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The Pros and Cons of Vitamin C Supplementation

Vitamin C is an essential vitamin for human health, however the human body cannot synthesize vitamin C on it's own and must consume it from the diet or supplementation. Vitamin C is also referred to ascorbic acid.

Ascorbic acid is an antioxidant, meaning it protects the body from oxidative stress and inflammation. If you have a hard time understanding the term oxidative stress, think of the rust that forms on metal. Rusting is due to oxidation of the metal. When there is an imbalance between free radicals that cause oxidative stress and antioxidants, damage to cells occurs.

Vitamin C helps to tip the scales to quench the damaging effects of free radicals in the body.

What are examples of factors that increase free radicals and therefore oxidative stress? Alcohol, smoking, obesity, a poor diet, stress, environmental toxins, and lack of exercise are just several. Clearly, modern life exposes us to many of these risk factors and therefore it's prudent to consider ways to increase your consumption of antioxidants.

Ways To Consume Vitamin C

The highest sources of vitamin C in the diet are citrus fruit, white potatoes, cruciferous vegetables, bell peppers, blackcurrants, strawberries, guava, papaya, and cantaloupe.

Vitamin C can also be supplemented in various forms. Vitamin C can be taken in oral capsules, tablets, gummies, and liquids. Vitamin C can even be delivered as an intravenous drip!

The benefit of supplementation is that any excess vitamin C is simply excreted through the urine since vitamin C is water-soluble. In other words, it's extremely difficult to overdose on vitamin C via supplementation.

Note that adult men and women (non-pregnant and non-lactating) require 75-90mg of vitamin C daily to meet the minimum of what the body needs to function.

Vitamin C is so important that in olden times, sailors experienced a disease called scurvy due to lack of vitamin C consumption on long voyages across the sea. Scurvy causes weakness, gum disease, and joint swelling.

Cons of Vitamin C Supplementation

Let's start with the cons of vitamin C to end the course of this article on a high note with the pros. Fortunately, the cons of vitamin C are far overshadowed by the pros.

Con #1: Vitamin C Can Increase Risk of Kidney Stone

Kidney stones are hard deposits of minerals and salts that can form within the kidneys. The kidneys are the first organ of the urinary tract system because they filter waste out of the blood. This waste is excreted out of the human body via the urine.

Kidney stones can cause intense pain, vomiting, fever, chills, and blood in the urine.

The primary type of kidney stone is calcium oxalate kidney stones. Yes, not all kidney stones are the same! There are multiple kinds of kidney stones based on the minerals and salts that are combined.

Vitamin C increases urinary excretion of oxalates, thus increasing risk of kidney stones.

If you are prone to kidney stones, it's advisable to stay at a reasonable dose of vitamin C. In fact, the Canadian Urological Association recommends not consuming more than 1,000 mg daily to reduce risk of kidney stones.

Con #2 Vitamin C Can Cause Loose Stool

Did you know vitamin C can change your bowel movements? High doses of vitamin C are known to cause diarrhea. The reason high doses of vitamin C causes diarrhea is because there is always a percentage of vitamin C that is not absorbed. The higher the dose of vitamin C, the more unabsorbed vitamin C accumulates in your body. This high amount of unabsorbed vitamin C gets expelled by the body in the form of diarrhea.

Fortunately, this effect is entirely reversible simply by lowering your vitamin C dosages.

Pros of Vitamin C Supplementation

The upsides of vitamin C are incredibly vast with benefits to nearly every organ system. Vitamin C supplementation has been observed to reduce risk of death from any cause. It would be impossible to touch on every benefit of vitamin C without creating a textbook, so for the purpose of this article, only several benefits of vitamin C will be discussed.

Pro #1 Vitamin C Improves Skin Health

The skin has structural proteins called collagen and elastin that provide structural support, firmness, and elasticity to the skin. If you want to age gracefully by preventing fine lines and wrinkles, vitamin C supplementation might be for you.

Unfortunately, the percentage of collagen in the skin declines by about 1% each year starting in the late 20s to early 30s.

Skin aging is related to oxidative stress in the skin. Oxidative stress accelerates the loss of collagen and elastin, causing wrinkles, fine lines, thin crepey skin, and volume loss. The high antioxidant capacity of vitamin C helps protect the skin from these effects.

Pro #2 Vitamin C Improves Joint Comfort

If you are middle-aged or older, you may be no stranger to aches and pains in your joints. Joints, especially as we age, are prone to wear-and-tear and inflammation which causes pain. In fact, arthritis affects half of adults over 65 years old.

Research studies show that arthritic joints injected with vitamin C show an attenuation in oxidative damage within the joint, promoting a less inflamed environment. The question is, can the same be said for oral vitamin C supplementation? The answer is yes!

Studies of subjects given oral vitamin C with knee arthritis found that their knees appeared healthier and less inflamed on radiographic scans after vitamin C supplementation.

Consider adding vitamin C to your routine to return to the bustling, active life that you desire.


If you are interested in vitamin C supplementation, there are many pros and cons to be aware of. Fortunately, the pros outweigh the cons by far. Vitamin C supplements your body with powerful antioxidants that fight inflammation. As with any new supplement, be sure to consult with your physician to ensure vitamin C is right for you as various medications or medical conditions may be contraindications for vitamin C therapy.

Dr. Laurel Ash ND, MS

Dr Laurel Ash, ND, MS is an Oregon and Washington board-certified Naturopathic Physician. With a passion for nutritional health, Dr Ash earned her doctorate in Naturopathy from the National University of Natural Medicine while receiving her masters in Integrative Mental Health. Her unique combination of evidence-based research and skilled knowledge in holistic medicine has allowed Dr. Ash to successfully treat many with a wide-range of issues.