Experts Weigh In on the Benefits of Taking Vitamin C Supplements

Vitamin C is one of the most popular nutritional supplements on the market, and it's easy to see why. Vitamin C is widely touted as helping to boost the immune system and support skin health, among other benefits, which makes it a common choice for consumers, especially during cold and flu season. But while there's no question that vitamin C is essential for supporting overall health, whether it's as effective when taken in supplement form isn't as clear. POPSUGAR turned to the experts to find out if vitamin C supplements are worth it or if you're better off saving your money and skipping those pills altogether.

Are Vitamin C Supplements Actually Effective?

"Vitamin C is one of the few safe and effective supplements we can take," Liana Casusi, MD, a medical consultant at Oh So Spotless, tells POPSUGAR. "There is actually more good than harm, and even with accidental ingestion of large doses of this vitamin, major side effects rarely occur."

Taking vitamin C in supplement form may reduce cold and flu symptoms by a whopping 85 percent, according to the results of one study. While other data shows more modest results, supplementing with vitamin C doesn't appear to make cold and flu symptoms worse, so there's really no harm in taking it when you're sick. However, there's no evidence to suggest that vitamin C can reduce the risk of more serious conditions. "Vitamin C supplements aren't a preventative treatment for more serious disease such as cancer and metal toxicity, at least according to the available data," says Melissa Azzaro, RDN, host of the podcast "Hormonally Yours."

Vitamin C Supplement Benefits

Vitamin C supplements are easy to come by, relatively inexpensive, and typically well-tolerated. And while immune health is the darling of vitamin C's potential benefits, according to Azzaro, this nutrient plays an important role in many functions beyond warding off colds and flu, including:

  • Supporting collagen formation in the body
  • Enhancing iron absorption
  • Supporting bone health
  • Preventing scurvy
  • Combatting inflammation

Should You Take Vitamin C Supplements?

The million-dollar question of whether you should take vitamin C supplements is difficult to answer without knowing more details about your diet and lifestyle. Supplemental needs vary based on many factors, including a person's diet and medical history. "Certain populations do appear to benefit from routine vitamin C supplementation, including athletes, people with a low plasma vitamin C concentration, and people with a high risk of infection," Azzaro says.

Routinely taking vitamin C is generally not recommended for every single person, as deficiency of this nutrient is quite rare. If you're eating vitamin C-rich foods like citrus, red bell peppers, and kiwis, you're likely meeting your vitamin C needs already, and supplementation may not be necessary.

How Much Vitamin C Should You Take?

Should you decide to start taking vitamin C supplements, you may ask yourself, "How much is enough?" Vitamin C supplements come in a wide variety of doses, from as low as 50 mg to as high as a whopping 5,000 mg. "There is no 'best' dose recommendation when it comes to vitamin C supplemental intake, as each person has different nutritional needs," Azzaro explains.

Azzaro adds that 500 to 1,000 mg a day is "generally tolerable for most people," but she recommends you consult with your healthcare provider, who can help determine the best dose for you.