Vitamin C is a ubiquitous nutrient, or at least you’d think so seeing all of the processed foods that contain “100% daily value of Vitamin C” on the label.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably forgotten all about vitamin C after giving up processed foods fortified with the stuff. There’s just enough of it added to food and drink so that we don’t get the horrible symptoms of scurvy, much like the RDA for vitamin D is set just high enough to prevent the bone disease known as rickets.
If vitamin C is anything like vitamin D, we’ve learned that the RDA is just there to prevent you from dying. However, the dietary minimum recommendation may not be high enough to promote optimum health. It’s 100-200 mg, which is mere sprinkles of it to keep you alive.
Natural dietary sources of vitamin C are limited. Citrus fruits contain reasonable amounts, as do chili peppers of nearly all varieties. Other fruits and vegetables contain more modest amounts of vitamin C, while animal foods like liver and meat contain even smaller amounts.
As for supplemental forms of vitamin C, you can actually take high doses of it orally safely and with few side effects other than the potential for upset stomach in some individuals. More than 1 gram can cause these problems, but other individuals have taken up to and over 10 g orally with few issues with forms of vitamin C other than ascorbic acid.
Unfortunately, the health benefits of high doses have yet to be thoroughly explored. Most of the case for “megadosing” is considered hearsay and is contradicted by some studies, while confirmed by others.
The following points are some interesting benefits of taking adequate or above-RDA doses of vitamin C.
Post-workout Vitamin C may reduce cortisol and protect testosterone
Cortisol is the body’s “stress hormone.” It signals to the body that it’s under some kind of stress, whether it be physiological or psychological. When cortisol is secreted at higher levels than baseline, such as after a moderate workout, the body puts certain functions at a lower priority, such as productions of sex hormones like testosterone and repairing of tissues like bone.
Vitamin C seems to keep these levels of cortisol in check.
From PoliquinGroup.com, Take Vitamin C Post-Workout To Lower Cortisol & Recover Faster
• A 2008 study had untrained men take 1,000 mg of vitamin C pre-workout and do 30 minutes of moderate exercise. Post-workout cortisol levels declined much faster than a placebo group and the effect was evident immediately after exercise, and at 2 and 24 hours post-workout.
• Another 2008 study had trained men take 1,500 mg of vitamin C for 8 days and perform 120 minutes of cycling at moderate speed in a humid, 93 degree environment. Cortisol response was 57 percent lower after exercise in the vitamin C group compared to a placebo.
• A 2006 study tested the effect of giving 1,000 mg of vitamin C a day for two weeks to trained men who performed a 2.5 hour run at 60 percent of maximal. Cortisol was significantly lower post-workout than a placebo group.
From Examine.com on Vitamin C and testosterone
In instances where oxidative stressors damage testicular function (usually rat studies), vitamin C supplementation has been shown to preserve testosterone concentrations secondary to its antioxidant properties. This has been noted in response to lead toxicity,Alcohol ingestion, stressors such as noise or burns, and various research toxins that act via pro-oxidative means. These protective effects have been noted at oral doses as low as 20-40mg/kg in rats and similar protective effects on the testicles has been noted in human males at 1,000mg vitamin C daily.
Based on these two articles, it appears that 1-2 grams of vitamin C in a day is good enough for most active and healthy men.
Vitamin C is needed for mineral absorption, healing, tissue and bone regeneration
The key for tissue regeneration and bone health in mammals is collagen. That’s the same crap we see added to those beauty serums on TV aimed at women.
Vitamin C is required to produce collagen and heal wounds:
In addition to its antioxidant functions, vitamin C regulates the synthesis of the structural protein collagen. The role of vitamin C in the hydroxylation of collagen molecules is well characterized. Hydroxylation of collagen is necessary for its extracellular stability and support of the epidermis.[…]
Vitamin C levels decrease rapidly at a wound site. Although inflammatory responses often increase free radicals at the site of injury and the presence of vitamin C may limit free radical damage, free radicals may play a complex role in the healing response that is not yet understood. However, the increased demand for dermal collagen synthesis may increase utilization of vitamin C. Vitamin C may have additional roles in wound healing, for example, by promoting keratinocyte differentiation, stimulating the formation of the epidermal barrier, and re-establishing the stratum corneum.
Vitamin C improves dietary mineral uptake (Examine.com)
Vitamin C has been found to increase the absorption of both iron and Zinc (only iron that is not bound in heme, so that from non-meat products) and has been noted to reduce the inhibitory effects of phytic acid but not tannins.
(meaning that vitamin C can help with mineral absorption in a diet with phytic acid-containing grains but not one with too much wine, coffee or tea which all contain tannins.)
