About Vitamin C

Vitamin C Image

Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, is important for normal growth and development and healthy tissues. Some research shows that taking vitamin C supplements regularly can shorten the duration and lessen symptoms of the common cold.

Vitamin C is water soluble, meaning that it dissolves in water. The body cannot produce this vitamin, nor can it store excess vitamin C—which is removed from the body through the urine. Therefore, a regular intake of vitamin C (as well as other water-soluble vitamins) is necessary for good health.

Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps prevent and repair damage to cells caused by free radicals (harmful byproducts of digestion or exposure to toxins like smoke). It is necessary to maintain healthy skin, bones, teeth, blood vessels and connective tissue—including tendons, ligaments and cartilage. Vitamin C also promotes healing and the formation of scar tissue.

Sources of Vitamin C

Vitamin C is found in fruits and vegetables, foods that have been fortified with the vitamin, and supplements. The following foods are good sources of vitamin C:

  • Broccoli
  • Cantaloupe
  • Citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruit)
  • Kiwi
  • Fortified cereals
  • Fruit juice (orange, grapefruit, tomato)
  • Leafy greens (spinach, cabbage)
  • Mango
  • Papaya
  • Peppers (green, red)
  • Pineapple
  • Potatoes (white, sweet)
  • Rutabagas
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelon
  • Winter squash

Raw, fresh fruits and vegetables are the best sources of vitamin C. Cooking or storing them foods for a long period of time can reduce the vitamin content. Vegetables that are steamed or cooked in a microwave may retain more vitamin C than those cooked using other methods.

Vitamin C Recommendations

The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for vitamin C varies according to age, gender, overall health and other factors. Talk to your health care provider to make sure you’re getting enough of this important vitamin.

RDA for vitamin C (mg/day):

  • From birth to 6 months of age—40 mg (milligrams)
  • Ages 7 months to 1 year—50 mg
  • Ages 1–3—15 mg
  • Ages 4–8—25 mg
  • Ages 9–13—45 mg
  • Males 14–18—75 mg
  • Females 14–18—65 mg
  • Men 19 and older—90 mg
  • Women 19 and older—75 mg

People who smoke, those who are exposed to secondhand smoke, and women who are pregnant or nursing need higher amounts of vitamin C. Talk to your health care provider.

Vitamin C Deficiency and Effects of Vitamin C

Since vitamin C is not stored and is eliminated by the body, a high intake usually doesn't cause serious side effects. People who take more than 2,000 mg/day may experience stomach problems and diarrhea. High amounts of vitamin C also may interfere with the absorption of vitamin B12 and increase kidney stone risk.

Too little vitamin C may cause the following:

  • Anemia (low red blood cell count)
  • Bleeding and inflammation of the gums and nose
  • Bruising
  • Decreased ability to heal or fight infection
  • Dry hair and skin
  • Joint pain, swelling
  • Slow metabolism (may cause weight gain)
  • Weak tooth enamel

Scurvy is a severe vitamin C deficiency that may occur in people who are malnourished, especially the elderly, and in areas of the world where people have limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

Sources: National Institutes of Health (NIH), Taber's Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at Healthcommunities.com

Published: 03 Jan 2013

Last Modified: 17 Mar 2015