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13 Vitamin C Benefits That Will Improve Immune Health

Almost every part of your body, including your skin, brain and bones, benefits from Vitamin C. The age-old suggestion of eating oranges

13 Vitamin C Benefits That Will Improve Immune Health

Almost every part of your body, including your skin, brain, and bones, benefits from Vitamin C. The age-old suggestion of eating oranges when you're sick isn't a theory at all. While vitamin C plays an important role in your immune function, this is just one of the many benefits of vitamin C to your health.

By consuming enough vitamin C, you will get health benefits for the skin, better plant-based iron absorption, and improved heart health. It's also bound to boost your bones and cognitive function and to prevent certain diseases such as gout or even seasickness.

While in many areas of study further work is required, one thing is clear: Vitamin C is good for a variety of functions in your body and can promote overall well-being. While it is best to get your recommended daily amount of vitamin C from food sources (that way you can soak up other beneficial nutrients along with it), some people might also benefit from vitamin C supplements.

Always consult with your doctor, however, before you start taking a new medication.

1. For Skin Benefits

Vitamin C supports the skin in many respects and is present in both the epidermis and dermis at high levels.

Over-exposure to UV light or pollutants such as cigarette smoke and pollution may decrease vitamin C content per Oregon State University, especially in the epidermis.

Collagen Production

Collagen is the structural protein that gives elasticity to the skin, and vitamin C plays a crucial role in its development which can sustain the skin's appearance. Per Oregon State University, the amount of vitamin C in your skin naturally decreases with age.

A low level of collagen in the body, in addition to aging, is most often caused by poor diet and may lead to wrinkles and crepey. Because of the thinning of your digestive tract lining, it may also cause joint pain, weakening muscles, osteoarthritis, or gastrointestinal problems per Cleveland Clinic.

In a March 2015 study in the journal Nutrition Science, vitamin C enhanced understanding of skin health and real skin health — including skin elasticity, wrinkling, and appearance. However, further work in representative populations is required to establish the exact impact of vitamin C dietary intake on appearance.

Repairing Wound

Given its essential role in collagen synthesis, vitamin C also helps to repair wounds. A deficiency in this vitamin is not uncommon among hospital people, especially those at risk, according to a 2016 case report published in the International Journal of Surgery Open.

Following operations or infections, people may need to be treated with vitamin C to reduce the duration of their hospital stay and the costs of intensive wound treatment.

Skin Protection

It is important to remember that topical or oral vitamin C can not function as a sunscreen because it does not absorb light in the spectrum of UVA or UVBs. It can however help to protect against UV-induced damage from free radicals.

Multiple studies have shown that taking supplements with a combination of vitamin C and vitamin E improves the minimum erythemal dose (MED) per Oregon State University, which is a measure of UV light photoprotection in the skin. The same effect has not been observed on vitamin C alone. The mixture of vitamins can also minimize the erythema-induced blood flow to affected areas of the skin (which induces redness and sense of warmth).

For example, oral supplementation of vitamins C and E for three months helped protect participants with sunburn from DNA damage, per a study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology in February 2005. This is important because damage to DNA can lead to mutations that can lead to skin cancer that is caused by UV.

Skin Dryness

A number of factors can cause dry skin, including aging, medication, disease, extreme temperature, exposure to wind, and low humidity, resulting in the loss of lipids (fats) skin barrier and natural moisture. However, vitamin C will increase the development of barrier lipids to decrease dryness, according to a study in the journal Nutrients in August 2017.

Most research in this field include topical application, so it's unclear what effects vitamin C tablets may have on the skin (or even whether the topical applications were beneficial because of the vitamin C itself or the cream in which it was found). That being said, the researchers note that dietary support can also be helpful — and oral consumption of vitamin C has improved the appearance of skin roughness in the study of nutrition studies.

2. Heart Protection

Vitamin C has been tested for a variety of heart problems, and your ticker may benefit from it.

According to a meta-analysis published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology in February 2008, consuming more antioxidants like vitamins C and E is related to preventing coronary heart disease. However, vitamin C supplements did not demonstrate the same correlation.

