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Too much vitamin C can lead to health problems
The water-soluble vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, is vital and has many different functions. Since it cannot be stored in the body, a continuous intake of the vitamin is necessary. However, if you consume too much, you risk health problems such as digestive problems.
Because the body does not produce or store vitamin C, it is important to absorb the essential nutrient through the diet. The best vitamin C suppliers are vegetables and fruits. However, some people also take dietary supplements. But be careful: too much of the vitamin can lead to health problems. This is what the renowned Mayo Clinic (USA) points out in a current article.
Involved in many metabolic processes
As the German Society for Nutrition (DGE) explains on its website, vitamin C is involved in many metabolic processes. Among other things, it is used to build up connective tissue (collagen), bones and teeth.
According to experts, vitamin C has an antioxidant effect, which means that it traps harmful compounds such as free radicals and reactive oxygen species and thus protects the cells and molecules in the body from damage. During digestion, it improves the utilization of iron from plant foods and also inhibits the formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines.
Which foods contain a lot of vitamin C?
Vegetables and fruits and products made from them, such as juices and smoothies, are the best suppliers of vitamin C. Examples of foods with a particularly high vitamin C content include sea buckthorn berries (juice), sweet peppers, black currants and parsley (> 100 mg / 100 g).
Due to their high vitamin C content and the amount consumed, citrus fruits, potatoes, cabbage, spinach and tomatoes are also important for the vitamin C supply.
Recommended intake depends, among other things, on age
The recommended intake of vitamin C depends on age and, from adolescence, also on gender. It is 20 mg per day in infants and children under the age of four and rises to 85 mg per day in 13- to 15-year-olds.
For male 15 to under 19 year olds, the recommended intake according to the DGE is 105 mg per day, for female 90 mg per day. In adults, it is 110 mg per day for men and 95 mg for women. According to the experts, pregnant women and breastfeeding women have an increased need, so the recommended intake is 105 mg for pregnant women and 125 mg for breastfeeding women. And for smokers, a recommended daily intake of 135 mg for women and 155 mg for men is given.
These reference values for the intake of vitamin C are easily accessible through the diet. As the DGE explains, more than 155 mg of vitamin C are already in:
- half a red pepper (75 g) and a small glass of orange juice (125 ml); or:
- 200 g boiled potatoes, 150 g spinach (steamed) and 1 orange; or:
- 150 g Brussels sprouts (cooked), 1 apple and 2 medium-sized tomatoes.
Discomfort caused by vitamin C in food is unlikely
According to the Mayo Clinic's contribution, too much vitamin C in food is unlikely to be harmful. However, large doses of vitamin C supplements can lead to health problems such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, abdominal cramps, headaches and insomnia.
In addition, there are some groups of people who, according to the DGE, have an increased risk of harmful side effects from increased vitamin C intake. These include kidney-damaged people, people with a predisposition to urinary or kidney stones or with disorders in the utilization of food iron (hemochromatosis, hemosiderosis, thalassemia major).
Too little vitamin C can harm you
As explained on the public health portal of Austria "Gesundheit.gv.at", too little vitamin C can lead to fatigue, weakness and bleeding gums.
In addition, there may be an increased need for people under permanent stress, with heavy physical exertion, alcohol and medication abuse as well as various diseases such as infections. According to the experts, a chronic vitamin C deficiency is very rare in our latitudes (formerly: vitamin deficiency disease scurvy). (ad)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- Mayo Clinic: Is too much vitamin C harmful ?, (accessed: June 21, 2020), Mayo Clinic
- German Nutrition Society (DGE): Selected questions and answers on vitamin C, (accessed: June 21, 2020), German Nutrition Society (DGE)
- Public health portal of Austria "Gesundheit.gv.at": Vitamin C, (accessed: June 21, 2020), Gesundheit.gv.at