The Curious Story of Vitamin C

Vitamin C has an interesting story. It has lots of uses in your body. For one, it is an important co-factor for the enzymes that make collagen. That’s the tough, stringy protein that holds you all together. So scurvy, caused by an extreme deficiency of Vitamin C, is a disease where you are literally falling apart because you can’t make enough collagen.

The one-way valves in the perforating veins in your legs are made of collagen, so taking enough Vitamin C can help prevent their blowing out and causing varicose veins. Wrinkles and the thinning of your skin as you age is due to a loss of elastin and collagen in the skin, and adequate doses of Vitamin C over the years may slow down this loss. It is a co-factor for many other enzymes, as well.

Vitamin C is also a major player in the innate antioxidant system that is working inside all of your cells to keep their lipid layer membranes from going rancid and free radicals from damaging your DNA. Adequate levels of Vitamin C can prevent oxidative damage and possibly even prevent cancer. Linus Pauling believed that high doses of intravenous Vitamin C would be a safe and effective treatment for many cancers and he has recently been proven correct. (

So, what is an adequate dose? The US government set the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for Vitamin C at 60 mg per day. This is the dose that has been found to prevent scurvy. But scurvy is a disease of extreme deficiency. What is a better recommendation for optimal wellness? Some researchers think doubling the current RDA would be enough (, but I think Mother Nature might provide a better answer.

As it turns out, most mammals make their own Vitamin C. Cats, dogs, horses, cows, goats, and sheep, for example, make their own Vitamin C. In fact, all mammals do except for primates, guinea pigs, and some fruit-eating bats. Since we’re primates, for us, Vitamin C is an essential nutrient. We need to get it from our diets. Mother Nature is efficient, so, if you don’t need something, it goes away. That’s why fish living in caves for eons lose their eyes. Early primates lived on tropical fruits, high in Vitamin C, so they lost the enzymes needed to make their own.

If you look at how much Vitamin C other mammals make, it is surprisingly consistent across species at about 50 mg/kg/day. And, when an animal is stressed, that production can go up ten to thirteen fold to over 500 mg/kg/day. Interestingly, wild animals make more Vitamin C per kg then do their domesticated kindred. Animals who make their own Vitamin C are much less prone to heart disease and cancer than are domesticated animals and animals who don’t make their own.

A kg is 2.2 pounds. So, for a human who weighs 150 pounds, or about 69 kg, if they were a goat that weighed that much, their body would be making about 3.5 grams of Vitamin C per day, or about 58 times the RDA. And even more when they are stressed.

So, our RDA is good for the first two and a half pounds of you. And doubling that would treat five pounds of you. What about the rest? I think the RDA for Vitamin C should be set at 50 mg/kg/day. That’s the dose you would be getting if you were a monkey in the zoo. And not because the vet is a disciple of Linus Pauling’s, but because she knows that’s the dose that will keep you out of her office.

Why not treat yourself as well as a monkey? Take around three to four grams of Vitamin C every day, even more during times of stress.

There are all kinds of debates about the best form of Vitamin C and regimens for taking it to bowel tolerance and such, but these issues are splitting hairs compared to whether or not to even take the Vitamin C in the first place. I like the calcium ascorbate powder. It is buffered so the ascorbic acid (another name for Vitamin C) doesn’t bother your stomach, it’s a good source of calcium, it is inexpensive, and one-quarter tsp of powder provides 1000 mg or 1 gm of Vitamin C. Magnesium ascorbate might be even better since most people are also low in magnesium and don’t really need more calcium.

Regular daily doses of Vitamin C in the 3-5 gram range, depending upon your weight, is simple, safe, and effective prevention for many problems. (The definitive proof of this statement might not be here yet, but it’s coming. I can smell it.) Please make it part of you and your family’s wellness program today.