Most people can get adequate vitamin C in their diet by eating fruits and vegetables. However, some people take a vitamin C supplement due to dietary restrictions or a medical condition.
Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is a water soluble vitamin and antioxidant that is essential for health. It helps the immune system, skin, and bones function, and it combats damage from free radicals, which are molecules that can adversely affect the body.
This article looks at who may benefit from taking vitamin C, how much people need to consume per day, and some of the best vitamin C supplements available on the market.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), vitamin C deficiency is rare in the United States.
However, although most people can get enough vitamin C from fruits and vegetables, others may have difficulty getting enough vitamin C from their diet.
People who may be at risk of vitamin C deficiency include:
- older adults
- people with alcohol use disorders
- people with eating disorders
- people who smoke, as cigarette smoke increases the damage that free radicals cause, resulting in a higher need for vitamin C
- people who eat restricted diets for medical reasons
- people with certain medical conditions, such as kidney disease that requires hemodialysis, conditions that cause malabsorption, and some types of cancer
- infants who drink boiled cow’s milk, because the heat destroys the small amount of vitamin C it contains
Anyone who is concerned that they have a deficiency can ask a doctor for blood tests to see which nutrients they need. Having a long-term deficiency in vitamin C can lead to scurvy.
In addition to those who have a vitamin C deficiency, some other people may also benefit from consuming more of this nutrient. For example, some evidence suggests that vitamin C can reduce the severity and duration of the common cold.
According to the NIH, there is no conclusive evidence that vitamin C has an impact on COVID-19, however.
How much vitamin C do people need?
According to the NIH, the recommended daily intake of vitamin C for most people is 75–90 milligrams (mg).
Typically, the small intestine absorbs up to 100 mg of vitamin C from food per day. Once the cells have become saturated with vitamin C, they cannot absorb any more.
However, some people believe that taking very large doses of vitamin C, or “mega-dosing,” is beneficial. This may stem from a 1976 paper that indicated that high-dose vitamin C could prolong the lives of people with terminal cancer.
However, more recent studies have not repeated this result.
Vitamin C doses of over 2,000 mg per day may cause side effects, such as:
- abdominal cramps
People with particular health conditions and those who take certain medications may also need to avoid vitamin C supplements. These conditions include hemochromatosis, which causes the body to store too much iron, and kidney stones.
Vitamin C may also interact with chemotherapy treatment.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate vitamin C products. For this reason, it is important to discuss taking any new supplement with a doctor.
There are several forms of vitamin C. In supplements, vitamin C usually comes in the form of ascorbic acid. However, some supplements contain other forms, such as sodium ascorbate, calcium ascorbate, or ascorbic acid with bioflavonoids.
According to the NIH, all forms of vitamin C are similarly beneficial.
There are various ways to take vitamin C, including:
- chewable gummies
- effervescent tablets
Some people may prefer the convenience of swallowing tablets, while others may prefer a powder that they can mix into drinks.
People who have problems absorbing nutrients may prefer a sublingual supplement, as the body absorbs these in the mouth rather than in the intestines.
6 vitamin C supplements
There are many vitamin products on the market, and because they are not FDA-regulated, they may vary significantly in purity, ingredients, and dose.
People should always buy vitamin C from a reputable company and ensure that the products undergo third party testing.
The products listed below contain safe doses of vitamin C for adults and have undergone independent testing for quality.
Please note that the author of this article has not tried any of these products. All information presented here is purely research-based.
Care/of Vitamin C
Care/of is a vitamin subscription service that creates a personalized plan for individuals based on their health needs.
The brand’s vitamin C supplement undergoes multiple rounds of testing to ensure safety, and the brand also sources its ingredients from trusted suppliers.
The supplement is vegan, gluten-free, and genetically modified organism (GMO)-free, and it contains 250 mg of fermented vitamin C per serving.
Ritual, another multivitamin subscription service, uses vitamin C as an ingredient in some of its products, including its postnatal multivitamin.
The tablet contains 25 mg of vitamin C and a number of other nutritional supplements, including choline, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and biotin.
Ritual claims that its ingredients are traceable and that customers can use the website to track the exact origin of the ingredients in the products.
Persona Vitamin C with Bioflavonoids
Persona is a subscription service that carries a vitamin C supplement containing bioflavonoids. The product is citrus flavored and can help boost antioxidant intake.
Each supplement contains 500 mg of vitamin C and has undergone quality testing at each stage to ensure safety.
Persona subscriptions also include consultations with nutritionists and personalized plans based on each individual’s health conditions.
Pure Encapsulations Liposomal Vitamin C Liquid
The Pure Encapsulations Liposomal Vitamin C Liquid provides 1,000 mg of vitamin C in one teaspoon and comes in a pleasant citrus flavor.
According to the company, it contains non-GMO ingredients and is suitable for vegans and vegetarians.
This product contains liposomal vitamin C, which means that tiny bubbles of oil contain the vitamin C.
According to one 2020 study, the gut absorbs this form of vitamin C easier. However, the company likely factored this into the product’s price, which is higher than that of other products by other brands.
The company is National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) and Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) certified, and it has its ingredients tested for contaminants.
Life Extension Buffered Vitamin C Powder
Some people find that taking ascorbic acid irritates their stomach. Buffered vitamin C is a less acidic form of the nutrient, which may help reduce adverse effects.
One serving of this powder provides 4,000 mg of vitamin C. This dose is very high — twice that of the upper limit that the NIH recommends.
However, as this product comes in a powder, people can lower the dose to a more moderate level by using smaller amounts of powder.
Life Extension is also NSF and GMP certified and produces a Certificate of Analysis for every product it makes.
NOW Supplements Orange Chewable Vitamin C-500
People who do not like swallowing tablets may prefer a chewable vitamin. This product delivers 500 mg of vitamin C per chewable tablet. A person can take one or two per day.
The product is free from common allergens and suitable for vegans. It does contain some sugar and natural sweeteners, though this only totals 1 gram per dose. The tablets have a natural orange flavor.
According to the website, NOW exceeds GMP standards and tests all raw ingredients for safety and purity.
Eating more fruits and vegetables is the best way for someone to increase their vitamin C intake naturally.
The NIH suggests:
- half a cup of raw sweet red pepper, which contains 95 mg of vitamin C
- three-quarters of a cup of orange juice, which contains 93 mg of vitamin C
- half a cup of broccoli and half a cup of strawberries, which totals 97 mg of vitamin C
- one medium orange and half a cup of cooked cabbage, which totals 98 mg of vitamin C
Some companies also fortify their breakfast cereals with added vitamin C.
High heat, water-based cooking methods, as well as prolonged storage, can destroy some foods’ vitamin C content.
For this reason, the NIH suggests lightly steaming or microwaving vegetables to retain more of their nutrients.
When to contact a doctor
Vitamin C deficiency can be fatal without treatment. A person should contact a doctor if they have symptoms that may indicate a vitamin C deficiency.
These symptoms include:
- small red or purple spots on the skin
- inflamed, swollen, or bleeding gums
- wobbly teeth or tooth loss
- corkscrew shaped hairs
- joint pain
A person should also consult a doctor before taking vitamin C, particularly if they have a medical condition, are pregnant, or take any medications.
Most people get enough vitamin C by eating a varied diet that includes fruits and vegetables. However, some people may need to take a supplement.
All forms of vitamin C work in much the same way, but people should always buy from a reputable seller and consider the dose, quality, and price point before buying a product.
Consuming too much vitamin C may cause side effects.
Some people should not take vitamin C, so it is always best to consult a doctor before starting any supplement.