consumed 240 mg or more of Vitamin C a day were 50% less likely to have high blood pressure than those less than 60 mg.
6. Raise Good Cholesterol
As you know, LDL is BAD cholesterol, and HDL is GOOD cholesterol, since it captures the LDL, takes it to your liver, which eventually flushes it from your body. So you want HIGH levels of HDL and LOWER levels of LDL. H – Higher. L – Lower. Got it.
So how do you do get high HDL (the good stuff, remember)? Some studies indicate moderate alcohol consumption (1-2 drinks daily), heart-pumping exercise several times weekly, and avoiding tobacco are three ways to raise HDL. And now studies at Tufts University show that the higher the level of Vitamin C in your blood, the higher your HDL. Doctors who recommend Vitamin C for optimizing cholesterol recommend 250 mg or more per day.
“Over time, people with diabetes who get plenty of Vitamin C will have fewer complications.”
John J Cunningham, PhD, University of Mass, Amherst
7. Fight Diabetes
As you might know, Type I diabetes results from a lack of insulin, and Type II results when sugar can’t enter cells. Either result in the same big problem: too much sugar in the blood, which causes a great deal of oxidative stress in the body, which causes a myriad of dire health problems. Additionally, the extra sugar sticks to proteins, causing harmful changes in their structural and functional properties.
So since the sugar molecules react with oxygen to form unstable molecules called free radicals, and because Vitamin C is such a great fighter against such free radicals, Vitamin C helps fight the ongoing effects of diabetes. And studies actually show Vitamin C helps prevent the sugar inside cells from converting to sorbitol, a sugar alcohol that builds up and can cause diabetes-related eye, nerve and kidney damage.
Doctors who recommend the benefits of Vitamin C for diabetes suggest anywhere between 100 to 8,000 mg a day (that’s right, 8 thousand). So talk to your medical team (including a physician and licensed nutritionist who specialize in diabetes or related areas) to gauge the right dosage for you.
Eyes and Teeth
8. Prevent Cataracts
Vitamin C is a water-soluble antioxidant, and the eye lens is made of mostly water and some proteins. Vitamin C levels in the lens and fluid surrounding it are 10-30 times levels elsewhere.
And so water soluble Vitamin C has a profoundly protective effect on eye function and health. In studies using lab animals, it’s been shown to protect the lens from oxidative damage from light, sugar and various drugs. Some studies also suggest Vitamin C defends against cataracts.
The Harvard School of Public Health found that women consuming 250-500 mg of Vitamin C for 10 years or more reduced by 45% their chance of cataracts. In another study, those supplementing with 300-600 mg of daily Vitamin C enjoyed a 70% risk decrease.
“It’s reasonable to think that long use of preventative agents such as Vitamin C would result in lowered cataract risk.”
Susan E. Hankinson, ScD, Channing Laboratory at Brigham
9. Treat Glaucoma
Glaucoma causes an ongoing buildup of pressure inside the eye, a condition that can cause blindness as it advances. Ophthalmologists prescribe eye drops or surgery to relieve pressure. Evidence suggests positive dietary changes can also contribute to condition improvement, or at least slowed advancement. As such, the benefits of Vitamin C has been shown to reduce intraocular pressure by raising blood acidity, and physicians recommend 750-1,500 mg of daily Vitamin C intake. However, nutritional therapy for glaucoma is not a common practice, and you should always discuss any such glaucoma treatment with your qualified medical team.
10. Prevent & Treat Gingivitis
Gingivitis implies bleeding or receding gums. As a prevention or cure, dentists stress regular brushing, flossing and cleaning, but undoubtedly, diet serves as a vital partner in gum health. Vitamin C is vital for production of collagen (the building block of body tissues), and it strengthens weak gum tissue and makes the gums less susceptible to bacteria. In fact, research shows Vitamin C levels are inversely related to levels of gum bleeding in men. To fight gingivitis, dentists suggest two methods of Vitamin C intake: a mouthwash and supplement, and to take 500 mg of Vitamin C twice daily. And never forget – only floss the teeth you want to keep.
Chronic Health Problems
Beef jerky, hot dogs and lunch meats all contain nitrates. These are preservatives that break down in the body into cancer-causing nitrosamines. But Vitamin C neutralizes them, while Vitamin E inhibits their formation.
