Healthy Aging

Do You Need To Increase Your Vitamin C Levels As You Age?

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Do You Need To Increase Your Vitamin C Levels As You Age? about Brain Vitality Plus

Vitamin C Supplements: Do You Need To Increase Your Vitamin C Levels As You Age?

Research over the last decade has established that many people entering their golden years are running low on one important vitamin.

We're talking about vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid. You may think you know all you need to know about vitamin C. But recent studies are still making new findings about its importance.

The latest studies show that many folks begin to run short of vitamin C in middle age-- in their forties to be exact.  However, many conventional doctors still don't take vitamin C supplements seriously and fail to recognize that people frequently don't get enough vitamin C intake as they get older.

Let's take a closer look at why vitamin C matters to healthy aging and how to optimize your levels through vitamin C rich foods and vitamin C supplements.

 Key Takeaways

  • Vitamin C plays a key role in healthy aging and longevity. Vitamin C is vital for collagen synthesis and plays an essential role in the growth and repair of tissues throughout the body. Vitamin C protects cells against oxidative stress and is essential to a strong immune system.

  • Many people begin to experience lower levels of vitamin C in middle age and need to increase their intake as they get older, especially when suffering with health problems.

  • Older adults, in particular, may not get enough vitamin C and should consider increasing their intake through diet and vitamin C supplements. Adequate dosages for vitamin C supplements vary based on one's health status, but there are simple guidelines you can follow.

What is Vitamin C and Why Does it Matter to Your Body?

Vitamin C is an essential nutrient required for various healthy bodily functions. First of all, it's necessary for the biosynthesis of collagen, L-carnitine, and certain brain neurotransmitters, and is involved in protein metabolism. Without any one of these processes, your body would grow very sick.

Vitamin C is water-soluble and not stored in the body, so it needs to be consumed regularly through a balanced diet and, especially as you get older, supplements. We'll get to the debate surrounding proper dosages in just a minute, but first let's take a closer look at some of the important functions vitamin C supports in your body.

Vitamin C Increases Collagen

Vitamin C is needed for the growth and repair of tissues in all parts of the body. It is essential for the formation of an important protein called collagen, which is used to make skin, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels. Collagen is also vital for young-looking skin and effective wound healing.

Vitamin C has been shown to stabilize collagen mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid) which leads to increased collagen protein synthesis for the repair of damaged or aging skin. Vitamin C can also help boost the body's natural production of collagen. 

If you're interested in the science surrounding vitamin C's effects on collagen, here's more information: Specifically, studies have demonstrated that vitamin C and its derivatives can enhance collagen synthesis and its use by normal human fibroblasts-- or cells that contribute to the formation of connective tissue. As a result, vitamin C contributes to the maintenance of optimal collagenic density throughout the skin and the body.

In other words, vitamin C is integral to the production, maintenance, and repair of collagen in the body, making it essential for skin health, tissue repair, and overall structural support of every tissue in your body. It's no wonder anti-aging doctors have long pointed to vitamin C supplements as a promoter of longevity and an integral part of an anti-aging regimen!

Of course, that's just the beginning...

Vitamin C: A Potent Physiological Antioxidant

Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant agent and free radical scavenger that can protect the cell from oxidative stress, disorganization of the cellular structure, telomere loss-- those endcaps at the end of chromosomes that are linked to longevity-- and prolong lifespan.

Additionally, vitamin C acts as a physiological antioxidant. A physiological antioxidant is defined as a low-molecular-weight antioxidant that can safely interact with free radicals and terminate the chain reaction before vital molecules and cells are damaged.

Vitamin C is the leading water-soluble antioxidant in the body, protecting cells from oxidative damage caused by free radicals and reactive oxygen species in your body and in the environment. Vitamin C also plays a vital role by regenerating other antioxidants such as vitamin E. And it's known for its ability to protect glutathione -- your body's master antioxidant-- from oxidation.

Vitamin C's potent antioxidant ability is one reason that it's a must to fight chronic diseases and illnesses of all kinds.

