Vitamin C, a dietary compound found in many foods that humans eat, can be taken in supplement form as a complement to the vitamin C obtained through regular diet. Because it is an essential nutrient, in that it cannot be manufactured by the human body, vitamin C must be ingested via foods, such as citrus fruits, as well as through supplementation. In fact, some consider it to be the most popular of all nutritional supplements. Vitamin C supplements are available in many forms, from powdered drink mixes to chewable tablets, and have numerous associated health benefits, including boosting immune response, reducing inflammatory diseases, and slowing the aging process.
Also known as L-ascorbic acid, vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning that it is readily dissolved in water and is passed in urine when taken in excess. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin C is 75 to 90 milligrams daily; although the body can tolerate up to 2,000 milligrams daily, it is better absorbed when taken in smaller amounts. It is most greatly concentrated in plant sources — foods high in vitamin C include red bell peppers, kiwifruit, and broccoli — but can also be found in animal food sources since many animals can synthesize this vitamin. Because vitamin C is available in much smaller quantities in animals, people who do not get the recommended number of servings of fruits and vegetables daily might consider taking vitamin C supplements.
There are many known benefits to vitamin C supplementation. It is a powerful antioxidant that is linked to the reduction of inflammatory diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and cancer, and it has also been reported to boost immune response — increasing the body’s ability to fight infection. Additionally, taking vitamin C supplements has been shown to decrease low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or bad cholesterol, while elevating high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or good cholesterol. Because of these benefits as well as vitamin C’s link to fighting environmental toxins and slowing the aging process, city-dwellers in particular, as well as smokers and those at risk for cardiovascular disease, can benefit from supplementation.
Available forms of vitamin C supplements include powders that can be dissolved in water, tablets, capsules, and flavored drink mixes. Dosages can vary widely, ranging from 25 milligrams to upward of 1,500 milligrams, and even timed-release versions are offered. Since excesses of vitamin C are eliminated rather than stored in the body, it generally is advisable that a person take multiple smaller doses throughout the day to maximize absorption. Though the risk of vitamin C toxicity is low, it is considered wasteful to take vitamin C supplements in doses of more than 2,000 milligrams, as only a small percentage will be absorbed. Vitamin C can also be obtained by taking a multivitamin, where it can help aid the absorption of other nutrients, such as calcium and iron.