11. Protect against Cancer
As mentioned early and often at Waxhead, one of the benefits of Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals, which steal electrons from your body’s healthy cells, harming cell membranes and genetic material. Antioxidants like Vitamin C offer free radicals their own electron and so prevent such damage. Free radicals are produced by a myriad of inputs, including normal body process, cancer-promoting chemicals, poor diet, exposure to the sun’s rays, even exercise. A modicum of free radicals are a good thing – they help destroy foreign bacteria and viruses. But too many can produce chronic problems, including some pretty dire health conditions like cancer, especially as our bodies age.
Vitamin C also helps neutralize another big cancer causer: nitrates. More specifically, they destroy cancer-promoting nitrosamines, which are produced during the digestion of nitrates and nitrites (found in lots of processed meats, including bacon and hot dogs).
Just as important than the other two benefits, Vitamin C helps maintain a healthy immune system, and it helps boost the power of Vitamin E (another cancer fighting nutrient) to proper fighting form.
To optimize the potential for cancer protection, doctors recommend a daily intake of 250 to 1,000 mg of Vitamin C a day, taken in two to three divided doses. Remember, excess C passes through the body, so spreading out intake helps increase absorption efficiency.
To optimize the potential for cancer protection, doctors recommend 250 to 1,000mg of Vitamin C a day, taken in two to three divided doses.
“Approximately 90 population studies have examined the role of Vitamin C-rich foods in cancer prevention and the vast majority have found statistically significant protective effects. Evidence is strong for cancers of the esophagus, oral cavity, stomach and pancreas. There is also substantial evidence of protective effect against cancers of the cervix, rectum and breast.”
Gladys Block, PhD, University of California, Berkeley
12. Ease Allergies & Asthma
Several studies show evidence that significant intake of Vitamin C, which acts as a natural antihistamine, lowers histamine levels and make histamine break down faster after release. Conversely, lowered Vitamin C levels can send blood histamine production way up.
Among other breathing-related benefits of Vitamin C lowers inflammation associated with chronic allergies, it helps maintain strong lung function, protecting from effects of smoke, smog and other air pollution, and it neutralizes chemicals the body makes in response to asthma-related inflammation, stopping the cycle that can lead to increasingly severe attacks.
Doctors recommend 500 to 1000 mg of Vitamin C per day to help asthma patients achieve these benefits.
“Vitamin C can have modest beneficial effects for inhalant allergies and asthma it is taken on a regular basis.”
Richard Podell, MD, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
“Getting enough Vitamin C may prove to play an important role in reducing your risk of chronic lung disease, including asthma.”
Scott Weiss, PhD, Women’s Hospital in Boston
13. Reduce Arthritis Pain
For inflammation-driven conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, nutrition-oriented doctors include Vitamin C in their prescribed solutions. Free radicals cause inflammation, so eliminating them reduces or eliminates inflammation and associated pain. As stated earlier, Vitamin C disarms these free radicals.
A Great Britain study determined those with low levels of vitamin C were three times more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than those with C-rich diets.
Most doctors recommend a daily Vitamin C intake of 100 to 600 mg in order to combat rheumatoid arthritis and similar conditions.
Skin and Tissues
14. Build Healthy Skin
Because it’s so good at controlling antioxidants and so important in the production of collagen, Vitamin C is vital for keeping skin healthy. In addition to consuming Vitamin C and applying sunscreen, doctors recommend using topical Vitamin C, such as Cellex-C.
“Vitamin C is important for keeping the skin younger looking. I recommend a safe daily Vitamin C intake of about 300 to 500mg to maintain skin quality.”
Lorraine Meisner, PhD, University of Wisconsin Medical School
15. Treat Burns
Burns, whether from contact with hot surfaces or from sunburn, cause the body’s tissues to deteriorate, fat deposits to decrease and proteins to break down — each leaves the body and skin with a nutritional void. Experts stress the importance of getting adequate intake of vital nutrients, especially Vitamins C, E and A and Zinc, to promote healing and scarring after burns.
Vitamin C is specifically matched to building collagen after a burn as well as helping remove free radicals produced by sun exposure. Most experts recommend between 250 and 1,000 mg of Vitamin C per, and more if you have a severe burn. Spreading out the intake in small 250 mg doses helps increase absorption, since excess Vitamin C (which is water soluble) passes out of the body before giving any benefit.
