©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Vitamin C can help strengthen your immune system and help ward off colds.

With Vitamin C so readily available in commonly available fruits and vegetables, meeting the recommended daily allowance (RDA) isn't typically an issue. Let's take a look though at how much we do need, and what the resulting effect on our bodies is when we don't get enough ascorbic acid in our diets.

Vitamin C Requirements

The RDA for vitamin C is 75 mg daily for women and 90 mg for men, with an additional 10 mg for pregnant women and an additional 45 mg for women who are breast-feeding. The RDAs now indicate that smokers need at least 100 mg of vitamin C a day.

These amounts are several times what's needed to treat deficiency symptoms. Even so, many people believe these levels are not high enough for optimal nutrition, which deals more with vitamin C's antioxidant properties than with prevention of a deficiency.

Deficiency

The classic vitamin C deficiency disease is scurvy. Early signs of the disease are bleeding gums and bleeding under the skin, causing tiny pinpoint bruises. The deficiency can progress to the point that it causes poor wound healing, anemia, and impaired bone growth.

The body normally stores about 1,500 mg of vitamin C at a time, and symptoms of a deficiency do not occur until the body pool is less than 300 mg. It would take several weeks on a diet containing no vitamin C for this drop to occur in an otherwise well-nourished person.

Since only 10 mg of vitamin C is needed daily to prevent scurvy, the disease is rarely seen today. Even without signs of scurvy, a low intake of vitamin C can compromise many body functions, including the ability to rid the body of cholesterol and the immune system's ability to fight off infection and disease.

People who smoke and women who use oral contraceptives have lower than normal blood levels of vitamin C. In light of these findings in smokers, the current RDAs raised the amount of vitamin C required for smokers. They may need as much as 100 percent more vitamin C in their diets than nonsmokers.

For more information on Vitamin C, check out the links below:

  • Learn about the healing power of vitamin C by reading Benefits of Vitamin C.
  • To find out more about Vitamin C in general, check out What Is Vitamin C?
  • Fortunately, Vitamin C is abundant in many food sources, to find out which are your best bets check out Foods That Contain Vitamin C.
  • If you're not fond of fruits and vegetables, but still want to make sure you're getting enough Vitamin C, read Vitamin C Supplements.
  • To learn about the many vitamins in our diet, how much you should be eating, and where to find them, go to our general Vitamins page.
  • To find the best prices on vitamin C supplements, click here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:Jennifer Brett, N.D. is director of the Acupuncture Institute for the University of Bridgeport, where she also serves on the faculty for the College of Naturopathic Medicine. A recognized leader in her field with an extensive background in treating a wide variety of disorders utilizing nutritional and botanical remedies, Dr. Brett has appeared on WABC TV (NYC) and on Good Morning America to discuss utilizing herbs for health.