Vitamin C is an essential vitamin, meaning your body can’t produce it. Yet, it has many roles and has been linked to impressive health benefits.
It’s water-soluble and found in many fruits and vegetables, including oranges, strawberries, kiwi fruit, bell peppers, broccoli, kale, and spinach.
While it’s commonly advised to get your vitamin C intake from foods, many people turn to supplements to meet their needs.
FOR THE BODY:
1. May reduce your risk of chronic disease
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can strengthen your body’s natural defences.
Antioxidants are molecules that boost the immune system. They do so by protecting cells from harmful molecules called free radicals.
When free radicals accumulate, they can promote a state known as oxidative stress, which has been linked to many chronic diseases.
Studies show that consuming more vitamin C can increase your blood antioxidant levels by up to 30%. This helps the body’s natural defences fight inflammation.
2. May help manage high blood pressure
High blood pressure puts you at risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death globally.
Studies have shown that vitamin C may help lower blood pressure in both those with and without high blood pressure.
An animal study found that taking a vitamin C supplement helped relax the blood vessels that carry blood from the heart, which helped reduce blood pressure levels.
Moreover, an analysis of 29 human studies found that taking a vitamin C supplement reduced systolic blood pressure (the upper value) by 3.8 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure (the lower value) by 1.5 mmHg, on average, in healthy adults.
In adults with high blood pressure, vitamin C supplements reduced systolic blood pressure by 4.9 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 1.7 mmHg, on average.
While these results are promising, it’s not clear whether the effects on blood pressure are long term. Moreover, people with high blood pressure should not rely on vitamin C alone for treatment.
4. May reduce blood uric acid levels and help prevent gout attacks
Gout is a type of arthritis that affects a number of people.
It’s incredibly painful and involves inflammation of the joints, especially those of the big toes. People with gout experience swelling and sudden, severe attacks of pain.
Gout symptoms appear when there is too much uric acid in the blood. Uric acid is a waste product produced by the body. At high levels, it may crystallize and deposit in the joints.
Interestingly, several studies have shown that vitamin C may help reduce uric acid in the blood and, as a result, protect against gout attacks.
For example, a study including 1,387 men found that those who consumed the most vitamin C had significantly lower blood levels of uric acid than those who consumed the least.
Another study followed 46,994 healthy men over 20 years to determine whether vitamin C intake was linked to developing gout. It found that people who took a vitamin C supplement had a 44% lower gout risk.
Additionally, an analysis of 13 studies found that taking a vitamin C supplement over 30 days significantly reduced blood uric acid, compared with a placebo.
While there appears to be a strong link between vitamin C intake and uric acid levels, more studies on the effects of vitamin C on gout are needed.
5. Helps prevent iron deficiency
Iron is an important nutrient that has a variety of functions in the body. It’s essential for making red blood cells and transporting oxygen throughout the body.
Vitamin C supplements can help improve the absorption of iron from the diet. Vitamin C assists in converting iron that is poorly absorbed, such as plant-based sources of iron, into a form that is easier to absorb.
This is especially useful for people on a meat-free diet, as meat is a major source of iron.
In fact, simply consuming 100 mg of vitamin C may improve iron absorption by 67%.
As a result, vitamin C may help reduce the risk of anemia among people prone to iron deficiency.
In one study, 65 children with mild iron deficiency anemia were given a vitamin C supplement. Researchers found that the supplement alone helped control their anemia.
If you have low iron levels, consuming more vitamin-C-rich foods or taking a vitamin C supplement may help improve your blood iron levels.
6. Boosts immunity
One of the main reasons people take vitamin C supplements is to boost their immunity, as vitamin C is involved in many parts of the immune system.
First, vitamin C helps encourage the production of white blood cells known as lymphocytes and phagocytes, which help protect the body against infection.
Second, vitamin C helps these white blood cells function more effectively while protecting them from damage by potentially harmful molecules, such as free radicals.
Third, vitamin C is an essential part of the skin’s defense system. It’s actively transported to the skin, where it can act as an antioxidant and help strengthen the skin’s barriers.
Studies have also shown that taking vitamin C may shorten wound healing time.
What’s more, low vitamin C levels have been linked to poor health outcomes.
For example, people who have pneumonia tend to have lower vitamin C levels, and vitamin C supplements have been shown to shorten the recovery time.
7. Protects your memory and thinking as you age
Dementia is a broad term used to describe symptoms of poor thinking and memory.
It affects over 35 million people worldwide and typically occurs among older adults.
Studies suggest that oxidative stress and inflammation near the brain, spine, and nerves (altogether known as the central nervous system) can increase the risk of dementia.
Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant. Low levels of this vitamin have been linked to an impaired ability to think and remember.
Moreover, several studies have shown that people with dementia may have lower blood levels of vitamin C.
Furthermore, high vitamin C intake from food or supplements has been shown to have a protective effect on thinking and memory as you age.
Vitamin C supplements may aid against conditions like dementia if you don’t get enough vitamin C from your diet. However, additional human studies are needed to understand the effects of vitamin C supplements on nervous system health.
1. It’s safe for most skin types
Vitamin C has an excellent safety profile. Most people can use topical vitamin C for an extended period of time without experiencing any adverse reactions.
In rare cases, people who have hypersensitive skin may experience minor irritation.
2. It’s brightening
Vitamin C can help fade pigmentation (more on this below!) and smooth the skin’s surface to reduce dullness. This gives skin a youthful glow.
3. It helps reduce redness and even out your skin tone
Vitamin C has also been shown to treat a huge variety of inflammatory skin conditions. Minimising redness can create a more even complexion.
4. It helps fade hyperpigmentation
Hyperpigmentation — including sun spots, age spots, and melasma — occurs when melanin is overproduced in certain areas of the skin. It can also happen in areas where acne has healed.
Vitamin C application has been shown to impede melanin production. This can help fade dark spots and lead to a more even-toned complexion.
5. It reduces the appearance of under-eye circles
These serums can help smooth out fine lines by plumping and hydrating the under-eye area.
Although vitamin C is more effective at reducing overall redness, some people say that it can help alleviate discoloration associated with under-eye circles.
6. It promotes collagen production
Vitamin C is well known for boosting collagen production.
Collagen is a naturally occurring protein that depletes over time. Lower levels of collagen can lead to fine lines and wrinkles.
7. It may help prevent skin sagging
Collagen production is tied to skin elasticity and firmness. When your collagen levels begin to drop, your skin may begin to sag.
Applying a vitamin C serum may boost collagen production, resulting in an overall tightening effect.
8. It protects against sun damage
Sun damage is caused by molecules called free radicals. These are atoms with a missing electron. Free radicals search for other atoms from which they can “steal” an electron —and this can lead to significant damage to the skin.
Vitamin C is rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants protect healthy skin cells by “giving” these free radicals an electron, rendering them harmless.
9. It may help soothe sunburns
In addition to minimising redness, vitamin C accelerates cell turnover. This replaces the damaged cells with healthy new ones.
Given its effects on sunburn, it should be no surprise that vitamin C application can speed up overall wound healing. Healthy wound healing reduces your risk for inflammation, infection, and scarring.
Reference: Healthline, WebMD
Written by: Omojo Emeje