Most people have been told to “get more vitamin C!” Or, “Drink more orange juice!” at least once in their lives. While this reminder is always good-intentioned, there’s much more to know about vitamin C. For starters, it’s highly unlikely to get enough vitamin C from food, especially for most Americans leading Western diets and even for occasional orange juice drinkers. A person who eats vitamin-C rich fruits and vegetables daily and lives a life void of vitamin-c depleting alcohol, caffeine, stress, or smoking, would actually be all set. (If that’s you, give yourself a pat on the back!) But if that’s not you, let us explain why it’s smart to find a high-quality external source of this MVP vitamin.
A Brief History of Vitamin C Deficiency
Rewind to the 1500-1800s, when about two million sailors died from scurvy. During this period, sailors, who for months on end lived without fresh produce, suffered from unexplained exhaustion, aching legs, and bruising. Their teeth fell out and their gums bled. It wasn’t until the mid-1700s when Dr. James Lind, on board with the Royal Navy, discovered that citrus fruits could get sailors back to work in about six days. Lesson learned: don’t underestimate the power of Vitamin C deficiency and what getting enough Vitamin C can do for you!
But Vitamin C deficiency or depletion isn’t just a problem of the past. In 1994, 13 percent of U.S. adult males and 9 percent of American adult females had low blood Vitamin C levels indicating scurvy, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III. Smokers also have an elevated risk of Vitamin C deficiency.
Vitamin C is Easily Depleted in the Body
As a water-soluble vitamin, Vitamin C is not easily retained in the body. For optimal results, replenishing your body with this elusive nutrient daily with food is key as to not let it slip below optimal levels.
“You can get enough from berries and citrus and things like that, but you may not be able to get optimal amounts,” says Sherry Torkos, holistic pharmacist and author of The Canadian Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. “And there are certain things that deplete your body from vitamin C, like stress.”
Torkos also points out that there are plenty of benefits to taking Vitamin C. It’s not just famous as an immune booster. Many people don’t know there is evidence for Vitamin C to heal wounds, help manage blood pressure, support circulation, and lower your risk of heart disease.
“Vitamin C, of course, is also great for your skin, for your collagen, your connective tissue, and all that good stuff,” Torkos adds.
Shopping for Vitamin C
It can be confusing to shop for Vitamin C. There’s a range of options, from chewable or powder form (for kids or on-the-go folks) to capsules. But for those who don’t mind swallowing pills, a vitamin C supplement is likely a more efficient way to make sure you get a full dose. All vitamin Cs are not created equal when it comes to rate of absorption and retention. Ordinary vitamin C is made from basic ascorbic acid, in which only a portion of it is absorbed into the bloodstream. But other forms of ascorbic acid have been combined with certain compounds to create higher absorption and retention levels in cells.
For example, Ascorbate Calcium is buffered with calcium to be more sensitive to the stomach.
Pureway-C®, a form of ascorbic acid combined with special lipid metabolites, is both gentle on the stomach and allows even faster penetration of Vitamin C into cells. Research at Adelphi University in New York found that cellular levels of Pureway-C® at the 2-hour mark was higher than both regular ascorbic acid and ascorbate calcium.
To get even more out of your Vitamin C, you can go with a broad-spectrum formula, meaning it offers the support of other nutrients. Torkos recommends Vitamin C with added bioflavonoids for extra antioxidant defense, plus Vitamin D or Elderberry for extra immune support.
Keeping track of your Vitamin C intake can make a huge difference in your health. Next time someone reminds you to take Vitamin C, tell them you ‘C’ why it is so important!