Vitamin C overdose… is it possible?

There is some controversy around how much vitamin C is good for children. Current recommendations for children are 15 mg for ages 1-3 and 25 mg for 4-8year olds (1).  That’s not very much!  To give you some context, a small orange contains about 51 mg of vitamin C.

But go to the supplement section and you’ll see child vitamin C supplements running up to 1000mg!  That’s a lot…given the recommendations… but is it ok?

vitamin C overdose

Why do we need vitamin C?

Vitamin C is a well known immune system booster, is critical for collagen development, is an important antioxidant. It can also be helpful to relieve constipation due to its natural laxative effects.

Vitamin C is also helpful in deactivating the damaging effects of phytic acid found in grains, nuts and legumes. While these foods can be part of a healthy diet, the phytic acid in them can bind to minerals such as zinc and calcium and leach them out of the body. Vitamin C seems to interrupt this leaching effect.

I have used vitamin C to help children showing signs of low stomach acid as it is an important player in the creation of gastric juice and digestive enzymes.

Linus Pauling became famous over his theory that heart disease, cancer and various infections were in part due to vitamin C deficiency. (2)

So vitamin C is important. Clearly. And boosting levels beyond the recommendations might be helpful if your child is dealing with immune issues, cavities, constipation, or poor wound healing. If your diet is high in grains, nuts and legumes, it might be worth increasing your vitamin C intake because of the phytic acid connection.

But there is some evidence that too much vitamin C may be not so good for the body.

A 2001 study suggested that vitamin C may contribute to the formation of genotoxins that can lead to cancer. (3)

A study done by the American Heart Association suggested that 500mg of vitamin C a day (along with beta carotene and vitamin E) can increase thickening of the arteries (4)

And a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2008 suggested that 1000mg of vitamin C can interfere with antioxidant enzymes leading to reduced endurance in athletes. (5)

So what’s all the confusion about? Is vitamin C good or bad?

Here’s my take on the situation.

As with most nutritional research, the studies raising concerns about vitamin C levels used a synthetic version of the vitamin for the trials – ascorbic acid in this case. Though they have become so, vitamin C and ascorbic acid are not really interchangeable terms!

Ascorbic Acid is an isolated component of Vitamin C. It is usually derived from corn starch (which was probably genetically modified, as most corn now is). Ascorbic Acid has been isolated from the package of antioxidants, enzymes, cofactors and bioflavonoids it is supposed to come with. Ascorbic acid is not the form that is most helpful to the body and, as these studies show, it might be harmful.

I recommend you choose to get your vitamin C from a whole food source.

That way, you get it in the package it was intended and in a dosage that was intended. It comes in a form that is recognized by the body.

As vitamin C is degraded by heat, light and time, I do usually supplement my children’s diet with vitamin C, especially in the winter months when ripe fruits and vegetables are not as easy to come by. I also give them a boost if an illness is circulating in their school.

I suggest you stay away from ascorbic acid and choose other forms of vitamin C. My preferred sources for vitamin C are CamuCamu, Acerola and Elderberry. Fermented foods are also a great choice. Probiotic soda and sauerkraut are loaded with vitamin C.  We have also added this whole food concentrate to our diet which ensures we get the broad spectrum of phytonutrients along with our vitamin C.

What do you think?  I’d love to hear from you.  Post your thoughts in the comments below…





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