Sat, Jan

Vitamin C: How it Helps and … Hurts

WELLNESS--Our bodies cannot synthesize vitamin C (also known as L-ascorbic acid) meaning we have to get it from the food we eat. It is also water-soluble so vitamin C will flush out of the body making it challenging to take too much. There are people who take mega doses of vitamin C well into the thousands of milligrams a day to help cure or heal certain ailments but the food and nutrition board recommend 75 mg for adult females and 90 mg for adult males. 

For people that want to take more, they often use what’s called a bowel tolerance level meaning that once someone takes too much vitamin C it can lead to diarrhea and it’s time to cut back to a smaller dose. 

Vitamin C is an anti-oxidant meaning it helps to block the damage caused by free radicals. Cigarette smokers need to take more vitamin C as they are doing more damage to their bodies by creating more free radicals and actually lowering their levels of vitamin C. While in the US and other developed countries it is unusual to have dangerously low levels of vitamin C, it is common that people have lower than desired amounts in their bodies. 

There are a number of conditions associated with low levels of vitamin C. If one is getting their vitamin C from healthy sources like fruits and vegetables, they will reap the added benefit of increased fiber in the diet as well. Ingesting higher levels of vitamin C may help avoid conditions such as heart disease and stroke by preventing the buildup of plaque in the arteries. 

While preventing the common cold can sometimes be difficult, vitamin C has been proven to shorten the length of a cold by about a day. In studies conducted using elite athletes, they found that the use of Vitamin C reduces the risk of catching a cold.  Ideally, one will eat enough foods that are rich in Vitamin C making supplementation less important. The following is a list of foods highest in vitamin C. This is not an exhaustive list, but rather one showing the foods with the highest concentration of Vitamin C: 


Red pepper


Brussel Sprouts






Green peppers 

For people with chronic disease or inflammatory diseases, it may be more important to supplement vitamin C. Also, keep in mind that vitamin C helps to build collagen and is very good for the skin, so people with skin diseases may also benefit from supplementing vitamin C.


(Christian Cristiano is an acupuncturist in LA, TV host of Wellness for Realists and writes on wellness regularly for CityWatch. Christian can be reached at 310.909.6956 twitter: @CristianoWFR)