Most of us already understand how important vitamin C is for our immune system. But if you’re familiar with some of mbg’s supplement content, you may have already noticed that vitamins sometimes catch us off guard with all that they can do.
Turns out vitamins carry out manifold essential functions throughout our bodies—and vitamin C is no exception. Your body needs enough vitamin C daily to support its actions as a powerhouse antioxidant, facilitator of multiple enzymes, enhancer of iron absorption, and lots more.*
The fact is, 42% of the U.S. adult population has insufficient vitamin C levels, making it difficult for their bodies to perform these essential roles. When it comes to your vitamin C status, supplementation can help to close that gap and achieve sufficiency each day.*
In This Article
Vitamin C benefits
Benefits of high-potency vitamin C supplements
Can I take vitamin C daily?
How much vitamin C do I need?
Can I get enough vitamin C from food?
Best time to take vitamin C
Potential side effects
Benefits of taking vitamin C.
Vitamin C doesn’t just support your immune system.* It’s involved in a diverse array of processes in the body, and taking a high-quality vitamin C supplement can help these cells, tissues, and organs work at their best.*
What exactly does vitamin C do? Firstly, it acts as a cofactor—a compound essential for the activity of an enzyme—”for a variety of biosynthetic and regulatory enzymes,”* explains Anitra Carr, M.D., director of the Nutrition in Medicine Research Group at the University of Otago.
According to clinical research coordinator at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University Alexander Michels, Ph.D., there are at least 15 different enzymes in our body that rely on vitamin C for their proper functioning, “influencing such things as neurotransmitter production and fat metabolism.”*
In addition to its role as an enzyme cofactor, vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant that helps protect biomolecules throughout the body (think proteins, DNA, RNA, cellular organelles, etc.) by combating reactive oxidative species (ROS).*
“Vitamin C has several important functions within the body—including proper immune system function, tissue healing, collagen formation, maintenance of bones and cartilage, and optimal absorption of iron,”* says registered dietitian nutritionist Emily Achey, M.S., R.D., INFCP.
Obtaining an adequate amount of vitamin C daily helps multiple body systems flourish, and supplementation can result in a slew of benefits, like the six we explain in more detail below:*
1. It’s essential for innate and adaptive immunity.
By stimulating the production and function of white blood cells (i.e., the cells working hard for our innate and adaptive immune systems to keep us healthy), vitamin C supplementation can keep your immune system working in tiptop shape.*
For example, as nutritionist Joanna Foley, R.D., CLT, previously shared with mindbodygreen, vitamin C promotes the multiplication of lymphocytes and helps immune cells, such as white blood cells (e.g., neutrophils), neutralize unwanted microbes.*
And that’s just the beginning. As mbg’s vice president of scientific affairs Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN, explains, “Research on this essential water-soluble micronutrient and immunity indicates that vitamin C is fighting on our behalf in numerous and targeted ways, from skin barrier functions (our first defense) and phagocytosis to neutralizing microbes, cleanup of exhausted immune cells, and gene regulation.”*
2. Promotes the health of our skin, bones, joints, and more.
Did you know vitamin C is a key component in the production of collagen?* You can thank vitamin C for helping to keep your skin fresh and strong.*
Both oral and topical vitamin C (often in the form of vitamin C serums), have been found to support bright and healthy skin.* In fact, according to an observational study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, higher intake of vitamin C is associated with better skin appearance and fewer wrinkles.*
While collagen is certainly a buzzword on the skin care scene (for good reason) the structural protein is actually integral to bone and joint health, too—which means adequate vitamin C intake is essential for healthy skin, bones, and joints.*
As Ferira expounds further, “Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, so yes, while that’s skin, joints, and bones, it’s also muscle, tendons, cartilage, blood vessels, the gut, and so on.” She goes on to say that “since vitamin C is required for normal collagen synthesis and its protection and preservation from oxidative stress, getting this nutrient daily has massive, whole-body implications.”*
3. Protects and supports the nervous system (think brain).
“Vitamin C is found in very high levels in the brain and neuroendocrine tissue (e.g., adrenal and pituitary glands)—suggesting important roles in these organs and tissues,”* says Carr. Indeed, “science indicates that the brain and its neurons literally crave vitamin C and are sensitive to its absence or deficiency,”* explains Ferira.
She goes on to say that “Vitamin C’s role in the brain is rarely discussed but massively important. For example, this nutrient is enabling neurons and the myelin sheath on nerves to form.”*
And the vitamin C/brain support actions don’t end there. Ferira shares that, “even the formation of blood vessels (angiogenesis) in the brain requires vitamin C,”* thanks to its aforementioned role in the collagen production pathway. “And if there was ever an organ where you would want a stellar antioxidant like vitamin C helping to battle free radicals and redox balance, it’s the brain,”* says Ferira.
“For example, [vitamin C] could support mood through the synthesis of neurotransmitters and neuropeptide hormones,”* Carr notes. In addition to their impact on mood, neurotransmitters and neuropeptides both play a part in the way in which information is transferred.
Taken together, it becomes clear that vitamin C has multiple, pivotal roles throughout the nervous system.* In fact, research indicates that sufficient levels of vitamin C are needed to support memory and cognitive function.* This is probably why published science has determined that being proactive about your vitamin C status can be a reward for your brain and cognitive health.*
4. Supports adrenal function and hormonal balance.
The role of vitamin C in neuroendocrine pathways starts in the brain but trickles down throughout the entire body to help balance hormones.* For example, vitamin C plays an essential role in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis (think fight-or-flight stress response).*
In fact, “the adrenal glands house the greatest concentration of vitamin C in the whole body and are necessary for proper cortisol output,” explains Achey.
