How Much Vitamin C Do We Need?

Although we know vitamin C plays an important role in our health, there’s long been a debate over what exactly it does and how much we should be taking. As we enter into the colder months and our immune system starts to become compromised by seasonal germs, it’s important to understand what it does and how.

While experts agree that you should be able to get enough vitamin C through a balanced diet alone, sometimes that doesn’t always happen. Vitamin C is water-soluble which means it doesn’t get stored in the body. That means we need to replenish it frequently. Although a serious Vitamin C deficiency is rare, there are warning signs that you might be low to look out, for including bleeding and swollen gums and wounds that take longer than normal to heal. Because adequate vitamin C intake is associated with collagen production, it’s important for keeping connective tissues like bones, skin, hair and blood vessels healthy. Without enough of it, skin becomes dry and bumpy and hair splits more easily. Vitamin C also plays a key role in keeping our immune system robust, with studies showing that it accumulates inside immune cells to help them fight infection and destroy disease-causing pathogens. Conversely, those with a vitamin C deficiency often have poorer immunity and a higher risk of infection of illnesses such as pneumonia.

What does Vitamin C do?

Ever since after US chemist Linus Pauling suggested that vitamin C could be successful in treating the common cold in the 1970s, people have held on to this notion. That’s despite several controlled studies since that give inconsistent support to his theory. What we do know is that while vitamin C most likely won’t prevent the common cold, a high dose of it could shorten the duration of a cold, but only by up to a day.

How much Vitamin C should I take?

Although suggested ranges can be as much as 500mg – 1000mg per day, the RDA is much less, 90 mg daily for men and 75 mg for women. If you’re pregnant that amount rises to 85g. Because smoking depletes vitamin C levels in the body, if you are a smoker, you’ll need to supplement your intake by an extra 35mg. If you do take as much as 1000mg a day, it’s unlikely to be harmful. As it’s water-soluble, any excess that’s not used by the body is excreted in urine. If you do routinely take as much as 2000mg or 3000mg a day you may experience symptoms such as stomach irritation, diarrhoea or nausea. Anyone with chronic liver or kidney conditions, gout or a history of kidney stones should not take more than 1,000 mg a day.