Vitamins and Calcium Supplements (cont.)
Betty Kovacs, MS, RD
Betty Kovacs, MS, RD
Betty is a Registered Dietitian who earned her B.S. degree in Food and Nutrition from Marymount College of Fordham University and her M.S. degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University. She is the Co-Director and Director of nutrition for the New York Obesity Research Center Weight Loss Program.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
What is it, and what does it do?
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble antioxidant vitamin. Vitamin C is required for the synthesis of collagen and dentin. Collagen is the structural component of blood vessels, bones, ligaments, and tendons, while dentin is the structural component of teeth. Vitamin C is also an effective antioxidant that protects proteins and genetic materials (RNA and DNA) from damage by free radicals. Vitamin C cannot be made or stored by your body, so it's important to consume a well-balanced diet containing vitamin C.
How much do I need to consume?
There is insufficient information to establish an RDA for vitamin C for infants. In this case, an Adequate Intake (AI) has been established:
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin C is:
What are sources of vitamin C?
All fruits and vegetables contain some amount of vitamin C, so consuming a well-balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables is the key.
Do I need to take a vitamin C supplement?
Many people believe that taking vitamin C will help prevent colds. Research has not shown this to be the case. More than 30 clinical trials that included over 10,000 participants have not found any relationship between vitamin C and a reduced risk of colds. There has been a small reduction in the duration of colds, so paying attention to your vitamin C intake once you have the cold is advisable.
Research has shown that vitamin C enhances the absorption of iron. For this reason, anyone who needs an iron supplement is usually advised to take it with a food that is high in vitamin C or with a vitamin C supplement. Iron can be toxic at high levels, so speak with your doctor before taking any supplements.
There is an increased need for vitamin C for individuals who smoke. There is an additional 35 mg/day requirement for smokers versus nonsmokers. This can be achieved with dietary sources or a supplement.
What happens if I don't have enough vitamin C?
Scurvy is a severe deficiency of vitamin C. It would be uncommon for most of us, but it can be found in someone who is malnourished. Less severe deficiencies can occur. Not consuming an adequate amount of vitamin C can lead to symptoms, including feeling weak, tired, and irritable, having dry and splitting hair, bleeding gums, rough, dry, and scaly skin, gingivitis, easy bruising, anemia, and a decreased ability to fight infection.
Is there such a thing as too much vitamin C?
Vitamin C is generally safe. Large doses of vitamin C may cause stomach upset and diarrhea in adults and have been reported to cause kidney stones. There is also a risk of excess iron absorption with high doses of vitamin C.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/20/2015
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