Why is Vitamin C important?
WHAT IS VITAMIN C?
Vitamin C is a vitamin that your body needs to form blood vessels, cartilage, muscle and collagen in bones. It is also vital to your body's healing process. Vitamin C is an essential vitamin that your body can't produce and has many health benefits. Vitamin C is water-soluble and is in many fruits and vegetables that we eat. We should do our best to get Vitamin C from the foods we eat, but using supplements is great as well.
Here are some ways Vitamin C can benefit you and your body:
1. ANTIOXIDANT Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can strengthen your body’s natural defenses (2).
Antioxidants are molecules that boost the immune system.
When free radicals accumulate, they can promote a state known as oxidative stress, which has been linked to many chronic diseases (3).
2. HELPFUL IN HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE Approximately 1/3 of American adults have high blood pressure (6).
High blood pressure puts you at risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death globally (7).
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 (8).
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 (9).
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.
3. PROTECT YOUR HEART Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide (7).
Many factors increase the risk of heart disease, including high blood pressure, high triglyceride or LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, and low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol.
Vitamin C may help reduce these risk factors, which may reduce heart disease risk.
For example, an analysis of 9 studies with a combined 293,172 participants found that after 10 years, people who took at least 700 mg of vitamin C daily had a 25% lower risk of heart disease than those who did not take a vitamin C supplement (10).
Interestingly, another analysis of 15 studies found that consuming vitamin C from foods — not supplements — was linked to a lower risk of heart disease.
However, scientists were unsure whether people who consumed vitamin-C-rich foods also followed a healthier lifestyle than people who took a supplement. Thus, it remains unclear whether the differences were due to vitamin C or other aspects of their diet (11).
Another analysis of 13 studies looked at the effects of taking at least 500 mg of vitamin C daily on risk factors for heart disease, such as blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
The analysis found that taking a vitamin C supplement significantly reduced LDL (bad) cholesterol by approximately 7.9 mg/dL and blood triglycerides by 20.1 mg/dL (12).
In short, it seems that taking or consuming at least 500 mg of vitamin C daily may reduce the risk of heart disease. However, if you already consume a vitamin-C-rich diet, then supplements may not provide additional heart health benefits.
4. PROTECT FROM GOUT ATTACK Gout is a type of arthritis that affects approximately 4% of American adults (13).
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 (14).
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 (15).
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 (16).
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 (17).
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. REDUCE 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 (18).
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% (19).
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 (20).
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. IMPROVE IMMUNE SYSTEM: 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 (21).
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 (22).
What’s more, low vitamin C levels have been linked to poor health outcomes.
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 (27).
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 (28).
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 (36).
THE BOTTOM LINE
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that must be obtained from the diet or supplements.
It has been linked to many impressive health benefits, such as boosting antioxidant levels, lowering blood pressure, protecting against gout attacks, improving iron absorption, boosting immunity, and reducing heart disease and dementia risk.
Overall, vitamin C supplements are a great and simple way to boost your vitamin C intake if you struggle to get enough from your diet.
Foods rich in Vitamin C:
-red, green or yellow pepper