Vitamin C

Vitamin C, ascorbic acid, is a necessary nutrient. Most animals's bodies can produce it, but humans (and also several primates and some speciesvitaminc of birds) have lost the ability to do so and must consume it from food sources. It acts as an anti-oxidant, cleaning up loose oxygen molecules that may cause DNA damage.

Deficiency

Vitamin C is necessary to prevent the disease scurvy. Only extremely small doses are necessary for prevention, and deficiency in the developed world is rare, if not non-existent.

Common Cold

Ever since Dr Linus Pauling came out with claims that vitamin C could cure the common cold, people have been drinking orange juice when they feel sickness coming on. However, Pauling's ideas revolved around mega-doses of vitamin C. In the range of 14,000 mgs.

So does it work? Research has been very contradictory so far; some studies show an effect, and some seem to prove beyond a doubt that it does nothing. Some of the research showed more of a anti-hystamine possibility: clearing of the nose, but no actual effect on the cold itself.

Unfortunately, conclusive research is still out on this one.

Overdose

Vitamin C is generally not considered toxic, however, there is some controversy over this. The vitamin is flushed from the body within a few hours at most, and so most criticism of people who overdose say that if you take more than you need you are literally just peeing money away.

Side effects of megadoses of vitamin C are generally diarrhea. Linus Pauling's recommendation was to take enough to give diarrhea and then back off; in other words, the maximum possible dose.

The rationale behind high dosages is that animals that can produce vitamin C without having to consume it produce quite a bit more than we get through our diet, implying that our bodies require more.

Supplement

Most people in the developed world get plenty of vitamin C to prevent scurvy; only a miniscule amount is required. The USDA recommends 60 to 95 mgs per day.

However, there is still controversy and inconclusive research that supports the theory that we require quite a bit more.

Since it is mostly non-toxic, you can up your daily dose if you desire. It is available in pill and powder form from most health food stores.