Supplements Your Health & Wellness

Should you take Vitamin C tablets?

Many of my patients tell me that they are taking large doses of Vitamin C tablets to boost their immune system. If your diet is balanced, with all the food groups represented, you are likely getting enough Vitamin C without any reason to take additional tablets.

According to the NIH, one medium orange contains more than enough vitamin C, around 117% of what you need daily. Adding oranges, grapefruits and lemons to your diet or broccoli and other fruits and vegetables that are high in Vitamin C, can help greatly. And, you can eat as much of these foods as you’d like without side effects.

With Vitamin C supplements, in extremely high doses, there is a risk of developing kidney stones and severe diarrhea. Vitamin C supplements can potentially interact with your medications in harmful ways.  If you take iron pills or have an iron disorder, for example, a Vitamin C supplement could increase iron absorption and be really bad for you.

What you may find hard to believe is that the scientific evidence shows that Vitamin C supplements are not as effective as you think. One reason people often take them is to prevent the common cold. The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database found that claim lacks evidence and it is possibly ineffective. Other systematic reviews of the Vitamin C supplement also show that it lacks the efficacy that the public believes it has. For example, in a systematic review of 29 studies released by the Cochrane Collaboration in 2013, Vitamin C supplements did not reduce the number of colds of participants in the studies. If you think the Vitamin C supplement keeps you from getting a cold or shortens it, think again.

The one evidence-based reason to take Vitamin C supplements is that they can treat scurvy. Scurvy is a condition caused by an actual Vitamin C deficiency. In all of my years of practice, I have had ONE case of scurvy. You might have heard of scurvy in the past being an ailment of those sailing for long periods of time without a varied diet, but it is not limited to pirates and sailors. To read more about the history of scurvy click here.

If you are worried about needing more Vitamin C, make sure you are eating enough Vitamin C-rich foods, including oranges, red peppers, kale, brussels sprouts, broccoli, strawberries, oranges and grapefruit. Changing your diet could be a simple non-supplement solution. If you still have concerns, discuss them with your doctor before taking any supplements. That’s the smartest way to protect your health and to save money.

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