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Vitamin C: More than Just Immunity

Sure, you load up on vitamin C at the first sigh of a cold, but this basic nutrient can do so much more—including helping the body burn fat.

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Vitamin C is more than essential for health—it’s integral to life itself. It helps maintain our blood vessels and plays key roles in energy production and mood, as well as in skin, bone, and cartilage maintenance. Here’s what you need to know.


Research has revealed multifaceted benefits, including:

  • Energy. Your body needs vitamin C to make L-carnitine, which helps you burn fat for energy. In one study, 44 workers received 6 grams of vitamin C daily. After two weeks, their fatigue had decreased by almost one-third.
  • Skin and Bone. C has numerous skin benefits, in part because it helps produce collagen, the predominant protein in the body. Collagen forms part of all our tissues, including skin, organs, cartilage, and bone. Some research shows that combination lotions can improve skin tone and reduce fine wrinkles. Other research suggests that C reduces the risk of bone fractures.
  • Moods and Mental Health. Vitamin C is needed to manufacture several mood-enhancing neurotransmitters, including dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine. Given this role, it’s not surprising that high levels of the vitamin are associated with better moods. Some research shows that supplementation can prevent or reduce symptoms of anxiety.
  • Infection Fighter. It really can’t prevent the common cold, but this powerhouse vitamin can reduce symptoms and duration by about one-third. The most beneficial dosage range is 2,000–6,000 mg, spread out over the course of a day.
  • Cancer Treatment. Considerable research indicates that large doses of vitamin C are helpful as an adjunct therapy for cancer patients, especially when given intravenously. It has been found to be particularly helpful in reducing nausea, improving appetite, and enhancing overall quality of life in cancer patients.

How Much?

Nearly all animals make their own vitamin C from glucose, but our human ancestors lost this ability some 25 million years ago, so we have to obtain vitamin C through our diets. How much? Based on other animals, a 150-pound human may need anywhere from 2,000 to 13,000 mg daily—more if stressed by illness.

And getting enough is important. Doctors and dietitians have long known that scurvy is a sign of vitamin C deficiency. The disease involves extreme fatigue, bruising, and bleeding from orifices and old skin injuries.

On the other hand, taking too much can loosen stools, which might actually be a benefit to people who are constipated. The late Robert Cathcart III, MD, suggested using the “bowel tolerance” method for determining your ideal dosage. Take supplements three to four times daily, but keep the dosage a little below the amount that loosens your stools.