Vitamin C: Ascorbic Acid Uses and Benefits

Of all the vitamins, the one you’re probably most familiar with is vitamin C. When you think of vitamin C, images of oranges most likely comes to mind. However, that’s not the only way to get the vitamin, and it’s not even the most efficient. You may associate vitamin C with its role in immune system protection, but it’s also involved in a variety of other bodily processes that can potentially help lower blood pressure, promote iron absorption, and even protect memory.

Vitamin C Overview

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an essential vitamin and can’t be produced by the body, so it has to be gained from dietary sources. Vitamin C is water-soluble and is found in many fruits and vegetables; while it’s recommended that you try to get most of your vitamin C from your diet, supplements are available for those who are deficient. Vitamin C has been linked to a variety of important bodily functions, including collagen production and white blood cell protection.

What Is Ascorbic Acid?

Ascorbic acid is a term often used synonymously with vitamin C. There are two different types of ascorbic acid, and they should be differentiated.

L-ascorbic acid can be found in both natural forms (via food sources) and synthetic forms (via supplements). This type of ascorbic acid is the one that can be used interchangeably with vitamin C.

D-ascorbic acid, on the other hand, doesn’t exist in nature. It carries similar antioxidant properties to its L variety, but it doesn’t have the same vitamin C content. It’s impossible to synthesize D-ascorbic acid into the body, making it unusable as a supplement.

One popular method of utilizing ascorbic acid is through a vitamin C flush, also known as an ascorbate cleanse. The thought process behind this practice is that high levels of vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, can help your body get rid of toxins. However, there hasn’t been enough medical evidence to support the claims purported by those who practice this.

Liposomal Vitamin C

In the health world, liposomal vitamin C is often regarded as one of the best forms of supplements. This is because liposomal vitamin C is much more bioavailable compared to regular vitamin C, which means that the body is able to use more of it easily.

Liposomes are spherical sacs of phospholipid molecules that encloses a drop of water, which can carry a water-soluble substance (in this case, it’s vitamin C). Because of their molecular make-up, liposomes can deliver the nutrients they hold directly into the cells of the body without consuming energy and without degrading before delivery. It also has the added benefit of not being filtered by the kidneys, as regular ascorbic acid does. Instead, it’s taken up by cells, tissues, and organs throughout the body, meaning that you won’t lose a lot of the vitamin C you take in your urine.

Vitamin C Benefits

Vitamin c products

So, you’ve heard about what vitamin C does in the body scientifically. But, you still might be wondering “what does vitamin C do for me?” Well, here are some of the potential benefits that vitamin C can have on your body.

Reduce Risk of Chronic Diseases

Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant, which is a molecule that boosts the immune system by protecting cells from harmful molecules. An accumulation of these harmful molecules, called free radicals, can cause oxidative stress which is linked to many chronic diseases. Studies have shown that consuming more vitamin C can actually increase your blood antioxidant levels by up to 30%, helping support the body’s natural defenses and fighting inflammation.

Promotes Skin Health

Because it’s a potent antioxidant, there have been promising results when using vitamin C for skin health. This is also due to its important role in the synthesis of collagen. Vitamin C for skin is most often applied topically, usually through a vitamin C serum or ointment. However, taking vitamin C supplements or gaining it through your diet has also been shown to benefit the skin. One study even found that a higher amount of vitamin C in the diet was associated with better skin appearance and notable decreases in skin wrinkling.

Reduce Blood Pressure

Several studies have shown that vitamin C may help lower blood pressure in individuals, whether or not they already have high blood pressure. One analysis of 29 human studies found that taking a vitamin C supplement was able to reduce systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure by 3.84mmHg and 1.48mmHg respectively in healthy adults. In adults with pre-existing high blood pressure, vitamin C caused their systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure to be reduced even further, by 4.85mmHg and 1.67mmHg respectively on average.

Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

There are several factors that can increase the risk of heart disease, but the most common are high blood pressure, high levels of LDL cholesterol, low levels of HDL cholesterol, and high triglyceride levels. Vitamin C has shown potential in helping to reduce these risk factors, which in turn may reduce the risk of heart disease. One analysis of nine studies found that, over a span of 10 years, people who took 700mg of vitamin C daily had a 25% lower risk of heart disease. Another analysis of 13 studies found that 500mg of vitamin C per day significantly reduced LDL cholesterol and blood triglycerides.

Prevent Gout Attacks

Gout is a type of arthritis that involved joint inflammation, swelling, and sudden severe pain; it’s caused by too much uric acid (a waste product produced by the body) in the blood, eventually crystallizing and depositing in the joints at high amounts. One study found that men who consumed the most vitamin C had significantly lower blood levels of uric acid. Another study found that healthy men taking vitamin C, over 20 years, had a 44% lower gout risk. An analysis of 13 clinical studies showed that vitamin C could have a much faster effect than that, finding that a daily vitamin supplement over 30 days time significantly reduced blood uric acid.

Prevent Iron Deficiency

Iron is an essential mineral to the body, used for making red blood cells and transporting oxygen throughout. Not many people realize that vitamin C and iron actually work together well. Research shows that vitamin C is able to assist in converting poorly absorbed iron (usually from plant-based sources) into a form that is easier for the body to absorb. Further research shows that consuming 100 mg of vitamin C daily may actually improve iron absorption by 67%. One study even showed that, among 64 children with mild iron deficiency anemia, using a vitamin C supplement alone was able to help control their anemia.

Boost Immune System

vitamin c deficiency symptoms

One of the most essential uses of vitamin C is for helping to boost the body’s immune system; it does this by encouraging the production of white blood cells (lymphocytes and phagocytes) that help the body protect against infections. Vitamin C is also able to boost white blood cells function more effectively, while protecting them from free radicals (making vitamin C an essential part of the skin’s defense system). Studies have shown that taking vitamin C may be able to shorten the time it takes for wounds to heal. Additionally, research shows that people who suffer from pneumonia also tend to have lower vitamin C levels, and supplements have been seen to shorten recovery times.

