What are the Effects of Too Much Vitamin C?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, is a common dietary supplement that is also present in many foods. While a small dose of the substance is considered greatly beneficial for overall health, too much vitamin C can result in unpleasant, or even dangerous, side effects. According to some health experts, healthy people can process about 1000 mg of the vitamin daily, though only require 60-90 mg for optimum health benefits. Taking too much vitamin C, even on a short-term basis, may be dangerous to health.

Large doses of vitamin C may cause headache and fatigue.
Large doses of vitamin C may cause headache and fatigue.

Overdosing on vitamin C is relatively easy, as the substance is common in both food and dietary supplements. Since some people believe that the vitamin helps reduce or prevent the common cold, people who are sick or fear catching cold may take very large doses of the vitamin through nutritional supplements. For a person who eats lots of ascorbic acid-containing foods, such as citrus fruits or strawberries, even taking a daily multivitamin could push consumption of the vitamin over the limit.

Diarrhea is one possible side effect of taking too much vitamin C.
Diarrhea is one possible side effect of taking too much vitamin C.

The most common effects of too much vitamin C are relatively minor, though potentially uncomfortable. Indigestion, stomachache, and nausea are fairly common indications of a minor overdose. People who take too much vitamin C may develop urinary problems, such as increased urgency or acrid-smelling urine. Studies have sometimes linked skin rashes in infants and young children to an overdose of ascorbic acid. Diarrhea is also a very common consequence.

Too much vitamin C can cause rashes and possibly urinary problems.
Too much vitamin C can cause rashes and possibly urinary problems.

Research on more dangerous consequences of too much vitamin C is still developing, but certain links have been discovered in various studies on the issue. Excess vitamin C is believed to play a part in the development of kidney stones, though this link is not yet clearly understood. Some studies have shown that a high vitamin intake may also have some relationship to first trimester miscarriages in some women.

In most cases, taking too much vitamin will not cause long-term health problems.
In most cases, taking too much vitamin will not cause long-term health problems.

In some studies, people who had excessive iron in the body might be at some risk for a potentially fatal condition connected to vitamin C intake. Though research remains very untested in this area, some studies suggest that, since vitamin C increases iron absorption, it can create a dangerous overload in people that already have higher than normal iron levels. In some cases, this can lead to renal failure.

People who consume large amounts of fruits with vitamin C and supplements might ingest more of the vitamin than necessary.
People who consume large amounts of fruits with vitamin C and supplements might ingest more of the vitamin than necessary.

In general, too much vitamin C will usually only cause temporary discomfort and no long-term effects. For those suffering symptoms that seem related to ascorbic acid, it is important to remember that the vitamin is highly water-soluble. Drinking a few glasses of water should help quickly remove the vitamin from the system and help reduce symptoms.

Citrus fruits naturally contain high levels of vitamin C.
Citrus fruits naturally contain high levels of vitamin C.
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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