Finding the Best Vitamin C Supplement in 2021
In the previous section, we went over our set criteria. Now, it is time to learn more about this vitamin itself. Below, you will find information about its benefits, signs of vitamin C deficiency, best uses of the vitamin, best forms, and other aspects you should know about.
About Vitamin C
Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is one of the best-known vitamins. It’s an essential nutrient for body tissue repair, immunity development, and neuronal tissue protection.
The effects of organic vitamin C were first recognized by James Lind, a Scottish doctor who discovered that citrus fruits are useful in the treatment of scurvy, a common disease at that time among sailors. However, back then, the doctor didn’t actually know what the compound was. It was Dr. Albert Szent-Györgyi who isolated it in 1928, and he named it hexuronic acid. In 1932, it was renamed to ascorbic acid by Walter Haworth.
What Is Vitamin C?
A good vitamin C definition should mention that it is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning it dissolves in liquid. Such compounds easily evacuate through urine when consumed in excess — this is why it’s very hard to overdose on vitamin C.
The total amount of vitamin C that the body can hold for a limited amount of time ranges from 300 mg to around 2,000 mg. Higher levels of the compound are usually maintained in different tissues and cells, with the highest concentrations being in white blood cells, the brain, the pituitary gland, eyes, and adrenal glands. Lower concentrations can be found in saliva, plasma, and red blood cells.
Vitamin C Functions
As the supplement market started advertising all the top rated vitamin C products, most people know about the compound’s antioxidant properties. However, the main functions of the vitamin have more to do with protecting and stabilizing body tissue.
Without going into too much detail, here are the main functions of vitamin C:
- L-carnitine synthesis: the compound plays a crucial role in L-carnitine production. This amino acid is a key factor in the process of burning fat and metabolizing it into energy.
- Neural protection: mature neurons need copious amounts of the compound in order to protect themselves from the stress generated by their activity.
- Cutaneous enzymatic defense: together with vitamin E, it is responsible for capturing and getting rid of free radicals, meaning that your skin will look younger for much longer.
- Intercellular matter production: consuming vitamin C tablets regularly can help improve tissue binding and provide stability to the components of the human body.
- Absorbing iron: ascorbic acid is also known for its ability to bind to iron molecules and help the body absorb it more efficiently.
- Melanogenesis inhibition: vitamin C also helps inhibit the formation of age spots and chloasma on the skin.
- Cardiac system protection: according to some data, vitamin C may have an antioxidant effect on bad cholesterol, preventing it from accumulating in the arteries.
- The formation of collagen: when supplementing with the different forms of vitamin C, you can improve your body’s collagen production and regulation (the compound that contributes to hair, joints, teeth, and skin health). In this case, ascorbic acid also plays the role of a cofactor, as it stabilizes the amino acids that are required for collagen synthesis.
- Neural development: Some research data suggest that brain tissue requires copious amounts of vitamin C to mature.
As of now, experts are still researching the compound and its potential functions in other areas as well.
A part of knowing the best way to take vitamin C is keeping in mind the recommended doses of vitamin C.
The RDA for this compound has changed over the years, with the first recommendation being around 10 mg per day to keep the symptoms of scurvy at bay. Currently, realistic average dosages are closer to ten times higher (with the RDA being between 65 and 100 mg/per day) to reap all the benefits of ascorbic acid.
The truth is, professionals are still having a hard time pinpointing the most optimal dosage that can be applied to everyone.
One thing they all agree on, though, is that the best form of vitamin C consumption is through eating fresh vegetables and fruits daily. It is estimated that people who focus on eating healthy will usually consume around 200-250 mg of ascorbic acid on any given day. Also, these people tend to have fewer cardiovascular problems and may live longer.
Vitamin C can also be administered intravenously, even though it is most often consumed through foods or oral supplementation. In the latter cases, the absorption rate is rather high and mostly intestinal, reaching 90%, especially when consumed in small amounts frequently throughout the day.
High-concentration supplements may be less beneficial since, when taking higher doses (between 1,000 mg and 2,000 mg), the absorption rate drops to around 40%, and the excess will most probably be eliminated through urination within a few hours. This is also why the best vitamin C pills will most likely not be the ones with the highest concentration.
Vitamin C Deficiency and Groups at Risk
Vitamin C deficiency has two distinct phases, with the first stage most often showing as unexplained fatigue followed by metabolic imbalances that may lead to weight gain and obesity.
