Recently we have been inundated with hype surrounding Vitamin C. So today let’s break it down and find out what all this hype is about! Vitamin C actually describes all compounds which have the same biological activity as ascorbic acid (we see it in our body as ascorbate). We need it for a variety of reasons- firstly, it is essential because we lack an enzyme in our body that enables us to synthesise vitamin C. Additionally, for all you skin care lovers it helps us make collagen. But its most renowned benefit is ANTIOXIDANT POWER! I’m sure you all have heard the term antioxidant thrown around before, but what does it actually mean? Well… We have free radicals in our body, and they can cause serious damage through a process called oxidation (just like how air oxidises metal and creates rust). Vitamin C stops this “rust’ by combining with the free radicals to regenerate into something that is not harmful, and ultimately this stops damage from occurring. This “damage” may be ageing due to lack of collagen production. Consequently, vitamin C stops oxidising harmful things = ANTI-oxidant!

Vitamin C naturally occurs in a variety of fruits and vegetables such as the native Australian fruit Kakadu plum, which has about 50 times more vitamin C than a regular orange. Also blackcurrants, broccoli, kiwi fruit, cauliflower and not to mention citrus fruits. Supplements are very popular, but a linear relationship exists between intake and absorption of vitamin C until a dosage of about 200mg; we cannot push the threshold above this, so this relationship plateaus and the rest of the vitamin C consumed will be excreted in your urine. The recommended intake in Australia is 45mg per day- keep in mind you do not need 2000mg tablets of vitamin C unless you want vitamin C rich urine! 45mg of vitamin C can be achieved easily in your daily diet! For instance, according to the Food Standards in Australia, a 100g orange contains 52mg of vitamin C and 100g of broccoli contains 106mg of vitamin C.

I know many of you will ask if Vitamin C helps with iron absorption- the answer is YES! Vitamin C turns iron to a more bioavailable and soluble complex meaning more will be absorbed easier within our body, but evidence shows that if you are a cigarette smoker or have a poor diet you will have lower concentrations of vitamin C within your body and find it harder to absorb its nutrients.

Therefore, the take-home message is to increase your daily Vitamin C by eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, and don’t be tricked into thinking 2000mg of ascorbate supplements is going to work wonders.


Now the question on everyone’s mind; is it the holy grail? I would say yes!

Naomi (BSc Nutrition, MPH)


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