The Role and Benefits of Supplementing with Vitamin C

The Role and Benefits of Supplementing with Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an essential vitamin and plays a crucial role in many bodily functions. Supplementing your diet with vitamin C can be extremely beneficial to complement your dietary intake, explains Melrose Resident Nutritionist, Steph Lowe.

Vitamin C is an essential water-soluble vitamin that is used as a cofactor in many essential functions including collagen synthesis, wound healing and capillary health. Humans have lost the ability to make vitamin C (unlike plants, reptiles and birds) and it therefore must be consumed via the diet. As vitamin C is water-soluble, excess is excreted via the urine, which also means that a constant supply must be obtained.

Vitamin C is great for:

1. Enhanced iron absorption
Vitamin C acts as a reducing agent which promotes iron absorption from the gastrointestinal tract. It is especially beneficial when nonheme iron is consumed, such as that found in eggs, spinach, rice and black beans. While considered harder for the body to absorb when compared to heme iron (from red meat, chicken and fish), the consumption of 25-100 mg of vitamin C has been shown to increase the absorption of nonheme iron by up to four times as much.

2. Skin integrity
Due to the role that vitamin C plays in collagen synthesis, it is an essential part of skin health and a natural anti-aging strategy. Collagen decreases from the age of 25 and further when exposed to dehydration, sugar, smoking and ultraviolet rays. By consuming adequate vitamin C, skin integrity can be maintained and signs of aging decreased. Collagen is also essential for efficient wound healing and adequate vitamin C can prevent a cut or puncture to the skin from becoming infected following exposure to bacteria.

3. Immunity
Vitamin C is well known for its role in enhancing immune function. As an antioxidant, it assists specific white blood cells in fighting pathogens that would otherwise supress the immune system. Vitamin C increases our resistance to viruses and bacteria and is essential for the growth and repair of tissues all over the body.

4. Cortisol control
Cortisol is the hormone produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress. Vitamin C helps to reduce stress because it allows the body to quickly eliminate this stress hormone, that would otherwise increase blood sugar and negatively impact energy levels, appetite control and fat burning. In relation to immunity, we are more likely to catch a cold when stressed as vitamin C is being diverted to cortisol control and therefore less available to support immune function. As vitamin C regulates cortisol it may also prevent elevated blood pressure in response to a stressful situation.

5. Exercise recovery
Via its antioxidant capacity, vitamin C can be beneficial to support exercise recovery. The increased production of collagen helps to repair skin tissue, tendons and blood vessels, that are damaged during exercise. Vitamin C also helps flush the muscles of lactic acid, decrease inflammation and reduce the delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) caused by myofibril tears. The cortisol lowering effect is also beneficial here as intense or prolonged exercise increases cortisol secretion which could create a catabolic state and the associated muscle breakdown.

6. Chronic disease reduction
Research now also suggests that decreasing free radicals may assist with heart disease and arthritis. Adequate dietary intake and supplementation are both powerful strategies to reduce the risk of these chronic and lifestyle diseases and therefore extend both our longevity and quality of life.


The recommended dietary intake for vitamin C is 65 to 90mg per day, and the upper limit is 2000mg per day. Fruit and vegetables are an excellent source of vitamin C and supplementation can be extremely beneficial to complement our dietary intake. In terms of dosage, please stick with the recommended dose as over consumption may cause bloating, nausea and/or gastrointestinal upset.

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Steph Lowe

Steph Lowe is a Sports Nutritionist (BSpExSc GDipHumNutr), triathlete, founder of The Natural Nutritionist, a hub for celebrating the importance of real food, and author of The Real Food Athlete.

With a passion for spreading a positive message about real food and the incredible effect it has on performance, Steph launched The Natural Nutritionist in 2011 and is on a mission to inspire others to make health a priority in their lives.