Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a powerful antioxidant that is required by our body in suitable amounts. It is essential for making collagen, a protein found in bones, tendons and cartilage. It plays an important role in healing wounds, and is also useful in enhancing the immune system. Another important function is that it reduces the severity and symptoms of infectious diseases, as well as reduces the risks of certain types of cancer. Excess amount of vitamin C in the body leads to overdose and toxicity.
Excess of Vitamin C
This vitamin is found in citrus fruits like lemon, orange, guava, blackcurrant, strawberry, grapefruit, peaches, mangoes, clementine, broccoli, tomato, peppers, Brussels sprouts, kale, etc. When any vitamin is consumed in excess, it results in overdose or toxicity. In most of the cases, toxicity of a vitamin is found in people who consume vitamin supplements on a regular basis. Vitamin supplements are consumed in order to prevent deficiency diseases.
However, supplements need to be consumed only in prescribed amounts as consuming them in excess can be dangerous. Fortunately, vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, and is not stored in the body. It is washed out of the body when its level rises above normal. Hence, vitamin C overdose and toxicity is very rare, and is seen only in people who consume supplements in very large amounts.
The daily requirement of vitamin C is 90 mg for adult males and 75 mg for adult females. Children aged 1-3 years require only 15 mg of this vitamin per day. However, certain vitamin C supplement capsules contain usually 100-2000 mg per capsule, which is much larger than that required. A person who consumes these supplements, and also consumes the above mentioned foods on a regular basis, suffers from overdose that leads to toxicity. The upper limit for the intake of vitamin C is 2000 mg/day, which when exceeded regularly, can result in side effects.
However, the toxic levels of vitamin C are found to differ from one person to the other. Some people can tolerate this vitamin in higher amounts, while some may even experience a discomfort if the daily dose is 1000 mg/day. However, as mentioned above, vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and hence, it is less likely to cause toxicity in the body. But, at the same time, it is essential for people to be aware of its symptoms, in case they consume supplements on a regular basis.
Disorders related to the stomach are common symptoms caused due to overdose of this vitamin. Excess vitamin C increases the amount of uric acid in urine. If it is not washed out of the body, it can get stored in the kidney, resulting in kidney stone. Excess intake of vitamin C also leads to excess absorption of iron, leading to a condition known as hemochromatosis. Apart from these, following are some of the other symptoms observed in adults as well as children:
- Increased acid levels
- Abdominal cramps
- Skin rash
- Upset stomach
- Erosion of dental enamel
If a person observes any of the aforementioned symptoms, he should consult the doctor as early as possible. The doctor will prescribe medication to treat the symptoms. The intake of vitamin C in every form (supplements and foods) is stopped immediately in order to bring down the high levels, and to treat the overdose symptoms.
In certain circles, it is believed that having a megadose of vitamin C can help in curing diseases. However, the practice is highly disputed and controversial as there is no evidence for the same.
Toxicity of vitamin C is rare and treatable. However, in order to be on a safer side, it is recommended to check the labels of vitamin supplements and avoid intake of multivitamins, if not prescribed. One should be extremely careful while consuming supplements of any vitamins, and it is advised to take them only on the doctor's recommendation. Take care!