Vitamin C: A Powerful Immune Booster

Vitamin C's best-known role is perhaps being a key player in the immune system, helping to prevent infections and fight chronic diseases.

Vitamin C has been shown to protect immune cells called leukocytes from self-inflicted oxidative damage and enhance the function of phagocytic leukocytes specifically, which are important for fighting infections.

Laboratory tests at the La Jolla Institute of Immunology show that vitamin C is necessary for the creation and proper function of the type of immune cells (called T regs) that can protect you from autoimmune diseases like type-1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, etc. These researchers say population studies should be done to see if low levels of vitamin C are linked to high levels of autoimmune diseases (which is what they expect in view of what they’ve already learned). They also note that being low in vitamin C increases the risk for blood cancer.

Basically, vitamin C's role as a physiological antioxidant is critical for protecting cells from oxidative damage, supporting collagen synthesis, enhancing immune function, and potentially contributing to the maintenance of overall health, particularly in the context of cardiovascular health and brain health. Those are very important jobs!

Let's take a closer look...

This Neglected Vitamin Plays a Central Role in Healthy Aging

When it comes to protecting your body against the symptoms and diseases of aging, vitamin C is a powerhouse and provides amazing health benefits. For example, the science shows that vitamin C can:

  • Improve Cardiovascular Health: Higher levels of plasma vitamin C have been associated with a lower risk of coronary artery disease. Vitamin C's antioxidant properties may contribute to its potential protective effect on cardiovascular diseases. A 2014 meta-analysis of 44 randomized controlled trials in subjects with or without chronic diseases summarized the effect of supplemental vitamin C on endothelial function—the function of the inner lining of blood vessels. Short-term supplementation with vitamin C improved blood flow in subjects with heart failure, atherosclerosis, or diabetes mellitus.

  • Promote Healthy Blood Pressure: A 15-year follow-up of about 2,500 participants in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study found that folks with higher blood levels of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and a higher diet quality score were less likely to develop high blood pressure.

  • Lower Risk of Breast Cancer: In the Nurses' Health Study, premenopausal women with a family history of breast cancer who consumed an average of 205 mg/day of vitamin C from food had a 63 percent lower risk of breast cancer than those who consumed an average of 70 mg/day.  Similar results have been found in studies of vitamin C for the prevention of colon cancer, stomach cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. We should also note that intravenous vitamin C is a first-line treatment against cancer for many alternative doctors.

  • Support a Healthy Balance in the Brain: Vitamin C plays a role in what's called the redox state in the brain, which is important for maintaining the internal microenvironment of the brain. This is such a critical area of study that there are research institutes world-wide. Researchers at The Redox Biology Center in Lincoln, Nebraska, recently pointed to redox homeostasis as being recognized as involved in all aspects of central nervous system (CNS) development, function, aging, and disease. And this was especially important for conditions such as obesity, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, hypertension, and autoimmune diseases.

  • Improve Memory Function: Some observational studies reported lower vitamin C concentrations in Alzheimer’s disease patients compared to cognitively healthy subjects. Researchers also found better cognitive function and lower risk of cognitive impairment in those people with higher vitamin C levels.

  • Help Keep Gums Healthy: In a study of what causes bleeding gums, the Washington researchers have uncovered evidence that a lack of vitamin C is frequently to blame – a deficiency that is often overlooked. “When you see your gums bleed, the first thing you should think about is not, I should brush more. You should try to figure out why your gums are bleeding. And vitamin C deficiency is one possible reason,” says researcher Philippe Hujoel.

  • Protect the Heart in People with Severe COVID-19 Infections: A study in Asia found that high doses of intravenous vitamin C could reduce covid-related hyperinflammation and lower the risk for cardiac damage in people hospitalized for coronavirus.

  • Prevent Diabetes: Several cross-sectional studies reported inverse association between circulating vitamin C concentrations and markers of insulin resistance or glucose intolerance, such as glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) concentration, which are indicators of diabetes risk.

