Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin. Unlike most mammals and other animals, humans do not have the ability to make ascorbic acid and must obtain vitamin C from the diet.
Food Sources of vitamin C
Vitamin C can be found in vegetables and fruits. Citrus fruits are especially high in vitamin C, but leafy greens and many other fruits and vegetables are also excellent sources. Choose fresh foods as your source of vitamin C as heat can destroy this vitamin.
Foods that provide vitamin C include: orange juice, grapefruit juice, kiwi, strawberries, broccoli, grapefruit, baked potato, tomato, spinach
Do you know that one medium orange gives you about 70mg of Vitamin C?
Why you need vitamin C during pregnancy
Both you and your baby need vitamin C daily because it's necessary for the body to make collagen, a structural protein that's also a component of cartilage, tendons, bones, and skin. Based on animal studies, some researchers believe that vitamin C deficiencies in newborn babies can impair mental development. (1)
Other than that, Vitamin C is also essential for healthy skin, tissue repair, wound healing, bone growth and repair. Vitamin C helps your body fight infections, improves your immune system and acts as an antioxidant, protecting cells from damage.
Vitamin C also helps your body absorb iron, especially from vegetarian sources. One tip will be to take Vitamin C together with iron supplements during pregnancy.
How much vitamin C do you need?
Pregnant women age 18 and younger: 80 milligrams (mg) per day
Pregnant women age 19 and older: 85 mg per day
Breastfeeding women age 18 and younger: 115 mg per day
Breastfeeding women age 19 and older: 120 mg per day
Nonpregnant women age 18 and younger: 65 mg per day
Nonpregnant women age 19 and older: 75 mg per day (2)
What are the signs of a vitamin C deficiency?
Signs include fatigue, muscle weakness, joint and muscle aches, bleeding gums, and leg rashes. Prolonged deficiency can cause scurvy, a rare but potentially severe illness.
Are there any risks associated with too much vitamin C?
Vitamin C is generally regarded as safe. Side effects are rarely reported, but may include diarrhea, nausea, abdominal cramps, and other gastrointestinal symptoms.
For most healthy individuals, the body can only hold and use about 200-250 mg of vitamin C a day, and any excess is lost though urine. At times of illness, during recovery from injury, or under conditions of increased oxidative stress (including smoking), the body can use greater amounts. High doses of vitamin C (greater than 2,000 mg/day) may contribute to the formation of kidney stones, as well as cause severe diarrhea, nausea, and gastritis. (3)
1. Tveden-Nyborg P, Lykkesfeldt J. Does vitamin C deficiency result in impaired
brain development in infants? Redox Rep. 2009;14(1):2-6.
How important is Vitamin C? Interestingly even after I have gone through medical school and learnt about myocardial infarction, it has never been mentioned that Vitamin C deficiency could be a risk factor. It is always the more common stuff like smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol etc (everything that is bad for your health). What is even more interesting is this study was done in 1997 (way before I did med school) and published in British Medical Journal (BMJ) which is in fact one of the top medical journals in the world.
In 1997, a group of researchers from Finland evaluated 1605 healthy men of randomly selected age of 42, 48, 54 and 60 with no evidence of pre-existing heart disease and they found that men deficient in Vitamin C measured by low plasma ascorbate concentration have a 350% increased incidence of sudden heart attacks compared to those who are not deficient (1).
In fact, they also found that Vitamin C deficiency was associated to raised blood pressure and this is in line with another clinical trial that investigated the effect of antioxidant supplementation on blood pressure in 40 middle aged men where the mean systolic blood pressure decreased by 12.5mm Hg in the supplemented group and by 5.2mm Hg in the placebo group (2).
So what is your Vitamin C level?
1: Nyyssönen K, Parviainen MT, Salonen R, Tuomilehto J, Salonen JT. Vitamin C deficiency and risk of myocardial infarction: prospective population study of men from eastern Finland. BMJ. 1997 Mar 1;314(7081):634-8. PubMed PMID: 9066474; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2126082.
2. Salonen R, Korpela H, Nyyssönen K, Porkkala E, Salonen JT. Reduction of blood pressure by antioxidant supplementation: a randomised double-blind clinical trial. Life Chemistry Reports1994; 12:65–8.
Vitamin C is vital in all stages of preconception, pregnancy and childbirth. Interestingly the concentration of Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is reported to be much higher in human follicular fluid than in blood serum. This suggests that vitamin C may play a role as an antioxidant vitamin during follicular maturation.
According to a study done in Japan on women with luteal phase defects, serum progesterone levels were significantly elevated in the treatment group after one cycle of Vitamin C (750 mg/day until positive pregnancy test) treatment, but not in the control group (1). What is statistically significant was nineteen patients (25%) in the ascorbic acid supplementation group and 5 patients (11%) in the control group became clinically
pregnant. All pregnancies occurred in patients in whom the luteal phase defect resolved, whether spontaneously or as a result of vitamin C supplementation.
In the same study it was also found that vitamin C supplementation significantly improved progesterone levels in 53% of luteal phase defect cases. It is important to highlight that ascorbic acid's principal functions, namely its promotion of collagen synthesis, its role in hormone production, and its ability to protect cells from free radicals, which may explain its reproductive actions (2).
1: Henmi H, Endo T, Kitajima Y, Manase K, Hata H, Kudo R. Effects of ascorbic acid supplementation on serum progesterone levels in patients with a luteal phase defect. Fertil Steril. 2003 Aug;80(2):459-61. PubMed PMID: 12909517.
2. Luck MR, Jeyaseelan I, Scholes RA. Ascorbic acid and fertility. Biol Reprod. 1995 Feb;52(2):262-6. Review. PubMed PMID: 7711198.2.
Dr Nicole Ng (MBBS) is a medical doctor with a passion in women's health and medical research