The second stage can be potentially lethal, even though it is rare in the US. It mostly affects people who suffer from extreme malnutrition, and it tends to come with the following signs:
- Psychiatric disorders and problems: when not consuming enough ascorbic acid-rich foods or vitamin C capsules, neuronal health can deteriorate, which may lead to neurological problems that range from apathy to hypochondria and paranoia.
- Serious infections: ascorbic acid also plays a major role in the development of enzymatic compounds that help fight infections. This means that the lack of vitamin C can dramatically increase the risk of suffering from different infections and illnesses.
- Dental problems: poor ascorbic acid supplementation can also lead to the weakening of the intercellular joints, which, in turn, can cause teeth to fall out and gums to become inflamed.
- Weakness: people with vitamin C deficiencies often have trouble gaining energy, meaning that they also suffer from fatigue.
- Anemia: without consuming enough of the vitamin, the body might not be able to absorb enough iron because vitamin C helps with the absorption.
- Slowly healing wounds: different types of vitamin C sources are essential in the healing process, as ascorbic acid plays a major role in collagen synthesis. Without it, wounds may not even heal — or they might heal but very slowly.
While the majority of people in the US consume enough vitamin C not to suffer from the symptoms above, there are certain groups that are more at risk of suffering from hypovitaminosis C.
- People with eating disorders: those who follow strict diets due to self-image problems and do not supplement them with the best vitamin C tablets are known to be at risk.
- People with restrictive diets: people who can’t eat certain types of foods and have to follow low-variety diets (one particularly low in vegetables and fruits), may also suffer from hypovitaminosis C.
- Alcoholics: excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to several nutritional deficiencies, one of them being vitamin C deficiency.
- Smokers: people who smoke on a regular basis are around 18% more prone to suffering from the symptoms associated with the lack of vitamin C.
- Women who take oral contraceptives: oral birth control use has been linked to lower vitamin C levels in some women.
Interactions with Prescription Medicine and Other Drugs/Treatments
When it comes to determining what the best vitamin C supplement is, it’s always good to know just how the combination ascorbic acid and prescription drugs can affect each other regarding absorption rates, effectiveness, and so on.
For example, vitamin C can increase aluminum absorption in the body when coming into contact with antacids containing aluminum.
In the case of estrogen-based contraceptives, the estrogenic activity becomes more prevalent in the body. With some antipsychotics, it has been shown that vitamin C can decrease their presence in the blood. It is also suspected that, in some cases, ascorbic acid can decrease the side effects of chemotherapy.
On the other hand, even the best vitamin C products can increase the time required to eliminate certain drugs from the body, like in the case of aspirin, paracetamol, and nifedipine.
Even though this may be the case, these effects, for the most part, shouldn’t be severe and shouldn’t pose a serious threat.
Interactions with Other Types of Supplementation
In most cases, the different types of vitamin C products can be used with other supplemental compounds to increase their effects. Different combinations will have different effects, and here are the most common combos you should know about:
- Combined with vitamin E: this combination can result in increased antioxidant capacity and can decrease certain cardiovascular risks, like the oxidation of atheroma plaques.
- Combined with vitamin D: apart from increased antioxidant capacity, it can promote tissue regeneration, maintain better bone health, and decrease cardiovascular risks.
- Combined with magnesium: when taken with magnesium, vitamin C products can increase collagen synthesis, help improve the appearance of the skin and prevent it from aging. If you are looking to improve the health of your skin, look for the best vitamin C pills for the skin along with the top collagen and magnesium products.
- Combined with L-carnitine: in this case, vitamin C can increase the body’s levels of L-carnitine overall, which can lead to increased energy and can increase one’s chances of losing weight successfully.
- Combined with selenium: this combo increases ossification and is useful in the prevention of liver damage.
Fortunately, a lot of the top vitamin C brands produce products that directly come with these combinations, giving users the chance to kill two birds with one stone. Also, people are encouraged to buy separate supplements to meet their needs because the end results are more or less the same.
Foods Rich in Vitamin C — The Best Source of Vitamin C
While proper supplementation is always a good idea, whole foods will undoubtedly remain the best choice for everyone, since they also contain other vital nutrients and vitamins apart from ascorbic acid.
Vitamin C Benefits and Side Effects
A diet that’s rich in this compound will help preserve the body’s internal balance and will show all the associated benefits as soon as regular consumption is established.
