Vitamin and Calcium Supplements

  • Author:
    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.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    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.

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Vitamin C

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:

Age Males and Females
0 to 6 months 40 mg/day
7 to 12 months 50 mg/day

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin C is:

Age Males Females Pregnancy Lactation
1 to 3 years 15 mg 15 mg N/A N/A
4 to 8 years 25 mg 25 mg N/A N/A
9 to 13 years 45 mg 45 mg N/A N/A
14 to 18 years 75 mg 65 mg 80 mg 115 mg
19 + years 90 mg/day 75 mg/day 85 mg/day 120 mg/day

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.

Food Amount Vitamin C
Broccoli, cooked ½ cup 37 mg
Broccoli, raw ½ cup 39 mg
Brussels sprouts, cooked ½ cup 48 mg
Cantaloupe ¼ medium 47 mg
Cauliflower, cooked ½ cup 28 mg
Grapefruit juice ¾ cup 50 mg-70 mg
Green pepper, cooked ½ cup 51 mg
Green pepper, raw ½ cup 60 mg
Guava, raw ½ cup 188 mg
Kale, cooked ½ cup 27 mg
Kiwi 1 medium 70 mg
Mango ½ cup 23 mg
Orange 1 medium 70 mg
Orange juice ¾ cup 61 mg-93 mg
Papaya ¼ medium 47 mg
Pineapple, raw ½ cup 28 mg
Pod peas, cooked ½ cup 38 mg
Red sweet pepper, cooked ½ cup 116 mg
Red sweet pepper, raw ½ cup 142 mg
Strawberries ½ cup 49 mg
Sweet potato, canned ½ cup 34 mg
Tomato juice ¾ cup 33 mg
Vegetable juice ¾ cup 50 mg

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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