Vitamin C, aka ascorbic acid, is a water soluble vitamin. It cannot be made in the body and therefore is acquired purely from diet. It is mostly known for its antioxidant ability. It also aids in collagen production, white blood cell production, some enzyme reactions and many other examples1.
A lack of vitamin C in the diet can cause the disease scurvy, which is rare in developed countries. However, many studies have shown the possibility of a dose much higher than that to avoid scurvy, can help us to avoid many more diseases, such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases2,3. Although it is hard to experimentally link vitamin C to cancer directly, many studies have shown vitamin C reduces oxidative stress, which has been linked to cancer 4-7.
Article on antioxidants, free radicals and oxidative stress coming soon!
Whether vitamin C helps with colds is long disputed. Some studies show there may be a reduction in cold incidence when vitamin C was taken before onset of any cold symptoms. However, Studies provide little evidence to show the benefits of vitamin C when supplementation starts after onset of symptoms8. So don't wait until you have a cold!
The RDA for vitamin C is 40 mg, but as it says above, there may be benefits of much larger doses. Especially amongst smokers and those who don't regularly eat their 5 a day. If you think you get a lot of free radical exposure, e.g. from the sun or smoking, or you don't get a lot of vegetables, go for the 1000 mg. Otherwise, 500 mg should give you the boost you need. If in any doubt, seek professional medical advice.
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