Ask Gerda: Should I Take Vitamin C for Immunity?
Ask Gerda: Should I
Take Vitamin C for Immunity?
Gerda Endemann, our senior director of science and research, has a BS in nutrition from UC Berkeley, a PhD in nutritional biochemistry from MIT, and a passion for cherry-picking from our wellness shop. She spends a lot of her time interpreting research—established and emerging. And our wellness routines thank her for this. (Yours will, too. Send us your own questions for Gerda: [email protected].)
Dear goop, People I know like to take vitamin C for immunity, and it’s in all the cold-season supplements. Does vitamin C actually have anything to do with the immune system? –Tiana W.
Hi Tiana. In fact, vitamin C is essential for the immune system! It was popular for immune support when I was a kid, even though we didn’t know much about how it worked. Since then, there’s been interesting research on how vitamin C helps keep white blood cells—the cells that make antibodies and kill germs—functioning well.
In the early days, all we knew was that white blood cells go to a lot of trouble to hoard vitamin C. We didn’t know why. But we thought there had to be a reason that these cells take vitamin C from the blood and concentrate it up to a hundredfold. Since then, we’ve learned of multiple ways vitamin C helps keep white blood cells healthy so that they can kill viruses, bacteria, and infected cells.
One of vitamin C’s functions is to keep white blood cells from being damaged in the process of fighting pathogens. To destroy bacteria and viruses, white blood cells sequester them into compartments into which they pump high levels of toxic reactive oxygen species (ROS). When ROS leak out of these compartments, they damage the white blood cells and shorten their lifespan. Because vitamin C is an antioxidant and a free radical scavenger, it can deactivate the ROS. In this way, vitamin C protects white blood cells from the toxic chemicals used to kill invaders. Meaning: Immune cells will be able to keep fighting.
Vitamin C is also needed for the production of T cells and NK cells and for numerous other aspects of immune function. Finally, we are starting to understand why a deficiency of vitamin C impairs immunity.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6 percent of Americans are deficient in vitamin C. Those of us who eat plenty of fruits and vegetables aren’t likely to fall within that group. A poor diet with little fresh produce is the major cause of deficiency, but other factors can also contribute, including weight loss surgery, smoking, and alcohol abuse. And with lung cancer, sepsis, and infections, as well as after surgery, vitamin C levels in the body can fall drastically.
What you probably want to know is whether extra vitamin C, beyond what you get from a typical diet, is helpful in supporting a healthy immune response. It looks like there are situations where extra vitamin C may be beneficial, such as for people who do intense physical exercise, like running marathons or alpine climbing. And a meta-analysis concluded that regularly consuming at least 200 milligrams of vitamin C could help support a healthy immune response in both adults and children.*
If you want to add a regular source of vitamin C to your diet, one high-potency solution is LivOn Labs Liposomal Vitamin C. One serving contains a generous 1,000 milligrams, which is over 1,000 percent of the Daily Value. This is not a tablet or a powder—it’s a little packet of gel that you add to around three ounces of any cool beverage and swallow in one gulp. (Or you can throw it back without water.) The vitamin C is formulated with LivOn’s liposomal technology, so you also get 500 milligrams of phosphatidylcholine (which contains the nutrient choline) in each serving.*
Along with the 500 milligrams of vitamin C in GOOPGLOW Morning Skin Superpowder, you get generous amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin, which are super valuable not just for skin but for anyone wanting to promote healthy eyes in the long term. (Tell your mother.) Mix this powder with water for an orangey drink every morning—I love the taste.*
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For a little something sweet to chew after dinner, there’s a dessert option: Hilma’s Elderberry Immunity Gummies with vitamin C and zinc. With daily use, you can help ensure optimal levels of these two nutrients crucial for white blood cell function.*
On the other hand, I won’t claim that taste is a major draw for G.Tox Detoxifying Superpowder. But it’s bitter for a good reason—we didn’t want to mask the taste of the potent bioactive plant compounds with unnecessary fillers—and a little shot is all you need to support both immunity and detox. It goes down quick. Vitamin C is included for its roles in detoxification processes in the liver, skin, and lungs and does double duty with immune support. The star detox ingredients are the bitter herbs: silymarin from milk thistle and resveratrol from Polygonum cuspidatum root.*
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of goop.