For years vitamin C has been considered the king of antioxidants. First isolated in 1928 by the Hungarian biochemist Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, the importance of vitamin C in human health is remarkable as can be attested to by the hundreds of studies on this extraordinary vitamin. An interesting fact is that although vitamin C is so essential for our health we are one of only a few animals that cant synthesize this vitamin. We must obtain this vitamin through diet and/or supplementation. Most animals by contrast have the ability to make it by converting glucose into vitamin C in either the kidneys or liver. In addition to the inability to synthesize this vitamin we dont store any significant quantity of it either. The greatest concentration of vitamin C is in the adrenal glands where it is used for the production of the stress response hormones adrenaline, cortisol, histamine, etc.

One of the earliest known diseases recorded in human history is scurvy. Scurvy results from a prolonged deficiency of vitamin C. Although back then the cause of scurvy was unknown it resulted in the deaths of many. It was eventually noted by sailors on long sea voyages that certain foods, like limes kept this disease at bay. We of course know today that the foods they consumed were good sources of vitamin C.

Vitamin C
, known chemically as ascorbic acid, has the primary function of manufacturing collagen. Collagen is the principle protein in our human body and is needed for bone, connective tissue, tendons, cartilage, and wound repair. Vitamin C is also the most potent antioxidant in the human body having the ability to protect cells against the destructive effects of free radicals (reactive compounds that damage cells). Vitamin C also has the ability to regenerate vitamin E and prevents vitamins B1, B2, and B5 from oxidation. Vitamin C is water soluble. In simple terms this vitamin dissolves in water and doesnt require fat for absorption. 80 to 90 percent of vitamin C is absorbed in the small intestines and 75 percent of it is excreted within 24 hours of consumption.

Given that we can neither manufacture nor store any considerable amounts of vitamin C, regular consumption or supplementation is an absolute necessity. Several studies have shown that many individuals, especially those under chronic emotional, psychological, and physical stress, have suboptimal levels of vitamin C. Chronic stress can dramatically increase urinary vitamin C excretion. Listed below are some of the researched health benefits of vitamin C:


• Prevents the formation of certain cancer causing compounds
• Low blood levels of vitamin C are correlated with a greater risk of certain forms of cancer
• Although shown in some studies to increase life expectancy of cancer patients it is critical that high dose supplementation be discussed with your doctor while undergoing chemo and radiation therapy

• enhances white blood cell production
• possess broad spectrum antiviral activity (influenza, herpes, etc)
• reduces the life of a cold in some accounts by half
• dramatically elevates glutathione levels
• Cardiovascular health
• raises HDL and lowers LDL
• maintains the elasticity of blood vessels
• prevents the oxidation of LDL cholesterol thereby reducing plaque formation
• helps lower high blood pressure
• lowers heart disease risk by 45% in men and 25% in women

• Detoxifies heavy metals like mercury and lead

• Speeds up the healing of scars, broken bones, burns, etc.

• Prevents bone loss by reducing osteoclast resorption .Osteoclasts are cells that remove calcium from bones

• Improves blood glucose levels

• Studies have shown that vitamin C can boost mental ability later in life

• Reduced incidence of asthma, eczema, and hay fever

There are far too many other health benefits to list, suffice it to say vitamin C has been researched on over 40 health conditions and new research continues on a yearly basis.

Although vitamin C is most commonly available in its ascorbic acid form some individuals may find gastrointestinal disturbances when using this naturally acidic vitamin. To prevent this problem buffered forms of vitamin C are available that are not only easier on ones GI tract but may offer superior absorption and therapeutic activity. To buffer (neutralize the acidity of) ascorbic acid this vitamin is bound to minerals, and in this form is known as a mineral ascorbate. Finding a vitamin C supplement that offers calcium ascorbate, magnesium ascorbate, manganese ascorbate, zinc ascorbate, and potassium ascorbate may be the best way to go. Not only are you getting a pH neutral vitamin C but you get health benefits of the minerals that are bound to it. Another noteworthy form of vitamin C is ascorbyl palmitate. Unlike the water soluble ascorbic acid this form is fat soluble. This allows for better delivery of vitamin C to fatty structures in the body like the heart, brain, and central nervous system. When compared to ascorbic acid you get 33% less excretion of ascorbyl palmitate within a 24 hour period. When choosing what form of vitamin C to purchase consider one that provides both mineral ascorbates and ascorbyl palmitate.

We all know that certain nutrients compliment and improve the absorption of others. Magnesium and vitamin D are needed for proper calcium absorption, copper and zinc should be used together to prevent one or the other from becoming deficient. These synergistic interactions are also true in the case of vitamin C. The bioflavonoids hesperidin, rutin and quercetin have been shown to improve the bioavailability of vitamin C. Rich sources of antioxidants like grape seed, bilberry, and resveratrol (an antioxidant present in grapes) can further increase the antioxidant capacity of any vitamin C formula. Fruit concentrates contain numerous synergistic compounds that not only function as antioxidants but can potentially compliment vitamin C. Choosing fruit concentrates that are particularly rich in vitamin C like Indian goose berry, blueberry, cranberry, acerola cherry, elderberry, camu berry, kiwi, and mango provide you with additional supportive nutrients that can only at this time be derived from whole fruit extracts.

The use of proteolytic (protein digesting) enzymes like bromelain and papain with ones vitamin C formula will not only help with digestion but more importantly can support the healing properties of vitamin C by reducing inflammation and its associated pain. Another little unknown substance that has shown tremendous promise both as a therapeutic compound as well as an aid to absorption is Bioperine. The technical name of this compound is piperine and it is an extract from black pepper which can improve the absorption of vitamin C significantly.

Unfortunately there is no single answer. As mentioned earlier varying conditions dictate the dose. With increasing stress factors comes an increased need for more vitamin C. To be on the safe side one should aim for 1000 to 1200 mg of vitamin C daily, preferably in divided doses. The consumption of excessive sugar, exposure to UV, certain pharmaceuticals (cortisone, tetracycline, the pill, and aspirin to name a few) deplete or impact vitamin C in the body. Smoking in particular depletes vitamin C rapidly. For each cigarette smoked researchers suggest taking an additional 25 to 50 mg of vitamin C.

Side effects from vitamin C are fairly uncommon given the water soluble nature of this vitamin and the fact that we dont store it to any considerable degree. When consuming large doses of vitamin C diarrhea may develop. Simply lowering the dose will relieve the diarrhea. Although some individuals have suggested that large doses of vitamin C may contribute to kidney stones several studies have disproved this assertion. Lastly and important to note is the use of vitamin C when undergoing chemo and radiation therapy. As indicated earlier caution is advised and one should only undertake supplementing with large vitamin C doses under the advice and supervision of ones doctor. The concern lies in the fact that the antioxidant properties of vitamin C may protect cancer cells from the chemo and radiation.

Vitamin C is truly a supplement that all of us can benefit from using. With so many antioxidants available today nothing has yet been able to de-thrown vitamin Cs status as king. Although its role as a cold fighter is still important hopefully one can appreciate the numerous other benefits vitamin C has to offer.

Benefits and Uses
• plays an essential role in the immune system
• aids in fighting off foreign invaders
• vital to the production of collagen, which is involved in the building and health of cartilage, joints, skin, and blood vessels
• helps protect the fat-soluble vitamins A and E as well as fatty acids from oxidation
• aids in neutralizing pollutants
• needed for antibody production
• natural antihistamine properties

Author's Bio: 

Chester Ku-Lea is a health nutrition consultant and is the owner of and - a provider of premium health nutrition and sports supplements. Visit his daily fitness and lifestyle blog at