Protect the Memory

Oxidative stress and inflammation near the central nervous system (brain, spine, and nerves) are associated with an increased risk of dementia. Since vitamin C is a potent antioxidant, it may be able to help. Research has determined that low levels of vitamin C have been linked to an impaired ability to think and remember with studies actually showing that people with dementia may have lower levels of vitamin C in their blood. According to further research, high vitamin C intakes have been shown to have a protective effect on thinking and memory as one ages.

Vitamin C Deficiency

In developed countries, it’s relatively rare to encounter a vitamin C deficiency. It affects roughly 7% of adults in the United States. The most common risk factors of a vitamin C deficiency are poor diet, alcoholism, anorexia, severe mental illness, smoking, and dialysis.

There are several common vitamin C deficiency symptoms, all ranging in severity and prolongment. If you have one or more of the following symptoms, talk with your doctor about the possibility of having a vitamin C deficiency.

Fatigue and Bad Mood:

  • These are often some of the first symptoms to appear with a vitamin C deficiency.

Poor Immune System:

  • Vitamin C deficiency is often associated with a weak immune system and a higher risk of infection and diseases, like pneumonia. Those suffering from scurvy, a disease caused by vitamin C deficiency, eventually die because of infection.

Keratosis Pilaris:

  • This refers to a skin condition characterized by rough and bumpy skin on the back of the upper arms, thighs, and buttocks. This occurs due to a buildup of keratin protein in the pores. Since vitamin C plays a role in collagen production, which is a protein important for maintaining healthy skin, hair, joints, bones, and blood vessels, a lack of it may lead to a buildup of keratin.

Dry and Damaged Skin:

  • In addition to aiding collagen production, vitamin C also protects the skin from free radicals. Lower intakes of vitamin C have been associated with a 10% increased risk of developing dry, wrinkled skin.

Corkscrew Shaped Body Hair:

  • Vitamin C deficiency has been shown to cause hair to grow in bent or coiled shapes. This is due to defects that develop in the protein structure of hair as it grows, a direct result of a lack of vitamin C in the body.

Perifollicular Hemorrhage:

  • This refers to a condition where hair follicles on the skin’s surface appear to have small bright red spots. This happens because the tiny blood vessels in hair follicles, which supply blood and nutrients, become fragile and break easily in bodies deficient in vitamin C.

Splinter Hemorrhage:

  • This symptom is characterized by spoon-shaped fingernails with red sports or vertical lines in the nail bed. This occurs because weakened blood vessels, caused by vitamin C deficiency, rupture easily.

Easily Bruising:

  • This is one of the most common signs of vitamin C deficiency. Also caused by a poor collagen production, weak blood vessels rupture easier and create either large bruised areas or small purple dots under the skin.

Wounds Healing Slowly:

  • Because bodies deficient in vitamin C have a slowed rate of collagen formation, wounds heal slower. Research has shown that those with chronic non-healing leg ulcers are more likely to be vitamin C deficient, possibly contributing to their ulcers’ condition.

Swollen and Painful Joints:

  • Also caused by the slowed rate of collagen formation, connective tissue suffers and causes swollen and inflamed joints. Many reported cases of joint pain have been associated with a vitamin C deficiency.

Brittle Bones:

  • Research has shown that vitamin C plays a critical role in bone formation, meaning that a deficiency can increase the rate of bone loss. Low intake of vitamin C has actually been linked to increased risk of fractures and osteoporosis.

Bleeding Gums and Tooth Loss:

  • Gum tissue can become weakened and inflamed with blood vessels bleeding easier due to vitamin C deficiency. Deficient gums may even appear purple and rotten, with teeth eventually falling out due to decay.

Unexplained Weight Gain

  • Research has found a consistent link between low vitamin C intake and excess body fat; however, a clear connection has not yet been established.

Vitamin C Powder

vitamin c powder

One of the most versatile forms of vitamin C supplements is vitamin C powder. This supplement powder can be used dietarily (added into juices and smoothies), made into a facial vitamin C serum to improve skin health, added into hot teas or yogurt, and more. Vitamin C powder is easily dissolvable, making it versatile and what some consider to be the best vitamin C supplement. The vitamin C powder supplement that we recommend is the Thompson Vitamin C Powder in 5000mg.

How Much Vitamin C Is Too Much?

You may be asking, “can you overdose on vitamin C?” Well, for vitamin C, the recommended daily intake is 75 mg for women and 90 mg for men. The upper limit is 2,000 mg per day, so avoid taking more than that amount. If you’re getting it from food sources, it’s relatively difficult to accidentally get too much vitamin C. The only issue arises when you’re taking vitamin C supplements, as you can take too high of a dose at a time.

Vitamin C Toxicity

Toxicity of vitamin C is very rare since the body can’t store vitamin C. Too much vitamin C from the diet is unlikely to be harmful, however, extremely high doses of vitamin C supplements may cause the following side effects:

  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Heartburn

These symptoms are generally not very serious and can resolve relatively quickly with disuse of the high-dose supplementation.

What’s the Best Form of Vitamin C?

It is generally recommended to get your vitamin C intake from a healthy diet because you should get the right amount for your body from food sources alone. The foods with the highest amount of vitamin C are as follows:

  • Acerola cherries
  • Guava
  • Black currants
  • Sweet red peppers
  • Kiwi fruits
  • Lychee
  • Lemons
  • Oranges
  • Strawberries
  • Papaya
  • Broccoli
  • Parsley


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