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lundi 22 janvier 2024

Can You Eat Too Much Vitamin C? Here's What Dietitians Say


When you feel a sniffle or the hint of a cold, your go-to move may be reaching for a glass of orange juice or another food or supplement that’s packed with vitamin C. This nutrient, touted for its immune-supporting benefits, is a popular remedy for fighting off illness. But just how much vitamin C is too much?

Here, we consult registered dietitians, explore vitamin C’s potential health benefits and uncover whether you can actually overdo it with vitamin C. So, if you've ever wondered whether your daily dose of vitamin C is too much or just right, read on for expert advice.

What Is Vitamin C?

Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin that’s abundant in many fruits and vegetables. Besides helping along your immune system, it can also help support nutrient absorption, collagen production and wound healing. While citrus fruits might come to mind when you think of vitamin C, other foods like bell peppers, broccoli, kiwi, strawberries and sweet potatoes are also rich in this essential nutrient.

Health Benefits of Vitamin C

It may help you absorb iron more effectively.

Iron is a critical nutrient for optimal health, and research shows vitamin C may significantly enhance iron absorption. This dynamic duo supports your body's ability to absorb iron from plant-based foods, helping keep conditions like iron-deficiency anemia at bay. So next time you enjoy iron-rich plant-based foods like lentils or spinach, pair them with vitamin C-rich foods like bell peppers, sweet potatoes or broccoli. 

Caroline Young, RD, a registered dietitian and owner of Whole Self Nutrition, tells EatingWell, “Plant-based iron sources aren’t as bioavailable as animal-based iron sources. Vitamin C can help enhance the absorption of nonheme iron and therefore support healthy iron levels, potentially aiding in healing iron-deficiency anemia.”

It may improve your immune health.

Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that helps protect your cells from harmful free radicals, bolstering your body's defense system against illness. According to a 2017 study in Nutrients, regular vitamin C intake can help prevent and treat respiratory infections by promoting immune cell function.

“Vitamin C may shorten the duration of colds and make them more manageable,” says Young. “While consuming vitamin C supplements regularly won’t prevent common colds, it may help shorten them and lead to milder symptoms.”

It may help with collagen production.

If you want glowing, supple skin, your body must produce http://collagenStudies show vitamin C is critical in this process. It stimulates collagen production, helping your skin maintain its elasticity and combat signs of aging like wrinkles.

“Vitamin C is important for skin health, including healing wounds and creating collagen, a protein necessary for healthy joints and skin elasticity,” says Young.

How Much Vitamin C Should You Have in a Day?

The recommended daily vitamin C intake varies depending on age, sex and life stage. According to the National Institutes of Health, the recommended daily intake is 90 milligrams for adult men, 75 milligrams for adult women, 85 milligrams for those who are pregnant and 120 milligrams for those who are breastfeeding. 

If you need some extra immune support during cold and flu season or after a strenuous workout, consider temporarily increasing your intake to 100 to 200 milligrams. However, instead of reaching for supplements, strive to maintain a balanced diet rich in various fruits and vegetables. This approach typically provides enough vitamin C to keep your immune system strong and healthy.

Can You Eat Too Much Vitamin C?

While vitamin C offers plenty of health benefits, following the recommended daily intake is essential, as there's a limit to how much your body can effectively absorb. The tolerable upper intake level (UL) for vitamin C varies with age and sex, but it's generally around 2,000 milligrams per day for most adults. Going above this limit can lead to unpleasant side effects like digestive discomfort, including nausea, cramps and diarrhea. 

The NIH cautions that excessive vitamin C intake can pose additional risks for those with certain conditions, such as iron overload disorders or kidney disease. Most individuals don't need to worry about overdoing it as long as they maintain a balanced diet, but consult a health care provider if you're considering a high-dose supplement.

“With long-term excessive vitamin C consumption, it’s possible that kidney stones can develop,” says Blanca Garcia, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist with Health Canal. “Also, an excess amount of vitamin C can increase the absorption of iron, which is not bad for a healthy person, but some people with medical conditions like hemochromatosis can be affected by this.”

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the maximum recommended vitamin C intake per day?

The maximum recommended daily vitamin C intake, determined by the tolerable upper intake level (UL), typically hovers around 2,000 milligrams for most adults. However, it can vary based on factors like age and sex.

2. Is it OK to eat too much vitamin C?

Consuming too much vitamin C is generally safe within the recommended daily limits. However, exceeding the upper intake level can lead to adverse effects such as digestive issues, including nausea, cramps and diarrhea. High doses of vitamin C might be a concern for individuals with specific health conditions, like kidney problems or iron overload disorders. A well-balanced diet should provide sufficient vitamin C for most people, but it's essential to consult a health care provider before taking any high-dose supplements.

The Bottom Line

Vitamin C is an essential nutrient and antioxidant critical for optimal health. It can help enhance iron absorption, fortify your immune system and support collagen production. However, keeping your intake in check is key. The recommended daily intake varies, but most adults can safely consume around 100 to 200 milligrams daily, with an upper limit of 2,000 milligrams daily. Beyond that, you risk unpleasant symptoms like gastrointestinal discomfort. A balanced diet rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables can help you meet your vitamin C needs without overdoing it. For those considering high-dose vitamin C supplements or with specific medical conditions, consult a health care provider or registered dietitian before trying anything new.

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