When it comes to vitamin C intake, is more always better? Should you take supplements? A dietitian explains.
Vitamin C is thought to be essential in ensuring a healthy immune system. With vitamin C being one of the most sought-after supplements during this virus period, it’s time to be clear about just how much we need, whether there’s a need to supplement – and if so, how much. Yan Yin Phoi, dietitian of thethoughtfuldietitian.com answers our questions.
Will vitamin C supplements really help to boost immunity? Is it worth adding them to my diet? If so, what’s the recommended quantity and frequency?
Yan Yin: Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that our body is unable to produce, which makes it an essential nutrient in our daily diet. It plays a crucial role in our body’s immune response against pathogens, which includes bacteria, viruses, or disease-causing microorganism.
For adults aged over 19 years, males require 105mg while females require 85mg of vitamin C a day.
Vitamin C supplements help fill the gap if you’re unable to obtain a balanced diet that provides you with sufficient vitamin C daily. Therefore, look for vitamin C supplements that provide you with doses to meet your daily requirements above.
However, before you hurry to purchase vitamin C tablets, try to obtain the nutrient through food first. This is because nutrients are most effective for our body when they are consumed in the form of food. At the same time, food sources of vitamin C provide you with other vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are not found in a vitamin C tablet. Studies have shown that other vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, D, E, folate, and zinc are also involved in maintaining a healthy immune function. Therefore, it is important to get a balance from a variety of food groups, rather than focus on one nutrient when strengthening your immune system.
Food items rich in vitamin C include red pepper, broccoli, brussels sprouts, guava, orange, kiwi, and strawberries.
In that case, is there any harm in taking more vitamin C than I need? Most over-the-counter supplements come in 500mg or 1,000mg doses.
Yan Yin: Generally, large doses of vitamin C are not toxic to the body because once your body gets saturated with it, absorption is reduced to less than 50% at doses of more than 1000mg, and any excess gets excreted in the urine. As some people may experience nausea, abdominal cramps, and diarrhoea, the tolerated upper limit for vitamin C consumption is set at 2000mg/day.
Therefore, with vitamin C supplementation, more is not always better as excess is excreted and not well tolerated by the body. If you need to supplement, simply do so with the amount you need.