Multivitamins and supplements have been growing in popularity over the past few years, however, many people are starting to question their their effectiveness. Many individuals believe that supplements are necessary to live a healthy lifestyle and others believe that supplements do not have any effects and are a waste of money. So, are multivitamins good for your health?
Statistics show that supplement use is much more common among the elderly and seems to increase with age. This is common in one specific supplement: Vitamin C.
Our bodies are unable to synthesize Vitamin C, therefore, it must be consumed from the foods we eat. This can become difficult, especially with a North American diet that includes foods that do not provide enough Vitamin C. Therefore, many people look for alternatives to get their daily recommended dosage of Vitamin C. But how much vitamin C should you actually be taking so that it provides beneficial results without harming the body? This depends on several different factors.
First let’s learn a bit about Vitamin C.
What is Vitamin C?
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble substance that is an essential vitamin which means it cannot be produced by the body.
Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant in the body. Antioxidants play essential roles in the body, such as helping to protect the cells in the body from the damage caused by free radicals (compounds known to cause cancer in the body). Free radicals are formed when the body converts food into energy, and can also come from other sources such as cigarette smoke, air pollution, and ultraviolet lights.
In addition, the body needs vitamin C to make collagen which is an important protein that helps with healing wounds after injuries.
As mentioned before, the human body is unable to synthesize vitamin C, but why is this the case? As mentioned in the NCBI article, “…the inability to synthesize vitamin C is due to mutations in the L-gulono-γ-lactone oxidase (GLO) gene which codes for the enzyme responsible for catalyzing the last step of vitamin C biosynthesis”. Since the body cannot synthesize Vitamin C on its own, individuals rely on supplements to meet the daily needs.
Benefits of Vitamin C Supplements
Since the human body is unable to synthesize its own Vitamin C, supplements are usually the best way to get the daily required dosage. Below are some of benefits of taking Vitamin C supplements:
- Strong antioxidant: since Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant, it may help in reducing the risk of chronic diseases. This can help to strengthen your body’s natural defense mechanism to help prevent viruses and colds. Antioxidants also boost the immune system by protecting the cells from free radicals, as mentioned above.
- Can Potentially lower the risk for heart disease. There are many factors that contribute to the risk of heart disease, such as high blood pressure and high levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels. Vitamin C can help greatly to reduce these risk factors, potentially reducing the risk for heart disease.
- Helps prevent iron deficiencies. Iron plays an important role in the body such as making red blood cells and transporting oxygen throughout the body. Surprisingly, vitamin C supplements can help to improve the absorption of iron through the diet.
- Boosts immunity. Vitamin C supplements help in boosting immunity throughout the body. Vitamin C is involved in many parts of the immune system. Vitamin C also helps to encourage the production of white blood cells which help protect the body against infections. Secondly, vitamin C helps these white blood cells function at their optimal levels while protecting them from damage.
Even though there are many benefits of taking Vitamin C supplements, it is very easy to overdose and exceed the daily maximum for the compound.
How much Vitamin C does your body need?
Many individuals take unnecessarily high doses of Vitamin C in order to prevent or treat certain conditions in which the effectiveness is not proved by scientific studies. Many theories state that Vitamin C supplements seem to prevent cardiovascular and osteoarthritis, however, none of these benefits have been verified through scientific studies.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, for adults, the daily intake tolerable upper intake level (UL) is 2,000 mg per day. In order words, adults can take up to 2,000 mg of Vitamin C without risking their health.
High dosages, such as those over 3,000 mg per day, can lead to symptoms such as diarrhea, heartburn, fatigue, headaches, and even insomnia. Therefore, those individuals who are consuming over 2,000 mg of Vitamin C per day should consider cutting down as it can be dangerous for their health.
The Bottom Line
Proper research and consultations are one of the best ways to ensure that you are taking a multivitamin, in this case – vitamin C – safely. Consider these questions before you add any supplement to your diet: Is this supplement needed for medical reasons? How long should I be taking this supplement? What is the required dosage that I need to be taking for benefits? What are the possible side effects of this supplement? Is this vitamin okay to take with other medications? Make sure to always consult a professional before adding any new supplement to your diet.
As medications are regulated, multivitamins are not regulated by the the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This can pose many risks, however, it is up to you to decide if vitamin C is the best supplement to add to your daily routine and in what quantity.