Supplementation – Vitamin C

Vitamin C is the most widely taken supplement in the world. It’s popularity has grown to such a level that it is as common to have a vitamin C tablet in the morning, as it is to have a cup of coffee.

What is it that so many of us think we are getting from this tablet? Or maybe we just want to jump onto the latest craze. The point is many people don’t know how much vitamin C they’re taking, and the effect that it has on our body.

As humans we need vitamin C to perform a number of tasks.

  • Protect Cells – Vitamin C helps strengthen the cells in the body, assisting them in fighting illness/disease
  • Connective tissue maintenance – This means that our organ structure is improved and maintained
  • Wound Healing – The effects of taking vitamin C on the immune system helps the body to heal wounds at a quicker rate

So at least there are benefits – it’s not as if we are getting completely ripped off.

Vitamin C supplements can be bought in all sorts of ways – tablets, capsules, effervescent etc. Dentists tend to discourage the  use of chewable tablets though. They usually contain a lot of sugar, and the acid released while chewing can weaken the enamel on your teeth.

There are all sorts of different versions out there. Calcium-buffered tablets claim to eliminate the upset stomach side effects, as well as limiting indigestion and diarrhoea. Now don’t think that I’m trying to put you off – a bit of indigestion seems like two weeks in the Maldives compared to the danger of not getting enough vitamin C – scurvy.

As with all supplements, it’s best to try and get the nutrient through complex food sources – or, ‘as nature intended’, some would argue. Most people would think that he orange is our most lucrative source of vitamin C, and as you can probably guess now, they would be wrong. In fact, blackcurrants have four times as much vitamin C (200mg/100g) than oranges. Obviously oranges are still a great source of vitamin C though, just remember there are others out there.

There are even certain animal sources of vitamin C available to us. Cod roe would give us 26mg/100g, and raw oysters can provide up to 30mg/100g.  The thing to remember with vitamin C is that it can’t be stored by our bodies, so each day you need to be taking in the right amount of vitamin C.

How are we supposed to know the right amount though? Well fortunately for us, governments are constantly reminding us exactly how much of anything we should have.

The U.S. government suggest around 75mg for women and 90 mg for men. Let’s not forget though, these are the figures to avoid deficiency.  And in fact, the U.S. government have an upper intake level of 2,000mg, that they suggest shouldn’t be exceeded.

On the other hand, the U.K. recommend as little as 40 mg daily, and suggest anything in excess of 1,000mg can cause the previously mentioned side effects.

So as you can probably tell, we should be more than capable of finding enough vitamin C through our nutrition, that we don’t have to look to supplementation.

If you are concerned that you might not be getting enough vitamin C, talk to your doctor. They will know whether or not you’re deficient. And if you still find that you are dead set on taking a vitamin C tablet, here are some things to consider:

  • Timed release tablets are the best – remember we can’t store it in our bodies
  • Anything over 1,000mg is just going to cost you more money – there’s no point in wasting your money
  • The most expensive options will claim they use ‘rose hips’ in order to aid absorption. Whilst rose hips are a particularly rich source of vitamin C, their influence on rates of absorption are widely rejected
Ollie Lawrence
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