What is the Correct Amount of Vitamin C? The Vitamin C Controversy

by Stephen

“Drip, drip, drip. It’s hard not to stare at the IV bag of electric-yellow fluid above Ferriss’s right shoulder containing 40 grams of vitamin C, about the same amount as in 40 of those horse pills people swallow when they feel a cold coming on.”  – Outside Magazine July 2011

Vitamin C is a Heavyweight Among Vitamins!

It is necessary for human life, yet oddly humans are among the few animals that do not manufacture vitamin C – we have to eat it.

The majority of animals (like plants) make their own, but not primates (gorillas, monkeys and human beings).

Some birds, insets, fish and bats also lack the gene for manufacturing vitamin C. But animals (such as goats) that do synthesize C may produce huge amounts daily. Gorillas, which must consume vitamin C, get lots of it from fruits—far more than the average human.

A Big Dispute: How Much C Do We Need?

From here it is tempting to jump to the conclusion that more is better. If gorillas need a lot of it, how about humans? It takes just 30 to 60 milligrams of vitamin C daily to prevents scurvy, so wouldn’t four times as much have other health benefits?

If C in food is good, wouldn’t supplements be even more powerful? Wouldn’t a hundred times as much cure the common cold? Prevent cataracts?

Current government guidelines call for 75 milligrams daily for women and 90 milligrams for men—the amount in about 6 ounces of orange juice. Smokers need an extra 35 milligrams a day, as do those exposed to tobacco smoke. The safe upper limit is 2,000 milligrams.

Unfortunately, none of this—no matter how logical it seems—has proved to be the case. We need it to stay healthy, or even alive.  It has yet to be shown that large doses accomplish anything.

It is only one important compound supplied by fruits and vegetables, and the combination of C and other nutrients—not any one substance alone—seems to add up to good health.

“Next, I’d suggest trying 10 grams of vitamin C and MSM daily (go to GNC or any health food store), taken in 2g doses split throughout the day.” – Timothy Ferriss answered user question on September 24, 2011

From 1932 when chemists isolated vitamin C,  until now, no vitamin has been the subject of more research. Thousands of studies of C have been done, at a cost of millions (or billions) of dollars. And yet, we have learned very little.

The wisdom of consuming foods that contain vitamin C is incontestable. But small amounts of the vitamin seem to work as well as larger amounts, and no one has shown that supplements are beneficial.

Despite this evidence many people believe that vitamin C will prevent or cure almost every disease!

Some Facts are Not in Dispute:

  • Vitamin C prevents and cures scurvy, a disease that, because of improvements in diet worldwide, is hardly seen any more.
  • It is a powerful antioxidant, meaning that it neutralizes potentially harmful free radicals in our bodies. (However, it may also, under some conditions, become a pro-oxidant, meaning it can promote the production of free radicals.)
  • It is essential for healthy skin and connective tissue, and for the absorption of iron, as well as other functions.
  • It is water-soluble, and the body can store only small amounts; excess C is eliminated by the kidneys.

Thus, humans must consume vitamin C on a regular basis. Many fruits and vegetables are rich in it, especially citrus fruits, peppers, broccoli, strawberries, and cantaloupe. Cooking and processing reduce vitamin C.

See Table

Other Important Findings About Vitamin C:

  • According to the Natural Standard (a group of scientists that reviews findings in alternative medicine), there is no clear evidence that vitamin C prevents or cures cancer, cataracts, or heart disease.
  • An analysis of studies on antioxidant supplements in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that vitamin C pills do not help people live longer.
  • Many studies have shown that smokers and people exposed to secondhand smoke have lower blood levels of vitamin C and that they need to consume more C—hence the government recommendation that smokers need extra C. Of course, quitting smoking and avoiding smoke would benefit them more.
  • Studies of vitamin C as a possible cancer treatment are underway, but so far the news has not been encouraging. There is also some concern that high doses of C may actually harm cancer patients—for example, by interfering with chemotherapy.

Bottom line:

  • In spite of the thousands of studies conducted since the 1930s, the only certainty is that vitamin C prevents scurvy and plays other basic roles in human health.
  • An intake of 75 to 90 milligrams daily appears to be all you really need.
  • More does not seem to be better, except in the case of smokers—and then only an extra 35 milligrams is needed.
  • If, however, you eat nine servings of fruits and vegetables daily, as is recommend, you’ll get far more C—probably 200 to 500 milligrams a day. There’s no evidence you need this much, but such a diet will also supply many other nutrients that, all together, will help keep you healthy and may reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease. In other words, in striving to consume more C, you’ll improve your diet. Supplementation is not necessary or recommended.

Should you still choose to supplement:

Buffered ascorbic acid can be a better choice.  It combines calcium ascorbate, magnesium ascorbate, and potassium ascorbate to create a neutral pH vitamin C.

  • This special form of ascorbic acid lessens possible gastric irritation in sensitive individuals. The acidity of ascorbic vitamin C can easily cause stomach upset, even leading to diarrhea. The buffered form provides the same benefits, while causing less intestinal irritation, and less likelihood of loose bowels.
  • Due to its calcium and magnesium addition, buffered vitamin C is more slowly absorbed into the system.
  • Buffered vitamin C may also be better suited for the body when taking high doses of the supplement.

Buffered Ascobric Acid

Vitamin C 4-Hour Body Manufacturer: Pure Encapsulations, Now Foods

Vitamin C for sensitive individuals

Each Pure Encapsulation Vegetarian Capsule Contains

  • buffered ascorbic acid 1,000 mg.
  • providing vitamin C equivalent of 500 mg. from:
  • calcium ascorbate 520 mg.
  • magnesium ascorbate 340 mg.
  • potassium ascorbate 140 mg.
  • vitamin C (as ascorbyl palmitate) 20 mg.

Suggested Use:

2-8 vegetarian capsules per day, in divided doses, with or between meals.


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