Vitamin C is one of the most popular nutritional supplements on the market, and it’s easy to see why. Vitamin C is widely touted to help boost the immune system and support skin health, among other benefits, which makes it a common choice for consumers, especially during cold and flu season. But while there’s no doubt that vitamin C is essential for supporting overall health, it’s not so clear that it’s as effective when taken in supplement form. POPSUGAR turned to the experts to find out if vitamin C supplements are worth it or if it’s better to save your money and skip those pills altogether.
Do vitamin C supplements really work?
“Vitamin C is one of the few safe and effective supplements we can take,” Liane CasusiMD, medical consultant at Oh so flawless, says POPSUGAR. “There’s actually more good than harm, and even with accidental ingestion of large doses of this vitamin, major side effects rarely occur.”
Taking vitamin C in supplement form can reduce cold and flu symptoms by 85%, according to the results of a study. While other data show more modest results, vitamin C supplementation doesn’t seem to make cold and flu symptoms worse, so there’s really no harm in taking it when you’re sick. However, there is no evidence to suggest that vitamin C can reduce the risk of more serious diseases. “Vitamin C supplements are not a preventative treatment for more serious illnesses such as cancer and metal toxicity, at least according to available data,” says podcast host Melissa Azzaro, RDN. “Hormonally yours.
Benefits of Vitamin C Supplement
Vitamin C supplements are easy to find, relatively inexpensive, and generally well tolerated. And while immune health is the darling of potential vitamin C benefits, according to Azzaro, this nutrient plays an important role in many functions beyond cold and flu prevention, including:
- Support collagen formation in the body
- Improve iron absorption
- Support bone health
- Prevent scurvy
- Fight inflammation
Should you take vitamin C supplements?
It’s hard to answer the million dollar question of whether you should take vitamin C supplements without knowing more details about your diet and lifestyle. Additional needs vary depending on many factors, including a person’s diet and medical history. “Certain populations appear to benefit from routine vitamin C supplementation, including athletes, people with low plasma vitamin C, and people at high risk of infection,” says Azzaro.
Regular intake of vitamin C is generally not recommended for every person, as deficiency of this nutrient is quite rare. If you eat vitamin C-rich foods like citrus fruits, red peppers, and kiwi fruit, you’re probably already meeting your vitamin C needs and supplementation may not be necessary.
How Much Vitamin C Should You Take?
If you decide to start taking vitamin C supplements, you may ask yourself, “How much is enough?” Vitamin C supplements are available in a wide variety of doses, ranging from 50 mg to 5,000 mg. “There is no ‘best’ dose recommendation when it comes to supplemental vitamin C intake because each person has different nutritional needs,” says Azzaro.
Azzaro adds that 500 to 1,000 mg per day is “generally tolerable for most people,” but she recommends consulting your healthcare provider, who can help determine the best dose for you.