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How Much Do You Need?

If you eat a balanced diet, it's pretty easy to get enough. Adult women (who aren't pregnant or breastfeeding) need 75 milligrams of vitamin C per day; men, 90 milligrams. A mere 1/2 cup of raw red bell pepper or 3/4 cup of orange juice will do it, while 1/2 cup cooked broccoli gets you at least halfway there. Your body doesn't make or store vitamin C, so you have to eat it every day.

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photo of drinking and smoking
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Who's Falling Short?

The most likely people include those with an overall poor diet, with kidney disease who get dialysis, heavy drinkers, and smokers. You'll need an extra 35 milligrams of vitamin C per day to help repair the damage caused by free radicals that form when you smoke. If you're among the 7% of Americans who aren't getting enough vitamin C, you'll notice symptoms within 3 months.

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photo of cut healing
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Slow Wound Healing

When you get hurt, levels of vitamin C in your blood and tissue go down. Your body needs it to make collagen, a protein that plays a role in each stage of repairing the skin. And vitamin C helps neutrophils, a type of white blood cell that fights off infection, work well.

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Bleeding Gums, Nosebleeds, Bruises

Vitamin C keeps your blood vessels healthy, and it helps your blood clot. Collagen is also essential for healthy teeth and gums. One study found that people with gum disease who ate grapefruit for 2 weeks noticed their gums didn't bleed as much.

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Weight Gain

Early research has found a link between low levels of vitamin C and higher amounts of body fat, especially belly fat. This vitamin may also play a role in how well your body burns fat for energy.

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Dry, Wrinkled Skin

People who eat a healthy diet with plenty of vitamin C may have smoother, softer skin. One possible reason: Because vitamin C is an antioxidant, it can help protect your skin from free radicals. These break down oils, proteins, and even DNA.

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Tired and Cranky

In a very small study, 6 of the 7 men who had low levels of vitamin C said they felt tired and irritable. That suggests a link, though other things could be playing a role. Another study of 141 office workers found that giving them vitamin C made them feel less tired within 2 hours, especially if their level was lower to start with. Then the effect lasted for the rest of the day.

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Weak Immunity

Since vitamin C has several jobs related to your immune system, it shouldn't surprise you to learn you're more likely to get sick and may have a harder time recovering. There's some evidence that vitamin C can help protect you from illness such as pneumonia and bladder infections. It may even lower your odds of heart disease and some types of cancer.

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Vision Loss

If you have age-related macular degeneration (AMD), it may get worse faster without vitamin C and other antioxidants and certain minerals. Getting enough vitamin C from foods might help prevent cataracts, but we need more research to understand that relationship better.

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Scurvy

Before the 1700s, this potentially deadly disease used to be a huge problem for sailors. Today, it's relatively rare but possible if you get only 10 mg/day of vitamin C or less. People with scurvy also have problems such as loose teeth, cracked fingernails, joint pain, brittle bones, and corkscrew body hair. When you boost vitamin C, symptoms start getting better in a day, and usually it's cured within 3 months.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 01/03/2019 Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on January 03, 2019

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SOURCES:

National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: "Vitamin C Fact Sheet for Consumers," "Vitamin C Fact Sheet for Health Professionals."

Cleveland Clinic: "3 Vitamins That Are Best for Boosting Your Immunity."

BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health: "Vitamin C and alcohol: a call to action."

Maxfield, L. Vitamin C Deficiency (Scurvy), StatPearls Publishing, 2018.

Blood: "A Case Of Vitamin C Deficiency Manifesting With Easy Bruising: Suggestion For a Supplementation Protocol."

International Journal of Surgery Open: "Ascorbic acid deficiency impairs wound healing in surgical patients: Four case reports."

British Journal of Community Nursing: "Vitamin C: a wound healing perspective."

Podiatry Management: "Collagen: Its Role in Wound Healing."

Nutrients: "Enhanced Human Neutrophil Vitamin C Status, Chemotaxis and Oxidant Generation Following Dietary Supplementation with Vitamin C-Rich SunGold Kiwifruit," "Vitamin C and Immune Function."

BMJ: "Investigating easy bruising in an adult."

Atherosclerosis: "Effect of vitamin C on endothelial function in health and disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials."

American Rhinologic Society: "Epistaxis (Nosebleeds)."

Clinical and Diagnostic Laboratory Immunology: "Periodontitis Is Associated with a Low Concentration of Vitamin C in Plasma."

British Dental Journal: "Grapefruit consumption improves vitamin C status in periodontitis patients."

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Plasma ascorbic acid concentrations and fat distribution in 19,068 British men and women in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition Norfolk cohort study," "Dietary nutrient intakes and skin-aging appearance among middle-aged American women."

Journal of Nutrition: "Plasma vitamin C is inversely related to body mass index and waist circumference but not to plasma adiponectin in nonsmoking adults."

Biological Trace Element Research: "Association Between Antioxidant Intake/Status and Obesity: a Systematic Review of Observational Studies."

Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology: "Vitamin C in the treatment and/or prevention of obesity."

Phytotherapy Research: "Vitamin C is one of the lipolytic substances in green tea."

Journal of the American College of Nutrition: "Skin Wrinkling: Can Food Make a Difference?"

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America: "Vitamin C pharmacokinetics in healthy volunteers: Evidence for a recommended dietary allowance."

Nutrition Journal: "Intravenous Vitamin C administration reduces fatigue in office workers: a double-blind randomized controlled trial."

Cochrane: "Vitamin C for preventing and treating pneumonia."

Journal of Current Research in Scientific Medicine: "Antimicrobial activity of Vitamin C demonstrated on uropathogenic Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae."

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on January 03, 2019

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.