In summary, vitamin C is depleted where tissue is harmed or needs to be regenerated. Collagen synthesis is impaired by insufficient amounts of vitamin C, and I am led to believe that this can lead to slower healing and perhaps advanced tissue aging in those people who do not get enough vitamin C.
Vitamin C ensures dental health
By extension of the above evidence that vitamin C is needed for mineral absorption and bone health, vitamin C ensures the health of the teeth and gums. Since one of the side effects of scurvy, the deficiency of vitamin C, is gum inflammation, overgrowth and loss of teeth, it makes sense that vitamin C would generally promote dental health in a positive rather than simply a passive sense.
In the following study, it’s found that 30-60 mg of vitamin C in a chewing gum can reduce the formation of dental plaque (calculus) after 3 months of regular use, implying that oral or at least topical vitamin C can be effective for dental health. In fact, the vitamin C seemed to be effective enough on its own without the added carbamide which was hypothesized to increase vitamin C absorption.
The release of vitamin C from chewing gum and its effects on supragingival calculus formation.
A significant reduction in the total calculus score was observed after the use of vitamin C (33%) and vitamin C + carbamide (12%) gums compared with no gum use; this reduction was most pronounced in the heavy calculus formers. A reduced amount of visible plaque was also observed after use of vitamin C and non-vitamin C gum, but only the vitamin C gum reduced the number of bleeding sites (37%).
In a snippet of this following study, it’s hypothesized that because ascorbic acid (vitamin C) can hinder bacterial growth, it may help decrease dental cavities (caries). It’s assumed that mutans streptococci is responsible for causing dental cavities.
For each subject, site-specific recordings of the presence or absence of plaque, dental caries, fillings, and erosions were recorded clinically by the same dentist in a double-blind system. The amounts of visible plaque and numbers of decayed tooth surfaces were significantly higher in the low AA group than in the controls. No between-group differences were found in the number of fillings and the amount of oral bacterial growth. The frequencies of consumption of vegetables, berries, and other fruit were significantly lower in the low AA group than in the controls.
Clearly, vitamin C intake and overall nutrition are implicated in dental health.
Adequate Vitamin C intake is tied to more frequent sexual activity
While an interesting, almost one-of-a-kind study, it seems that according to this one, high dose (3 grams) of daily vitamin C intake is correlated with an increase in coital sexual intercourse.
High-dose ascorbic acid increases intercourse frequency and improves mood: a randomized controlled clinical trial.
In this randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled 14 day trial of sustained-release AA [ed – ascorbic acid] (42 healthy young adults; 3000 mg/day Cetebe) and placebo (39 healthy young adults), subjects with partners recorded penile-vaginal intercourse (FSI), noncoital partner sex, and masturbation in daily diaries, and also completed the Beck Depression Inventory before and after the trial.
RESULTS:The AA group reported greater FSI (but, as hypothesized, not other sexual behavior) frequency, an effect most prominent in subjects not cohabiting with their sexual partner, and in women. The AA but not placebo group also experienced a decrease in Beck Depression scores.
CONCLUSIONS:AA appears to increase FSI, and the differential benefit to noncohabitants suggests that a central activation or disinhibition, rather than peripheral mechanism may be responsible.
Perhaps vitamin C hinders certain mechanisms that inhibit the seeking of sexual intercourse?
I don’t know for certain, but it’s one more decent excuse for some of us to start taking vitamin C anyway. For science.
Don’t shy away from supplementing vitamin C. It’s affordable, widely available, and seems to have benefits at multiple doses through the day at or above the RDA as it is not stored by the body for very long.
There’s regular ascorbic acid, which is best taken orally.
- Health Supplement Wholesalers sells a bulk powder
- Various liquid, crystal, capsule and chewable forms available at iHerb
- Purchase it at just about any store that sells supplements
Sodium ascorbate and calcium ascorbate salt forms of vitamin C can also be purchased and taken orally and applied to teeth and gums as needed, but be careful not to overdo either one as both forms contain sodium and calcium respectively. Otherwise, they are good sources of both minerals too.
Sodium ascorbate and calcium ascorbate are buffered forms of vitamin C meaning they do not have the digestive upset potential that plain ascorbic acid does.
- I use NOW Calcium Ascorbate powder orally and dissolved in water.
- NOW Sodium Ascorbate powder is ideal for people who already have enough calcium in their diet
All quotations found at their respective links, citations also contained within. Molecular diagram for ascorbic acid at top is from Wikipedia.
(One more note: since Vitamin C is so good for dental and bodily health, I’ve often wondered why we don’t add ascorbic acid or ascorbic salts to municipal water instead of hexafluorosilicic acid.)