3 of the best vitamin C supplements: What to look for

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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 to function, and 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 on the market.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), vitamin C deficiency is rare in the United States. Although most people can get enough vitamin C from fruits and vegetables, others have difficulty getting enough vitamin C from their diet.

People who may be at risk for 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 a restricted diet 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 concerned that they have a deficiency can ask a doctor for blood tests to see which nutrients they need. 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 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.

According to the NIH, the recommended intake of vitamin C is between 75–90 milligrams (mg) per day.

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 life of people with terminal cancer.

However, more recent studies have failed to repeat this result.

Vitamin C doses of over 2,000 mg per day may cause side effects, such as:

People with particular health conditions or who take certain medications may also need to avoid vitamin C supplements. Conditions include:

Vitamin C may also interact with chemotherapy treatment.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not approve Vitamin C products. 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:

  • capsules
  • chewable gummies
  • effervescent tablets
  • powders
  • liquids
  • sprays

Some people may prefer the convenience of swallowing tablets, while others may prefer a powder they can mix into drinks.

People with problems absorbing nutrients may prefer a sublingual supplement, as the body absorbs these in the mouth, rather than in the intestines.

There are many vitamin products on the market, and because they are not FDA-approved, they may vary significantly in purity, ingredients, and dosage. Always buy vitamin C from a reputable company and ensure the products undergo third-party testing.

The products listed below

  • contain safe doses of vitamin C for adults
  • have been independently tested for quality

Please note that the author of this article has not tested these products. All information is research-based.

Pure Encapsulations Liposomal Vitamin C Liquid

Pure Encapsulations’ vitamin C liquid provides 1,000 mg of vitamin C in one teaspoon (tsp) 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 tiny bubbles of oil contain the vitamin C.

According to a 2020 study, the gut finds this form of vitamin C easier to absorb. However, this is likely a factor in the price, which is higher than other brands.

The company are NSF- and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP)-certified, and they have their ingredients tested for contaminants.

Pure Encapsulations Liposomal Vitamin C is available for purchase online.

Life Extension Buffered Vitamin C Powder

Some people find 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 the NIH recommend. 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 are also NSF- and GMP-certified and produce a Certificate of Analysis for every product they make.

Life Extension Buffered Vitamin C Powder is available for purchase online.

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 1–2 per day.

The product is free of common allergens and suitable for vegans. It does contain some sugar and natural sweeteners, although this only totals 1 g 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.

NOW Supplements Orange Chewable Vitamin C-500 is available for purchase online.

Eating more fruits and vegetables is the best way for someone to increase their vitamin C intake naturally. The NIH suggest:

  • 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 vitamin C
  • one medium orange and half a cup of cooked cabbage, which totals 98 mg vitamin C

Some companies also fortify their breakfast cereals with added vitamin C.

High heat, water-based cooking methods, and prolonged storage can destroy some of the foods’ vitamin C content. The NIH suggest lightly steaming or microwaving vegetables to retain more of their nutrients.

Vitamin C deficiency can be fatal if left unaddressed or untreated. Someone should see their doctor if they have symptoms that may indicate a vitamin C deficiency. These include:

  • small red or purple spots on the skin
  • inflamed, swollen, or bleeding gums
  • wobbly teeth or tooth loss
  • corkscrew-shaped hairs
  • depression
  • tiredness
  • joint pain

People should also consult their 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 a supplement.

All forms of vitamin C work in much the same way, but always buy from a reputable seller, and consider the dosage, quality, and price point before buying a product.

Too much vitamin C may cause side effects.

Some people should not take vitamin C, so it is best to consult a doctor before starting any supplement.

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