The presence of vitamin C in the body can:
- Slow down the aging of the skin
- Lower uric acid levels
- Provide better cutaneous protection
- Heal wounds faster
- Increase levels of vitality and energy
- Improve cardiovascular health
- Control weight better
- Reduce anemia symptoms
- Reduce the convalescence period
As far as negative effects are concerned, as mentioned, overdosing on ascorbic acid is rather difficult, since in healthy people whose kidneys function properly, all excess amounts simply exit the body during urination.
Even though this may be the case, it’s still not recommended to exceed more than 2,000 milligrams a day. When vitamin C pills, for example, are overconsumed, intestinal discomforts may arise. These may include:
- Difficult digestion
- Stomach pain
- Gastroesophageal reflux
With that in mind, people with kidney problems should always see their healthcare provider before considering starting ascorbic acid supplementation.
Groups That Should Reconsider Vitamin C Supplementation
While the vast majority of people do fine when supplementing their diet with vitamin C, some people should be cautious before using these products and seek their doctor’s professional advice.
The following groups should check with their doctor before taking high potency vitamin C products:
- People with certain enzyme and endocrine disorders
- People with high oxalate levels in their urine
- People with high iron levels in their blood
- Pregnant (and breastfeeding) women — in their case, supplementation can be effective in the prevention of gestational hypertension. However, clinical supervision and medical guidance are advised during supplementation, even when supplementing with the top vitamin C products.
People Who Should Take Vitamin C Supplements
Even though, ideally, people should aim at fulfilling their vitamin C needs through vegetables and fruits, everyone who is healthy and has no deficiencies can use ascorbic acid supplements.
For instance, smokers who also take oral birth control pills, and those who are trying to drop weight will greatly benefit from using a good vitamin C supplement. People who suffer from anemia are also encouraged to consider using these supplements.
On a more scientific note, there was a positive relationship found between vitamin C supplementation and decreases in high blood pressure, which makes it also a good option for those who suffer from hypertension.
Types of Vitamin C Supplements
As stated above, some find it hard to hit their RDA of ascorbic acid through food sources only. For them, the usage of supplementation can be a great idea as they can easily reach their daily allowance and they can choose from a wide array of products.
Below, we will list the most common supplement types and add a short description to each:
- Topical vitamin C: these products come in forms of creams and powders and are mostly for cosmetic use as they are mainly used to fix spots and other skin tone irregularities. For those who want to improve skin health, looking for the best vitamin C powder will make perfect sense.
- Bound vitamin C: In this form, ascorbic acid is usually bound to salts and minerals (most commonly to calcium, zinc, or magnesium).
- Pure ascorbic acid: the original form of the vitamin. It is available in its natural form, but you can also get it as an artificial formula, with both of them having similar degrees of absorption and effectiveness. Pure ascorbic acid might not be the best form of vitamin C supplement to take for everyone, as people with more sensitive stomachs can experience digestion problems.
- Vitamin C with bioflavonoids: The latter are plant-based compounds with antioxidant characteristics.
Taking Vitamin C Supplements
Most manufacturers will recommend users to take the products once a day. There’s no real best time to take vitamin C. However, most professionals will agree that for the best results and for better absorption rates, people should opt for taking several smaller doses of the compound throughout the course of the day and most preferably with meals, as this method will produce even higher absorption rates.
Ideally, consuming around 100 to 150 mg of the compound with your main meals is believed to be the best way to supplement your diet and reap all the benefits of the vitamin.
Again, this compound is water-soluble, meaning you don’t have to eat the most effective vitamin C product with food to necessarily improve its absorption rate. However, when you take vitamin C on an empty stomach, you may experience a certain degree of intestinal discomfort.
Vitamin C Price
These products tend to be affordable, generally ranging from $10 to $25. In most cases, the final price isn’t really affected by the brand label, and the main culprits behind the price tag are usually the dose per container and vitamin C concentration.
On the other hand, additional antioxidant compounds, other vitamins, minerals, and plant extracts can make the final product more expensive.
That being said, a cheap vitamin C doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s low-quality or less effective. An inexpensive product may just have a less potent ascorbic acid content or may come in a smaller package when compared to more expensive products.
Now that you know everything about the different types and forms of the compound, its benefits, potential side effects, and dosages, you’ll be able to choose the best vitamin C supplement from our list.