Vitamin C helps to promote healthy capillaries, gums, teeth, cartilage and the absorption of iron.

What are its health benefits?

Vitamin C has many benefits, but this powerful antioxidant is best known for helping our bodies resist infection, including the common cold. It’s important in the production of collagen, the basis of connective tissue found in the skin, ligaments, cartilage, bones and teeth.

Vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid) makes cuts and other wounds heal faster and helps your body extract iron from the food you eat. It lessens oxidative stress to the body and is thought to lower cancer risk.

Do you have a deficiency?

You are at risk of deficiency if you’re a smoker, regular drinker, take birth control, hormone replacement therapy (HRT), blood pressure medication or if you’re pregnant. Warning signs of a deficiency include:

  • Bleeding gums
  • Low-healing wounds
  • Rheumatic pain in the legs

The chronic vitamin C deficiency disease (scourge of the sailors of old) is scurvy, due to lengthy shortages of fresh fruit and vegetables. This is unlikely to occur in developed countries nowadays, but milder deficiency can occur. These warning signs include:

  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Tiredness
  • The appearance of red dots on the skin

A vitamin C deficiency can be treated with supplements of vitamin C and a diet rich in vitamin C.

Find it in these foods

Contrary to popular belief, oranges are not the best source of vitamin C. Bell peppers, kiwis and papaya contain significantly more of this nutrient. Other vitamin C foods include:

  • Citrus fruits
  • Tomatoes
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Strawberries
  • Bell peppers
  • Grapefruits
  • Blackcurrants
  • Kiwi fruits
  • Tomatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Asparagus

Recommended dietary allowance (RDA)

A typical dosage is 60 to 70mg, but nutritionists say 500 to 1000mg is optimal. However, consult with your Clicks pharmacist first regarding the right dosage of daily oral supplements to make up for a vitamin C deficiency, particularly during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Know the overdose risks

An excessive intake of vitamin C supplements may cause these side effects:

  • Headaches
  • Diarrhoea
  • Nausea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Fatigue
  • Nerve damage
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Cramps
  • Increases the risk of kidney stones and even gastric cancer

Ensure you discuss dietary supplementation with your Clicks pharmacist to avoid the potential for side effects and adverse interactions with medications.

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The accuracy of this information was checked and approved by Clicks' pharmacist Waheed Abdurahman in February 2015