16. Age “Defying” Skin Tool
Vitamin C is vital for production of collagen, the protein that acts as building block for all our connective tissue, including skin and ligaments. Collagen gives skin its resilience, but it tends to decrease with age. Vitamin C works to mitigate those drops. Some experts consider collagen the most crucial component in maintaining a smooth, healthy, dare we say “younger” complexion.
“The medical literature indicates that beginning at age 55 or 65, people can become Vitamin C depleted. It’s not clear if this depletion is caused by lack of intake or a problem with absorption, but supplemental Vitamin C can take care of it.”
Sheldon Pinnell, MD, Chief of Dermatology Duke University Medical Center
17. Limit Bruising
Bruises are causes when blood vessels are ruptured below the skin’s surface, causing blood to flood the surrounding tissue. Vitamin C helps strengthen the collagen (skin tissue) around those damaged blood vessels, and there is some evidence that Vitamin C intake of 500 to 1,000 mg per day helps limit and shorten the life of bruises. Additionally, applying topical Vitamin C creams, such as Cellex-C, can help prevent bruising in the first place.
If your diet fails to supply all the Vitamin C you need, doctors know your mental as well as physical health may be a stake.
18. Repair Cartilage
The benefit of Vitamin C is an infection fighter and an immunity builder, and it’s also used throughout the body to manufacture a variety of tissues, including collagen, which forms a network of protein fibers that is structural foundation for many tissues, including cartilage, bone, tendons and muscles. One study suggests large amounts of Vitamin C support growth of cartilage cells by stimulating synthesis of their genetic material.
“It’s well-known that animals deficient in Vitamin C develop an array of health problems associated with collagen breakdown, including joint pain and cartilage breakdown.” Dr. Joseph Pizzorno, Jr.
19. Aid healing after Surgery
Any kind of trauma, including surgery, can use up your body’s storage of Vitamin C. After surgery, blood levels of Vitamin C drop rapidly, and its deficiency causes wounds to heal more slowly. Vitamin C is vital in the production of wound-healing collagen, which provides the basic structure for many tissues, including skin, bone and blood vessels. Another benefit of Vitamin C also helps maintain a healthy immune system, vital for someone undergoing surgery, since it helps in recovery and staving off infection.
20. Protect against Sunburn & Skin Damage
Before learning how nutrients defend from sun damage, it helps to understand how such damage is caused. Sunlight produces two types of ultraviolet rays: UVA and UVB. The primary contributor to sunburn and short term skin damage, UVB rays are high intensity rays absorbed at the skin’s surface. Lower intensity UVA rays penetrate deeper, factoring in longer term damage like premature wrinkles and skin cancer.
Both work by producing free radicals, which are unstable molecules that steal electrons from healthy molecules to stabilize themselves. Free radicals are created by lots of regular metabolic functions, but sun exposure produces many more. Your body’s natural free radical defenses often aren’t enough to prevent UVA and UVB damage effectively. They either need to be boosted, with intake of antioxidants, or supplemented with sunscreen.
Many sunscreens block primarily UVB rays, and those that block UVA rays do allow some exposure. The best sunscreens are labeled for broadspectrum coverage and some contain nasty toxins oxybenzone and methoxycinnamate, so read your labels. In a practical sense, only clothing and zinc oxide block UVB and UVA rays completely.
To boost the body’s natural sun defenses, significant intake of antioxidants neutralize free radicals, including those created by sun exposure, by offering them electrons, sparing healthy molecules from harm. These include Vitamin C (and E) and the mineral selenium. Sun exposure tends to deplete your skin’s supply of these antioxidants, so regular, significant intake is recommended while in the sun.
Doctors recommend daily Vitamin C intake of 1,000 or more mg to maintain effective levels of antioxidants needed to effectively neutralize sun-related free radicals.
“No one is proposing that vitamins will ever replace sunscreen, but they can make sunscreen better. It would also be nice to replace some of the chemicals in sunscreen with vitamins.”
Dr. Douglas Darr, PhD, North Carolina Biotechnology Center
To read all our source materials, please visit Clinical Resource page, Healing with Vitamins, J.W. Goethe University Medical School Dept of Dermatology, Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Arthritis Foundation, WedMD, Oregon State University, Life Extension, Organic Facts.
Please talk to your medical team, including your doctor and a licensed nutrition, before making any changes to your diet.
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