Atrial Fibrillation

Oxidative stress is associated with atrial fibrillation, a severe arrhythmia that may lead to serious consequences such as stroke, and it can be triggered by vitamin C, which is an antioxidant. In reality, by a February 2017 systematic review and meta-analysis published in the journal BMC Cardiovascular Disorders, vitamin C is linked to preventing postoperative atrial fibrillation.

Trials in various countries have, however, had varying results. Five studies in the United States — and vitamin C did not have a protective impact on postoperative atrial fibrillation — were performed out of many trials examining atrial fibrillation in high-risk individuals. That said, in nine trials outside the U.S., vitamin C was linked to a decreased occurrence of atrial fibrillation. In certain parts of the world, this could have to do with access to nutrition, including foods high in vitamin C.

Nevertheless, the researchers note that further studies in countries such as the U.S. may examine the impact of vitamin C on atrial fibrillation in people with extremely low vitamin C levels.

High Cholesterol Levels

Another way that vitamin C can protect the heart is by reducing cholesterol levels. Observational studies revealed an inverse association between concentration of blood vitamin C and total serum cholesterol, but the findings of laboratory trials were contradictory, according to a 2006 study in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine.

The cholesterol-lowering and heart-protective advantage of vitamin C supplementation may be due to its ability to increase concentrations of vitamin C in the blood in people with lower than normal levels of vitamin C. In fact, in a June 2008 meta-analysis of 13 randomized controlled trials in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine, 500 milligrams of vitamin C a day for a period of four weeks resulted in a decline in unhealthy LDL cholesterol and triglyceride rates.

"Even if these improvements are minor, any small improvement may have beneficial effects on coronary heart disease incidence," the researchers note. It's necessary, though, to talk to your doctor about your treatment plan before you start taking cholesterol supplements or some other drug.

High Blood Pressure

In a May 2012 meta-analysis in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, an average of 500 milligrams of vitamin C daily was linked to a decrease in systolic blood pressure by approximately 5 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 1.67 mmHg in people with hypertension.

Systolic pressure is the highest number in your reading in blood pressure, which is the greatest pressure the heart exerts when beating. The lowest number is diastolic pressure, which is the amount of pressure between beats in your arteries, per the Mayo Clinic. Despite the study's positive findings, the researchers have not recommended blood pressure reduction tablets with vitamin C.

"For the prevention of hypertension [or as part of] antihypertensive therapy, additional tests are required, built with broad sample sizes, before vitamin C supplementation can be recommended," the researchers note.

3. Diabetes

Diabetes is a condition where blood sugar levels are too high, and it is a risk factor for heart and stroke diseases. Too much blood glucose in the United States will harm your eyes, kidneys, and nerves over time. As per the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

However, vitamin C can help: In a small November 2018 study in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, individuals with type 2 diabetes who took a vitamin C tablet twice daily were observed to lower blood glucose spikes after meals by 36 percent. The cohort was overwhelmingly male. Meanwhile, in a small 2009 study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, vitamin C and insulin were linked together to help avoid damage to the blood vessels in people with type 1 diabetes with impaired glucose regulation.

Neither treatment had the same effect on its own, however, and vitamin C was administered intravenously rather than in a capsule containing vitamin C.

4. Immunity

You can get used to loading into vitamin C when you sense a cold coming on. Unfortunately, there is no evidence that, according to a July 2018 study published in Medwave, vitamin C is actually helping to avoid the common cold.

However, if you are already sick it may help to reduce any of your symptoms. In a December 2017 study of nearly 400 people in the Journal of Health Care and Prevention, taking 480 milligrams of vitamin C with 800 milligrams of aspirin decreased early symptoms of cold as opposed to placebo.

A higher dose of vitamin C taken at the beginning of the cold has helped minimize the cold's duration and decrease its effects through a meta-analysis of nine clinical trials in BioMed Research International journal. But the effect was only shown if people were still taking C regularly at the start of illness and used therapeutic doses.

Moreover, in a January 2013 review of 31 studies in The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, daily consumption of vitamin C tended to minimize the period of colds by 8 percent in adults and 14 percent in infants. It has also reduced the severity of colds.

