Is your immune system crying out for a health boost? Vitamin C is considered one of the best natural remedies to combat illness, but does it really work as well as we think it does? We asked our pharmacists to give us the real lowdown on the benefits of vitamin C
Dubbed as one of the best natural cold remedies out there, vitamin C is used in a multitude of health supplements and immune-boosting potions, all of which claim to keep your body healthy and fighting fit. Doctors, pharmacists and health care professionals all over the world advise taking large doses of vitamin C to prevent common illness such as colds, coughs and flu, but is there really any truth to this? Here’s what our pharmacists say about the benefits of vitamin C…
Why do we need vitamin C?
Our bodies don't make vitamin C naturally, but it’s an essential nutrient for keeping our bodies healthy: vitamin C is a natural antioxidant, and it’s needed for the growth of tissues in the body such as skin, blood vessels, and bone. It’s also essential in the synthesis of collagen, a critical component of connective tissue that helps to heal wounds. Citrus fruits, red and green peppers, watermelon, tomatoes and leafy greens are among the best sources of vitamin C.
The Recommended Dietary intake for men is 90 milligrams (mg) per day, and for women, it's 75 mg per day.
What effect does vitamin C have on our immune systems?
Vitamin C has been shown to support a vast number of immune mechanisms in the body. Your white blood cells, for example, are an important component of your immune system. You have several different types of white blood cells, each of which help to fight off illness-causing viruses and bacteria in different ways.
Vitamin C helps to stimulate both the production and function of many of these types of white blood cells. It also helps your body to produce important antibodies: proteins that bind invading microbes to neutralise them. And vitamin C’s powerful antioxidant properties help to protect certain white blood cells from the toxic compounds they produce in their fight against pathogens. In other words, it’s an essential nutrient to keep your immune system healthy and strong.
So, does vitamin C really cure colds and illness?
In summary, vitamin C is essential for the optimal function of immune cells within the body. Hence, the regular intake or higher dosage during a cold and flu will help reduce the severity and duration of the infection.
If you’re vitamin C deficient, it means your immune cells won’t function properly, and you’re more at risk of illness and infection. Whilst vitamin C won’t necessarily cure a cold, keeping your levels topped up in advance will reduce your chances of illness from the outset.
We recommend regular intake of vitamin C from fruits, vegetables and food, but you can also increase your levels by taking a regular supplement, too. Here are Dan, our pharmacist’s, expert recommendations below.
Best Vitamin C Brands: Our Top 3 Edit
This potent powder combines a high dose of various forms of vitamin C, together with zinc, vitamin E, betacarotene and rutin, in an easy-to-mix-and-drink oral powder for immune system and antioxidant support. This is one of my favourite products. It’s vegan and vegetarian friendly, plus it combines three different versions of Vitamin C (ascorbates). It also comes in chewable tablet form, for those who prefer a simple, quick supplement.
This great tasting effervescent formula contains vitamin C to support immune function, reduce the severity and duration of cold symptoms, maintain skin health and provide healthy antioxidant activity. Super convenient, pop this dissolving tablet in a reusable bottle for on-the-go, or just in a cup at home to slowly savour.
Loved our advice on the benefits of vitamin c? We've got plenty more health advice on our Health & Wellness Edit, guaranteed to give your body a well-deserved boost. Want to know if it's safe to take someone else's antibiotics? Plus find out what your headache is trying to tell you.