Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), is a nutrient found in some foods. It helps to protect cells in the body from the damage caused by free radicals formed in the body or from external exposure. People are exposed to free radicals in the environment from cigarette smoke, air pollution, and ultraviolet light from the sun.
The body also needs vitamin C to make collagen, which is required for wounds to heal. Vitamin C improves the absorption of iron from plant-based foods and helps the immune system work properly to protect the body from disease.
How much vitamin C do I need?
The amount of vitamin C you need each day depends on your age. Average daily recommended amounts for different ages are listed below in milligrams (mg).
Life Stage Recommended Amount
Birth to 6 months 40 mg
Infants 7–12 months 50 mg
Children 1–3 years 15 mg
Children 4–8 years 25 mg
Children 9–13 years 45 mg
Teens 14–18 years (boys) 75 mg
Teens 14–18 years (girls) 65 mg
Adults (men) 90 mg
Adults (women) 75 mg
Pregnant teens 80 mg
Pregnant women 85 mg
Breastfeeding teens 115 mg
Breastfeeding women 120 mg
If you smoke, add 35 mg to the above values to calculate your total daily recommended amount.
Sources of Vitamin C
“Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of vitamin C.
Citrus fruits (such as oranges and grapefruit) and their juices, as well as red and green pepper and kiwifruit, which have a lot of vitamin C.
Other fruits and vegetables—such as broccoli, strawberries, cantaloupe, baked potatoes, and tomatoes—which also have vitamin C.
Some foods and beverages that are fortified with vitamin C. To find out if vitamin C has been added to a food product, check the product labels.
The vitamin C content of food may be reduced by prolonged storage and by cooking. Steaming or microwaving may lessen cooking losses. Fortunately, many of the best food sources of vitamin C, such as fruits and vegetables, are usually eaten raw.”
Vitamin C deficiency
Vitamin C deficiency is rare in people who eat a balanced diet with fruits and vegetables. People who get little or no vitamin C (below about 10 mg per day) for many weeks can get scurvy. Scurvy causes fatigue, inflammation of the gums, small red or purple spots on the skin, joint pain, poor wound healing, and corkscrew hairs. Additional signs of scurvy include depression as well as swollen, bleeding gums and loosening or loss of teeth. People with scurvy can also develop anemia. Scurvy is fatal if it is not treated.
Vitamin C and health
Cancer prevention and treatment
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts
The common cold
Can too much Vitamin C be harmful?
Taking too much vitamin C can cause diarrhea, nausea, and stomach cramps. In people with a condition called hemochromatosis, which causes the body to store too much iron, high doses of vitamin C could worsen iron overload and damage body tissues.
The daily upper limits for vitamin C are listed below:
Life Stage Upper Limit
Birth to 12 months Not established
Children 1–3 years 400 mg
Children 4–8 years 650 mg
Children 9–13 years 1,200 mg
Teens 14–18 years 1,800 mg
Adults 2,000 mg
Interactions with vitamin C
Vitamin C dietary supplements might interact with cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
In one study, vitamin C plus other antioxidants (such as vitamin E, selenium, and beta-carotene) reduced the heart-protective effects of two drugs taken in combination (a statin and niacin) to control blood-cholesterol levels.
Vitamin C, Fact Sheet for Consumers. (2019, December 10). Retrieved May 13, 2020, from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-Consumer/