3 Myths We've Busted On Vitamin C (Even We Were Surprised!)
Vitamin C is often referred to as an "old-school" vitamin. It's popular, it's basic, it's easy to understand…right?
Not quite. According to mbg's vice president of scientific affairs, Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN, there's a ton of misinformation out there about good ol' vitamin C. It's not as science jargon-y as other up-and-coming botanicals (ahem, astaxanthin and sulforaphane glucosinolate), but that doesn't mean we have a total grasp of the essential vitamin. In fact, Ferira hears a number of vitamin C myths that make her cringe—on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast, she shares a few of these frustrating misconceptions.
Myth No. 1: You only need 75 milligrams per day.
According to the National Academies1, the recommended intake for vitamin C is currently set at 75 milligrams per day for adult women and 90 milligrams daily for adult men. And a balanced diet can help you get there—but according to Ferira, there is scientific data supporting a high-potency play. "It's a myth that you just need the baseline dietary intake levels and that you couldn't leverage the power of more," she explains.
In fact, research shows that higher intakes (i.e., 200 to 1,000 milligrams or more each day) may provide better overall health outcomes, especially in regards to immune function and response2.* At least 200 milligrams per day seems to be the amount to keep your plasma (i.e., blood levels) saturated with vitamin C3.
And while it's clear that immunity and vitamin C status can be bolstered by high-potency vitamin C supplementation, Ferira says that's just the beginning.* Consider, for instance, cardiovascular health. "For things like blood pressure, [the research] shows incremental benefits at these higher-potency [vitamin C] doses,"* Ferira adds. Specifically, a large meta-analysis4 of almost 30 randomized controlled trials found that high-potency daily vitamin C supplementation (500 mg, 1,000 mg, and on up) resulted in improved systolic and diastolic blood pressure, a major cardiometabolic health indicator.* Furthermore, a clinical trial leveraging 1,000 mg per day of a vitamin-C-lipid-citrus bioflavonoid complex resulted in significant reductions in inflammatory biomarker C-reactive protein (CRP).* Yet another metabolic health metric.
Essentially, it's a classic case of "surviving versus thriving," explains Ferira. Sure, you could get 75 milligrams of vitamin C and meet the baseline, but why wouldn't you want to get more bang for your buck with this crucial vitamin? "We now have the ability to fully leverage the 360-degree health support of this nutrient," says Ferira. Why not take full advantage of that?
Myth No. 2: Vitamin C is only important for immunity.
Vitamin C is perhaps most famous for supporting the immune system—but that's not the only benefit on its résumé, says Ferira. "Pigeonholing it as a temporary need or just for immunity purposes is another myth," she says.
Don't get us wrong, immune support is essential (and not just when you're feeling crappy). But vitamin C is also required for successful collagen synthesis, and collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. "Everyone's talking about collagen," Ferira notes, and not just for its variety of beauty benefits. "Your gut, your eyes, your heart, your blood vessels…but for collagen to synthesize and cross-link correctly and serve as this architectural scaffolding," she notes, it needs vitamin C.*
Aside from synthesizing collagen, vitamin C also plays a role in synthesizing the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine5, which play a part in controlling brain function6 and regulating mood.* It aids in iron absorption, supports hormonal balance, protects the nervous system, and more.* "Vitamin C is at the core of all these fascinating heart, joint, skin, immune, and neuroprotective benefits,"* Ferira adds. Needless to say, this vitamin has range.
Myth No. 3: If you feel fine, you don't need to take a supplement.
The final myth, Ferira says, is that you only need vitamin C sometimes. If you feel fine, you can do without it—this mindset is completely false. In fact, 42% of the U.S. adult population7 is living with vitamin C insufficiency, and almost half are failing to get enough vitamin C from their food each day. Even for those who do take a supplement, 33% of American adults8 are still falling short of their needs.
And yet, Ferira often hears people say I look fine, I feel fine. I don't see the need. It's a common pattern with vitamin D, omega-3s, and multivitamins as well—if you don't notice anything wrong, what's the point? Well, vitamin C is one of those nutrients that can easily catch you off-guard. For example, my wife and mbg co-founder and co-CEO, Colleen, found out she had extraordinarily low levels of vitamin C. "As a healthy eater, I was shocked last year to find out from my doctor that I had hypovitaminosis C, aka vitamin C deficiency. It's more common than you might think," she previously shared.
Plus, taking vitamin C as needed (like, whenever you feel sniffly) is not exactly how nutrients and robust immune systems work. The most effective approach for supporting your immune health is to make sure you get enough vitamin C daily.* "While this sounds like a super-basic fact—that you need vitamin C every day—in practice, many people treat daily nutrient intake and nutritional sufficiency like something that just magically happens. In reality, it takes thought and effort," Ferira once shared. Not too much effort, of course—popping a high-quality supplement can effectively raise the vitamin C levels in your body.*
Vitamin C may be a popular, "old-school" vitamin, but that doesn't mean we understand all the science. Because it's so well known, that means it may have amassed even more myths over the years. Don't worry: Ferira is here to separate fact from fiction.
Jason Wachob is the Founder and Co-CEO of mindbodygreen and the author of Wellth. He has been featured in the New York Times, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, and Vogue, and has a B.A. in history from Columbia University, where he played varsity basketball for four years.