With winter’s chill in the air, immune health is top of mind. You’re no doubt filling up on foods rich in vitamin C and stocking up on supplements to bolster your immune system for the winter and all year long.
But there are plenty of other reasons to boost your intake of this essential vitamin! Here are five:
1. If you smoke
Studies consistently show that smokers have lower levels of vitamin C than their nonsmoking counterparts. That’s because smoking puts so much oxidative stress on the body that it uses up a ton of C trying to neutralize and counteract the harmful effects of free radicals. So much so that the Institute of Medicine recommends that smokers take in 35 mg more vitamin C every day than nonsmokers. Quitting it not easy, not by a long shot, but with a little help, you can do it.
2. If you are a mature adult
If you’re over 60, you’re likely not consuming enough vegetables and fruit, which means you’re not taking in enough vitamin C–rich foods to meet your body’s needs. Add to that, older adults may not absorb vitamin C as well as those who are younger. In one meta-analysis of 36 studies, researchers found that adults over 60 had considerably lower blood levels of vitamin C than their younger counterparts despite consuming the same amount.1
3. If you’re a weight-conscious athlete
Exercise is good for you, absolutely. But athletes have regular, often intense, activity levels that can increase free radical production to a point where it overruns the body’s ability to fight them. Over time, this can compromise your health. And if you do any type of sport where you must restrict your calorie intake (think wrestling, dancing, or gymnastics), data suggests you may fail to consume enough foods rich in vitamin C to meet the demands of your active lifestyle.2
4. If you take heartburn or anti-ulcer drugs
Proton pump inhibitors are being prescribed more than ever to treat heartburn and stomach ulcers. What’s more, over-the-counter versions of these drugs are readily available. And while reducing the release of stomach acid helps to relieve many symptoms of stomach upset, it also disrupts how the gut absorbs and metabolizes of certain nutrients, including vitamin C. Over time, these drugs not only reduce the amount of vitamin C in gastric juice, but also the amount in its active antioxidant form.3
5. If you sit a lot
Research shows that Americans spend, on average, almost eight hours a day sitting.4 Which can be bad news for the body. When we sit for long periods of time, blood flow decreases and causes pooling within the vessels in your lower legs. This can inhibit optimal function of the endothelium, the thin layer of cells that line arteries and veins. The good news, the right nutrients can help keep endothelial health up.
In a recent crossover study done at Indiana University, Bloomington, researchers found that when healthy men sat for three hours, blood flow in the legs was impaired along with a significant decline in endothelial function. However, when the men repeated the sitting test taking vitamin C (1,000 mg after 30 minutes and another 500 mg after 1-1/2 hours), the decline was prevented.5 Researchers attribute this protective action to vitamin C’s powerful antioxidant properties, which help combat oxidative stress and help maintain healthy blood vessel function. Need more inspiration to sit less? Here are a few ideas to help you get started.
So always make sure you get enough vitamin C, for immune health and more!
1. Brubacher D, Moser U, Jordan P. Vitamin C concentrations in plasma as a function of intake: a meta-analysis. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2000;70(5):226-37. PMID: 11068703.
2. Heaton LE, Davis JK, Rawson ES, et al. Selected in-season nutritional strategies to enhance recovery for team sport athletes: a practical overview. Sports Med. 2017 Jul 12. [Epub ahead of print]. Review. PMID: 28702900.
3. Heidelbaugh JJ. Proton pump inhibitors and risk of vitamin and mineral deficiency: evidence and clinical implications. Ther Adv Drug Saf. 2013;4(3):125-33. PMID: 25083257.
4. Matthews CE, Chen KY, Freedson PS, et al. Amount of time spent in sedentary behaviors in the United States, 2003-2004. Am J Epidemiol. 2008;167(7):875-81. PMID: 18303006.
5. Thosar SS, Bielko SL, Wiggins CC, Klaunig JE, Mather KJ, Wallace JP. Antioxidant vitamin C prevents decline in endothelial function during sitting. Med Sci Monit. 2015;21:1015-21. PMID: 25848890.