Share this article


From maintaining healthy smooth skin on the outside to a stronger immune system on the inside, vitamin C benefits your entire body. Your diet largely determines how much of this vitamin is in your body, but genes have some influence over your vitamin C levels too. AncestryDNA® can tell you if people with DNA like yours tend to have normal or lower vitamin C levels.

What Does Vitamin C Do?

Without vitamin C, much of the daily building and repair work in your body would come to a halt. That's because this vitamin is important in so many different processes in the body.

Vitamin C stimulates cells in your immune system and may even help prevent certain infections. Vitamin C’s also important for building proteins that help heal wounds and help your brain function. It's also a powerful antioxidant. And it's essential for making collagen, the protein that provides structure and elasticity to your skin, blood vessels, and connective tissue.

Vitamin C Sources

Unlike most mammals, the human body can't make or store vitamin C. We have to get it from our diet. Luckily, it's readily available in most fruits and vegetables. Citrus fruits (and juices) like oranges, grapefruits, and lemons are great sources of vitamin C. Other top vitamin C sources include:

  • Papayas
  • Sweet peppers
  • Kiwifruit
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Strawberries
  • Tomato juice

Don't overcook or store produce too long because vitamin C is fragile and easily broken down by light, heat, and oxygen.

If needed, supplements can give you an extra boost. Regular vitamin C from chewables, tablets, or liposomal vitamin C is well-absorbed.

Genetics and Vitamin C Deficiency

Diet is key, but it alone doesn't determine how much vitamin C is in your body. Your genes can also affect your levels to an extent.

The AncestryDNA test looks at DNA differences in the SLC23A1 gene that may cause you to excrete more vitamin C in your urine and absorb less.

Such differences might cause a tendency toward slightly lower levels of the vitamin, but not a vitamin C deficiency because other things can affect how you absorb it.

People who are more likely to have low levels of vitamin C include pregnant women, smokers, and people with certain chronic infections.

Interesting Facts About Vitamin C Benefits

One important vitamin C benefit is that it helps you absorb more of the iron in iron-rich plant foods like legumes and leafy greens. If your iron levels are low, pairing vitamin C sources like supplements with iron-rich foods can help increase your iron levels.

Interestingly, it's somewhat of a myth that vitamin C can cure the common cold. For most people, research finds that vitamin C doesn’t prevent a cold or get rid of a cold once it starts. However, if you take vitamin C supplements regularly, some research shows you may experience slightly shorter colds or have milder symptoms.

 

References:

A, Moskowitz, Wang D, Emadi N, Batista GMS, and Gillberg L. “Vitamin C,” September 9, 2020. https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/vitamin-c.

Carr, Anitra C., and Sam Rowe. “Factors Affecting Vitamin C Status and Prevalence of Deficiency: A Global Health Perspective.” Nutrients 12, no. 7 (July 1, 2020): 1963. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12071963.

Carr, Anitra, Juliet Pullar, Stephanie Bozonet, and Margreet Vissers. “Marginal Ascorbate Status (Hypovitaminosis C) Results in an Attenuated Response to Vitamin C Supplementation.” Nutrients 8, no. 6 (June 3, 2016): 341. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu8060341.

Gopi, Sreerag, and Preetha Balakrishnan. “Evaluation and Clinical Comparison Studies on Liposomal and Non-Liposomal Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) and Their Enhanced Bioavailability.” Journal of Liposome Research, October 6, 2020, 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1080/08982104.2020.1820521.

Jutkus, Rebecca A. L., Na Li, Lynne S. Taylor, and Lisa J. Mauer. “Effect of Temperature and Initial Moisture Content on the Chemical Stability and Color Change of Various Forms of Vitamin C.” International Journal of Food Properties18, no. 4 (January 21, 2015): 862–79. https://doi.org/10.1080/10942912.2013.805770.

Michels, Alexander J., Tory M. Hagen, and Balz Frei. “Human Genetic Variation Influences Vitamin C Homeostasis by Altering Vitamin C Transport and Antioxidant Enzyme Function.” Annual Review of Nutrition 33, no. 1 (July 17, 2013): 45–70. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-nutr-071812-161246.

“Office of Dietary Supplements - Vitamin C.” NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, February 27, 2020. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-HealthProfessional/.

Ran, Li, Wenli Zhao, Jingxia Wang, Hongwu Wang, Ye Zhao, Yiider Tseng, and Huaien Bu. “Extra Dose of Vitamin C Based on a Daily Supplementation Shortens the Common Cold: A Meta-Analysis of 9 Randomized Controlled Trials.” BioMed Research International 2018 (July 5, 2018): 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/1837634.

Tada, Akio, and Hiroko Miura. “The Relationship between Vitamin C and Periodontal Diseases: A Systematic Review.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 16, no. 14 (July 11, 2019): 2472. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16142472.

“Vitamin C.” Linus Pauling Institute, January 14, 2020. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-C.