  • Maintain Muscle Mass: A study in England shows that vitamin C could be the key ingredient to keeping your muscles healthier as you age so you don’t become decrepit and frail. According to researcher Ailsa Welch, "People over 50 lose up to one percent of their skeletal muscle mass each year, and this loss is thought to affect more than 50 million people worldwide. It's a big problem, because it can lead to frailty and other poor outcomes such as sarcopenia, physical disability, type-2 diabetes, reduced quality of life and death." Dr. Welch’s research, which analyzed the health of about 13,000 people aged 42 to 82, shows that folks who consume the highest amounts of vitamin C and have the highest blood levels possess the most muscle tissue.

  • Improve Bone Health: Vitamin C can increase bone density, which is particularly important for older adults who are at a higher risk of osteoporotic fractures.

So, all of this begs the question, are you getting enough vitamin C as you age? According to researchers, probably not...

Vitamin C: Where the Dosage Research Went Wrong

When researchers in New Zealand and Denmark teamed up to investigate how our vitamin C needs might change as we age, they knew that several older studies from more than thirty years ago claimed to show that these needs remained about the same in both younger adults, middle-aged folks and their elders.

However, their more recent results disagree with the 1990s research that has led to mainstream medicine’s vitamin C complacency. The differences, the scientists in the recent study believe, may be due at least in part to the fact that all the people who were examined in the 1990s were in excellent health and taking in fairly large doses of vitamin C through dietary supplements. They didn’t include people with chronic health conditions and whose vitamin C intake was relatively low. 

The study found that older people who had been getting a minimal amount of vitamin C for most of their lives couldn’t maintain adequate amounts of vitamin C circulating in their blood as they aged.   

Specifically, they discovered that younger people who consumed 75mg of vitamin C a day or less in their 20s could get by on that amount while they were young. But, as they entered their 40s, that level of intake wasn’t enough to keep their blood levels of vitamin C high enough for good health. And with the passing years, their vitamin C shortage only grew worse.  

These researchers believe that their results show that older folks are “more sensitive” to a low vitamin C intake which may be due to chronic health conditions that many encounter as they age. So, they believe the government recommended requirements for vitamin C supplements should almost certainly be increased – especially for older segments of the population.

But How Much More Vitamin C Do You Need?

It seems everyone has a differing opinion.

Right now, in the U.S., the federal recommendation is 75mg of vitamin C a day for women and 90mg of vitamin C daily for men – regardless of age.

The folks at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University believe young adults should get around 200 mg. (Dr. Linus Pauling, you may recall, was a pioneer in vitamin C research.) For older people, who generally don’t absorb this nutrient very well, they recommend 400 mg. However, many people take far more than this daily-- especially people who are battling health problems-- and many medical experts believe that's a good thing.

 Beware: Scurvy, the Vitamin C Deficiency Disease, is on the Rise

In addition to concerns about the appropriate vitamin C levels, there's also growing concern over severe vitamin C deficiency. Researchers at Baylor warn that quite a few Americans, because of poor diets, overdoing alcohol, obesity, and smoking, are now getting scurvy – the vitamin C deficiency disease linked to low vitamin C intake.

New Symptoms of Scurvy

What's more, the symptoms of modern-day scurvy are not the textbook ones – like swollen gums – doctors have learned about in medical school – so these scurvy victims are often misdiagnosed. The Baylor scientists point out that nowadays the initial signs of scurvy are often skin problems like particular types of rashes. Plus, in their research, they found that some folks who are taking a daily multivitamin that doesn’t contain much vitamin C are still getting scurvy!

To treat the people with scurvy in the case histories in this study, the Baylor folks prescribed 500mg a day of vitamin C supplements. And they warn the public that “scurvy is not a disease of the ancient past” – especially in people over the age of 60.

Increasing Your Levels of Vitamin C

It's clear that vitamin C is one vitamin that most of us can use more of-- no matter what our age. One study shows that 59 percent of men get less than 90 mg a day of vitamin C and 47 percent of women get less than 80 mg a day of vitamin C. That's well below what Linus Pauling recommended!