By supporting the oxidant versus antioxidant balance in the adrenals, vitamin C supports emotional well-being and a number of other physiological functions, as adrenal glands are involved in regulating metabolism and healthy blood pressure, supporting the immune system and more.*
5. Enhances iron absorption in the gut.
Sometimes nutrients are buddies and partner up to help each other. Such is the case with vitamin C and the essential mineral iron.
Vitamin C supports the solubility of iron in the small intestine, allowing more iron to be absorbed in the gut.* “Iron is a major mineral we require daily for DNA synthesis, immune function, and to ensure the health of red blood cells for oxygen delivery throughout the body,”* explains Ferira.
And that’s just a few highlights of what this mineral can do. Practically every cell in your body needs iron to properly function, giving those who struggle to get adequate amounts of iron another reason to up their daily vitamin C intake.*
6. Delivers whole-body antioxidant benefits.
As the body’s primary water-soluble antioxidant, vitamin C is leading the pack to help neutralize free radicals and combat ROS in both intracellular and extracellular compartments (i.e., inside cells and outside cells) throughout the body.*
What’s more, vitamin C not only acts as an antioxidant itself but also promotes the regeneration of vitamin E, its fat-soluble “buddy” antioxidant.* This restorative activity helps vitamins C and E work together to protect different cells and tissues throughout the body—from the skin and eyes to our heart, brain, and more.*
Special benefits of taking a high-potency vitamin C supplement.
As is clear from the evidence shared above, vitamin C is absolutely vital to our physiology in a 360-health kind of way.* Since it’s water-soluble (and therefore cannot be stored in high quantities in the body like fat-soluble vitamins), we must get the vitamin C we need each day through food and supplementation.*
People who find themselves calling out of work often may benefit from taking vitamin C daily for immune support.* As Carr explains, not feeling your best “results in decreased levels of vitamin C in the body and requires higher intakes of the vitamin to reach optimal status.”* Replenishing those stores of vitamin C daily will help your tissues and cells get the C they need when they need it.*
Vitamin C also supports collagen synthesis, so high-quality supplements are a great addition to your daily routine if you’re looking to support your skin health from the inside out.* And while targeted nutrition solutions for beauty are a growing area of research (and we’re here for it), truthfully, all of the health pathways and benefits listed above can be supported with an effective high-potency vitamin C supplement!*
Is it OK to take vitamin C every day?
While most other animals can make vitamin C, humans need a bit of help. Because we can’t synthesize vitamin C (or even store it), we have to consume it daily.
Ferira, a nutrition scientist and registered dietitian, puts things in further perspective, sharing that, “almost half of American adults have a vitamin C deficit from their diet. As a nation, we are failing to meet these baseline levels, or basic needs, much less benefit from effective doses.” She goes on to explain, “We cannot assume vitamin C will just happen for us Monday through Sunday. It has to be an intentional nutrition approach with planning and strategy involved.”
This means you should probably add vitamin-C-rich foods to your grocery list (stat!) and consider the incremental benefits of adding a high-quality oral vitamin C supplement to your daily routine.
Specifically, a high-potency C supplement ensures you’re getting all the C you need (and then some) to best support your whole-body health.*
In terms of safety, it’s extremely hard to overdo vitamin C—since it’s a water-soluble vitamin, your body will get rid of any excess when you pee, which means there’s an extremely low toxicity concern (more details on this below).
How much vitamin C should you take daily?
The recommended dietary intake to avoid vitamin C insufficiency (something 42% of U.S. adults are failing to do, as noted before) is 75 milligrams for women (and even higher if pregnant or lactating) and 90 milligrams for men, per the National Academies.
That said, the goal is not to simply avoid insufficiency. Ferira suggests that such an approach “would be shooting low and underestimating the full potential of this wonder nutrient.” In fact, “your goal is to try and maximize the vitamin C levels in your blood. The Linus Pauling Institute supports a recommendation of 400 milligrams a day from a combination of food and supplements,” says Michels.
And while 400 milligrams of vitamin C is certainly nothing to scoff at, the science demonstrates that higher C dosing (i.e., concentrated doses like 500 mg, 1,000 mg, etc.) can help us step up our game for immune response, cardiovascular benefits, and more.*
That’s why mbg’s vitamin C potency+ formula delivers 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C in a format with superior absorption, to help close the nutrient gap, achieve vitamin C sufficiency, and leverage the full-body full potential of this nutrient.* Family physician Madiha Saeed, M.D., calls this a “highly effective dose.”
Can you get enough vitamin C from foods?
According to Carr, when it comes to vitamin C, eating your fruits and veggies should do the trick as long as you are consuming at least five servings a day—including one with high vitamin C content like guava, kiwi, or these other veggies and fruits.
However, there are certain factors that may increase one’s vitamin C needs. “It is always important to consider an individual’s health story: including their digestive health, bone health, stress levels, immune function, and whether they are a smoker—all of which may increase needs for vitamin C and may make it more difficult to reach optimal needs through food,” says Achey.
Ferira adds, “We know from nationally representative research that men, those with overweight or obesity, younger adults, African Americans and Mexican Americans, lower-income, and food insecure individuals are all experiencing disproportionately higher levels of vitamin C insufficiency and deficiency.”
(This is where a high-quality vitamin C supplement comes in.)