"In view of the clear impact of vitamin C on the duration and severity of colds in routine supplementation studies, and the low cost and health, it may be useful for [people with a common cold] to individually check if therapeutic vitamin C is beneficial to them," the researchers noted.

Quick Tip

In order to truly reap the benefits of vitamin C, you should aim at getting it every day — and getting your vitamin C through food, so you can take other essential nutrients as well, is usually better, through Harvard Health Publishing.

To stay healthy and keep your immune system high, strive for a varied diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

5. Iron Absorption

By the National Institutes of Health ( NIH), vitamin C increases the body's absorption of iron from plant-based foods. Because of this, eating vitamin C foods (think strawberries or bell peppers) with plant foods containing iron such as kale or spinach may be beneficial.

It is necessary to get enough iron, as the body requires it for many functions. Iron is part of hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen to the rest of your body from your lungs. It also allows the muscles to store and use oxygen, per the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

If you get too little iron (caused by issues such as blood loss, poor diet, or the inability to absorb enough dietary iron) you can develop anemia with iron deficiency. The risk of iron deficiency is greater for small children and women who are pregnant or have cycles. Too much iron, that said, is dangerous too. If you have hemochromatosis, a condition that causes the body to store too much iron, you should be careful with vitamin C. Large amounts of vitamin C could aggravate your body's excess of iron and damage body tissues per the NIH.

6. Cancer Treatment Potential

Although some evidence shows that high-dose vitamin C can kill cancer cells, some experts agree that C has been used in cancer therapies mostly ineffectively. While many vitamin C cancer therapies include oral supplementation, the intravenous administration of vitamin C may most help people with cancer, according to a study published in Redox Biology in December 2016.

Researchers found that vitamin C quickly breaks down, creating hydrogen peroxide that can destroy tissue and DNA. But while normal cells can expel hydrogen peroxide and avoid damage, from high levels of hydrogen peroxide cancer cells are less effective and do so, and more vulnerable to death. Although this does not prove that vitamin C alone can kill cancer cells, researchers are currently researching whether it could improve the efficacy of other cancer therapies, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy (or minimize side effects of treatment), per the Mayo Clinic.

As far as cancer prevention is concerned, most case-control studies have associated dietary intake of vitamin C with a lower risk of lung, breast, colon or rectum, stomach, oral cavity, larynx or pharynx, and esophagus cancers per the NIH. For example, having an average of 205 milligrams per day of vitamin C (the highest amount) compared to 70 milligrams per day (the lowest amount) was associated with a 63 percent lower risk of breast cancer in premenopausal women with a family history of breast cancer, according to an older March 1999 study in the National Cancer Institute Journal of 83,234 females.

However, there is no clear evidence from prospective longitudinal research, probably due to the varying levels of vitamin C used in research. Meanwhile, several randomized clinical trials show that a mild intake of vitamin C alone or together with other nutrients does not increase the risk of cancer.

7. Eye Health

Some evidence shows that the Age-related Eye Disease Research (AREDS) supplement formulations, a broad, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial, that delay progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in those at high risk of developing advanced AMD. Such preparations, along with vitamin E, beta-carotene, zinc, and copper, contain 500 milligrams of vitamin C.

According to the October 2001 AREDS report in JAMA Ophthalmology, individuals at high risk for developing advanced AMD who obtained the supplements were found to have a lower chance of progression to advanced Hurd than individuals taking a placebo. The findings have been replicated in a follow-up analysis in JAMA in May 2013.

Some researchers have linked high dietary intakes of vitamin C with a lower risk of cataract development, although there is minimal clinical trial data and conflicting evidence per the NIH.

8. Gout Prevention

A gout is a severe form of inflammatory arthritis which is very painful and normally affects one joint at a time ( usually the broad toe joint). During flares, which may last days or even weeks, symptoms may get worse per U.S. Centers for Disease Prevention and Control.