Natural health and alternative doctors agree that getting more vitamin C is usually warranted and taking vitamin C supplements is the best way to increase your levels. However, vitamin C rich foods are also important because these foods contain other nutritional compounds that are beneficial to human health.

Vitamin C supplements

While we wouldn’t go crazy mega-dosing with vitamin C supplements, there’s not much to worry about in taking larger doses. If you take too much oral vitamin C the usual side effect is stomach-ache and diarrhea, which resolves when you stop taking the high-dose vitamin C supplements.

Some alternative doctors call this reaching “bowel tolerance”, and bowel tolerance is, of course, different for everyone. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, there’s no reliable scientific evidence that doses of vitamin C up to 10 g/day (10,000 mg/day) in adults are toxic or detrimental to health.

We want to point out that although vitamin C is an important nutrient, the evidence for the health benefits of high-dose vitamin C supplementation is still being debated.

Vitamin C rich foods

Certain foods have the benefit of giving you large amounts of vitamin C plus other nutritional compounds that are chockfull of health benefits. Some of these vitamin C-rich foods to include in your diet are:

  • Citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, and grapefruits

  • Berries like strawberries and raspberries

  • Kiwifruit

  • Bell peppers, particularly red and green ones

  • Tropical fruits such as papaya and pineapple

  • Leafy greens like spinach and kale

  • Broccoli and Brussels sprouts

  • Tomatoes and tomato juice

  • Cantaloupe and watermelon

These foods are excellent sources of vitamin C and can be easily incorporated into your daily diet to help you meet your recommended intake of this essential nutrient no matter what your age.


The importance of vitamin C, particularly as you age, is rarely discussed in conventional medical care. Yet vitamin C's roles in collagen synthesis, acting as a powerful antioxidant, and boosting the immune system are critical to healthy aging. Many individuals, starting in middle age, begin to experience a deficiency in vitamin C. The research suggests that as people age, their bodies become more sensitive to vitamin C deficiency, potentially due to chronic health conditions common in older age. As you get older you may need to increase your vitamin C intake, through diet and supplements, to maintain adequate levels for good health. For all of us, the time to start helping our bodies stock up on more of this vitamin is right now!

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you need more vitamin C as you get older?

Yes, Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that offers several benefits for older adults. For example, it can increase bone density, which is particularly important for older adults who are at a higher risk of osteoporotic fractures. As people age, their immune systems may weaken, making them more susceptible to infections. Vitamin C helps strengthen the immune system and may reduce the severity of common cold symptoms. Some research suggests that vitamin C may play a role in preventing age-related cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease. It acts as an antioxidant and is important for neuronal health and function. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can help protect against oxidative stress, which is associated with various age-related diseases such as age-related macular degeneration and neurological conditions. While the evidence is not conclusive, some studies have suggested that vitamin C may have benefits for cardiovascular health, such as reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Who needs increased vitamin C?

It's important for older adults to ensure they get enough vitamin C through a healthy diet and vitamin C supplements, as this nutrient plays a crucial role in supporting various aspects of their health and well-being.

Can seniors take too much vitamin C?

There is much debate about how much vitamin C supplementation is too much. The good news is that when your body has enough vitamin C-- which will depend on your current health status-- signs you've consumed too much will include diarrhea and stomach upset. Many natural health doctors use this so-called "bowel tolerance" to identify an individual's tolerable upper intake level of vitamin C.

Can too much vitamin C be bad for you?

Serious side effects from taking too much vitamin C are very rare, because the body cannot store this water-soluble vitamin. Side effects of too high doses include stomach upset, diarrhea, and in very rare cases, kidney stones.

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Carr AC, Lykkesfeldt J. Does Aging Affect Vitamin C Status Relative to Intake? Findings from NHANES 2017-2018. Nutrients. 2023 Feb 10;15(4):892. doi: 10.3390/nu15040892. PMID: 36839250; PMCID: PMC9960598.

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