Vitamins and Supplements: Signs You're Low on Vitamin C

Adult women need 75 milligrams of vitamin C per day while men need 90 milligrams.

How Much Do You Need?

If you eat a balanced diet, it's pretty easy to get enough. Adult women (who aren't pregnant or breastfeeding) need 75 milligrams of vitamin C per day; men, 90 milligrams. A mere 1/2 cup of raw red bell pepper or 3/4 cup of orange juice will do it, while 1/2 cup cooked broccoli gets you at least halfway there. Your body doesn't make or store vitamin C, so you have to eat it every day.

Heavy drinkers, smokers, and those on dialysis need more vitamin C daily.

Who's Falling Short?

The most likely people include those with an overall poor diet, with kidney disease who get dialysis, heavy drinkers, and smokers. You'll need an extra 35 milligrams of vitamin C per day to help repair the damage caused by free radicals that form when you smoke. If you're among the 7% of Americans who aren't getting enough vitamin C, you'll notice symptoms within 3 months.

Lack of vitamin C can lead to slower wound healing.

Slow Wound Healing

When you get hurt, levels of vitamin C in your blood and tissue go down. Your body needs it to make collagen, a protein that plays a role in each stage of repairing the skin. And vitamin C helps neutrophils, a type of white blood cell that fights off infection, work well.

Bleeding gums are one potential sign of low vitamin C.

Bleeding Gums, Nosebleeds, Bruises

Vitamin C keeps your blood vessels healthy, and it helps your blood clot. Collagen is also essential for healthy teeth and gums. One study found that people with gum disease who ate grapefruit for 2 weeks noticed their gums didn't bleed as much.

Vitamin C may play a role in the accumulation of belly fat.

Weight Gain

Early research has found a link between low levels of vitamin C and higher amounts of body fat, especially belly fat. This vitamin may also play a role in how well your body burns fat for energy.

Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps you maintain healthy skin.

Dry, Wrinkled Skin

People who eat a healthy diet with plenty of vitamin C may have smoother, softer skin. One possible reason: Because vitamin C is an antioxidant, it can help protect your skin from free radicals. These break down oils, proteins, and even DNA.

Vitamin C may help fight fatigue.

Tired and Cranky

In a very small study, 6 of the 7 men who had low levels of vitamin C said they felt tired and irritable. That suggests a link, though other things could be playing a role. Another study of 141 office workers found that giving them vitamin C made them feel less tired within 2 hours, especially if their level was lower to start with. Then the effect lasted for the rest of the day.

Vitamin C has immune-boosting effects.

Weak Immunity

Since vitamin C has several jobs related to your immune system, it shouldn't surprise you to learn you're more likely to get sick and may have a harder time recovering. There's some evidence that vitamin C can help protect you from illness such as pneumonia and bladder infections. It may even lower your odds of heart disease and some types of cancer.

Adequate vitamin C is necessary to help protect vision.

Vision Loss

If you have age-related macular degeneration (AMD), it may get worse faster without vitamin C and other antioxidants and certain minerals. Getting enough vitamin C from foods might help prevent cataracts, but we need more research to understand that relationship better.

Adequate vitamin C protects against scurvy.

Scurvy

Before the 1700s, this potentially deadly disease used to be a huge problem for sailors. Today, it's relatively rare but possible if you get only 10 mg/day of vitamin C or less. People with scurvy also have problems such as loose teeth, cracked fingernails, joint pain, brittle bones, and corkscrew body hair. When you boost vitamin C, symptoms start getting better in a day, and usually it's cured within 3 months.

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REFERENCES:

  • National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: "Vitamin C Fact Sheet for Consumers," "Vitamin C Fact Sheet for Health Professionals."
  • Cleveland Clinic: "3 Vitamins That Are Best for Boosting Your Immunity."
  • BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health: "Vitamin C and alcohol: a call to action."
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  • International Journal of Surgery Open: "Ascorbic acid deficiency impairs wound healing in surgical patients: Four case reports."
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  • Podiatry Management: "Collagen: Its Role in Wound Healing."
  • Nutrients: "Enhanced Human Neutrophil Vitamin C Status, Chemotaxis and Oxidant Generation Following Dietary Supplementation with Vitamin C-Rich SunGold Kiwifruit," "Vitamin C and Immune Function."
  • BMJ: "Investigating easy bruising in an adult."
  • Atherosclerosis: "Effect of vitamin C on endothelial function in health and disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials."
  • American Rhinologic Society: "Epistaxis (Nosebleeds)."
  • Clinical and Diagnostic Laboratory Immunology: "Periodontitis Is Associated with a Low Concentration of Vitamin C in Plasma."
  • British Dental Journal: "Grapefruit consumption improves vitamin C status in periodontitis patients."
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  • Journal of Nutrition: "Plasma vitamin C is inversely related to body mass index and waist circumference but not to plasma adiponectin in nonsmoking adults."
  • Biological Trace Element Research: "Association Between Antioxidant Intake/Status and Obesity: a Systematic Review of Observational Studies."
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  • Phytotherapy Research: "Vitamin C is one of the lipolytic substances in green tea."
  • Journal of the American College of Nutrition: "Skin Wrinkling: Can Food Make a Difference?"
  • Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America: "Vitamin C pharmacokinetics in healthy volunteers: Evidence for a recommended dietary allowance."
  • Nutrition Journal: "Intravenous Vitamin C administration reduces fatigue in office workers: a double-blind randomized controlled trial."
  • Cochrane: "Vitamin C for preventing and treating pneumonia."
  • Journal of Current Research in Scientific Medicine: "Antimicrobial activity of Vitamin C demonstrated on uropathogenic Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae."
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