Gout is caused by excess uric acid, or hyperuricemia, in the body. The breakdown of purines, present in your body and foods you consume, results in uric acid — and too much of it will cause uric acid crystals (monosodium urate) to build up in joints, fluids, and tissues. Vitamin C is related to help prevent gout although results have been mixed.

In a March 2009 study of nearly 47,000 men in JAMA Internal Medicine, gout risk was observed falling with every 500-milligram rise in vitamin C intake per day. Gout risk was found to decrease by 45 percent for those who took more than 1,500 milligrams of vitamin C daily.

As Per the Arthritis Foundation, vitamin C can protect against gout by helping to lower urate in the body. But it is not clear what effect vitamin C may have on those with pre-existing gout. In a small May 2013 study of 40 individuals in Arthritis & Rheumatology, vitamin C alone or in conjunction with gout medication had no clinically significant effect on reducing uric acid levels for people with gout.

9. Cognitive Function

Vitamin C accumulates in the central nervous system and in brain cells, especially large quantities. It is responsible for brain functions such as synthesizing the dopamine-based neurotransmitter norepinephrine, per Oregon State University.

Vitamin C deficiency causes oxidative damage to the proteins and fats within the brain. A broad body of evidence suggests that maintaining safe levels of vitamin C is required to protect against age-related cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease, according to a study in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease in April 2012. The researchers, however, note that "avoiding vitamin C deficiency is likely to be more beneficial than taking supplements on top of a normal, healthy diet."

In a September 2011 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the intake of fruits and vegetables, especially those rich in vitamin C, was positively linked to verbal memory. Vitamin C can also provide you with energy or improve your mood: while more research is needed, people with vitamin C deficiency often report feeling tired or depressed through the Mayo Clinic. Studies on hospitalized people, who usually have lower than average levels of vitamin C, have shown that mood improves after vitamin C is given to humans.

10. Bone Health

Also, the crucial role that vitamin C plays in collagen production makes it an important nutrient for your bones.

Collagen makes up 90% of the bone's organic matrix, and collagen fibers curl around each other to provide scaffolding per Oregon State University for the minerals to be deposited on. That being said, observational studies showed contradictory associations with the risk of fracture and mineral density in the bone.

Overall, there is a favorable but complicated relationship between bone density and intake of vitamin C that may be impaired by influences from other factors such as smoking, intake of calcium, intake of vitamin E or use of estrogen or hormone therapy following menopause, according to an October 2011 study in the journal Nutrition Reviews.

For example, while there was no correlation between vitamin C intake and bone mineral density, the positive effects of hormone treatment on bone mineral density were stronger with higher intakes of vitamin C, per a September 2005 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition from the Women's Health Initiative.

11. Seasickness

Vitamin C will support youths at sea who are feeling queasy.

Women and men under the age of 27 had less pronounced seasickness symptoms when they took 2,000 milligrams of vitamin C before 20 minutes of exposure to one-meter-high waves on a life raft in an indoor pool, per a 2014 report in the Journal of Vestibular Science.

Vitamin C can be an effective means of reducing seasickness symptoms without adverse side effects, the researchers notice.

12. Inflammation

Several studies have related higher levels of vitamin C to lower levels of C-reactive protein ( CRP), a marker for inflammation.

Taking supplementation of vitamin C (1,000 milligrams per day) for two months, for example, was observed to lead to a 16.7 percent decrease in the median level of CRP levels in those who had elevated CRP levels compared to an 8.6 percent increase in a placebo group, per January 2009 study in the Free Radical Biology and Medicine journal.

Several of the diseases for which vitamin C has reported benefits — such as coronary heart disease and gout — also include inflammation, per the University of Oregon. Although less is known about anti-inflammatory effects of vitamin C than its antioxidant acts, vitamin C is known to act as an antioxidant to neutralize the harmful effects of pro-inflammatory free radicals.

13. Gum Health

By keeping your tissues safe and solid, vitamin C will help even your dental health.

According to a July 2019 study in the International Journal of Environmental Science and Public Health, this may lead to a lower risk of periodontal (gum) disease.

The study also suggests that vitamin C concentration in the blood affects the periodontal condition but not vice versa.

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