Can You Take Too Much Vitamin C?

By MaryAnn DePietro, CRT. May 7th 2016

With the flu season fast approaching, some people load up on vitamin C to help their bodies fight off illnesses. Although taking vitamin C will not necessarily prevent a cold or the flu, it does play a role in keeping your immune system functioning at its best. Since vitamin C is not stored in the body, it is important to eat foods that are high in the vitamin. Foods like oranges, red and green peppers, strawberries and grapefruits are all good sources of vitamin C. It is important to get enough vitamin C, but you can also go overboard and take too much. As with most nutrients, finding the right balance for proper intake is needed for good health without negative effects.

Benefits Of Vitamin C

Vitamin C has several essential functions in the body, such as protein metabolism. One of the best known benefits of vitamin C is its role in keeping the immune system functioning properly. A healthy immune system helps the body fight common infections, such as seasonal colds and flu. It is also needed to help maintain healthy bones and teeth and heal cuts and wounds. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant, which helps decrease damage from free radicals. Another benefit of vitamin C is its role in the production of collagen. In addition to physical benefits, vitamin C may also play a part in mood stabilization. According to the Mayo Clinic, in some studies, vitamin C has shown to improve mood.

[Related: Vitamin C Basics]

How Much is Too Much?

Although your body needs vitamin C to function properly, too much may lead to problems. According to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements, the upper limit of vitamin C is 2000 mg per day. Most people would not get such a high dose of vitamin C from food sources only. In order to take in mega doses of vitamin C, supplements are likely taken.

In addition to learning how much vitamin C is too much, it is important to understand what the right balance is for optimal health. The recommended daily allowance of vitamin C is 90 mg for men and 75 mg for women. During pregnancy and breastfeeding women should increase their vitamin C intake to between 85 mg to 120 mg.

If the body does not get enough vitamin C, deficiencies can develop. Symptoms of a vitamin C deficiency can vary depending on how severe the deficiency is and how long it has been going on. Symptoms include bleeding gums, anemia, dry skin and painful joints. According to Medline Plus, a lack of vitamin C can also cause a decrease in the metabolism, which may lead to weight gain.

[See: Vitamin C Deficiency Symptoms And Treatment]

Vitamin C Food Sources Versus Supplements

Taking in too much vitamin C usually only occurs when taking supplements. Most people will not eat large enough quantities of foods containing vitamin C that it will lead to a problem. According to the Mayo Clinic, it is usually advisable for people to try to get the right amount of vitamins through their diet.

[Related: Fruits And Vegetables Versus Supplements]

Supplements don’t offer the exact same benefits as eating whole foods. For instance, when you eat an orange, in addition to vitamin C, it also contains calcium. Vitamin C supplements don’t contain the additional nutrient. Foods that are high in vitamin C include green peppers, baked potatoes, tomatoes, broccoli and citrus fruits. While supplements are not a bad idea, they are not intended to replace eating foods rich in vitamin C. People who may have trouble taking in enough calories or who don’t eat a wide variety of foods may benefit from a supplement.

Vitamin C Toxicity Symptoms

Even vitamins, which are considered good for you, can have negative effects if you take in too much. Although most people can tolerate high levels of vitamin C without any adverse effects, in very high doses, vitamin C toxicity can develop. If huge doses of vitamin C are taken, especially on a regular basis, symptoms, such as diarrhea, nausea and heartburn can develop.

Some studies have also indicated that a large dose of vitamin C overtime may lead to kidney stone formation, according to Oregon State University. There is also some evidence vitamin C supplements in large doses may interfere with radiation therapy and some types of chemotherapy. Although vitamin C supplements taken in the correct dose are usually safe, it is always best to talk to your doctor before taking them.

Vitamin C is essential for helping the body function properly. Without an adequate amount of vitamin C, negative health consequences can develop, but too much of a good thing can also have detrimental affects. Even though most people can tolerate high levels of vitamin C without problems, mega doses should be avoided. As with most nutrients, striking the right balance is key for optimal health.


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