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Vitamin C and Weight Loss: Is There a Connection?

cartoon with fruits and vitamin C

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is widely recognized as an essential nutrient. This water-soluble vitamin is an antioxidant and plays a significant role in protecting the body against inflammation, boosting immune function, maintaining healthy skin and hair, wound healing, and increasing iron absorption. 

Vitamin C deficiency can cause scurvy which is a condition associated with bleeding gums and dental problems. Therefore, maintaining adequate vitamin C status is vital for good health.

One of the lesser-known health benefits of vitamin C is that it may help you lose weight. Please continue reading to learn more about the relationship between vitamin C and weight loss.

Vitamin C and bodyweight - What does the science say?

Vitamin C does not directly lead to fat oxidation or loss of body fat. However, it is related to body weight and waist circumference. 

One study found that vitamin C and body mass are inversely related, meaning low plasma ascorbic acid concentrations are linked to high body mass index (BMI). BMI is the ratio of a person’s height and weight. A BMI of 30 or higher is an indicator of obesity.

The study also showed that people with low vitamin C burn around 30% less fat during moderate exercise than those with adequate vitamin C levels. In other words, low vitamin C can make you resistant to fat mass loss, increasing fat reserves and adding to body weight.

It is worth noting that fat distribution, specifically excess belly fat, is a sign of metabolic syndrome, which is a collection of conditions that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke). Therefore, intake of more vitamin C and its indirect effect on waist circumference has widespread health benefits.

How can vitamin C help me lose weight?

There are several potential ways in which vitamin C may aid weight loss

First, vitamin C is a strong antioxidant. After exercise, vitamin C can help to counteract exercise-induced oxidative stress. This may speed up your metabolism and help you burn more calories. 

Another possible way vitamin C may help you lose weight is through iron absorption. Vitamin C is known to help the body absorb iron. The blood needs iron to carry oxygen to the muscles; oxygen helps the muscles work more efficiently and burn more fat.

It is also known that vitamin C is a catalyst in generating energy from fat molecules. In other words, vitamin C plays a significant role in the body’s ability to oxidize fat and generate energy. This is why vitamin C-depleted individuals (people with low vitamin C status) burn less fat after a moderate exercise bout than people with adequate vitamin C. 

Researchers have also studied a link between plasma adiponectin and vitamin C. High plasma adiponectin levels are related to obesity, inflammation, and an increased risk of heart attack. However, no clear link has been found between vitamin C and plasma adiponectin.

How much is enough vitamin C and too much vitamin C?

The recommended dietary allowance of vitamin C for adults is 65 mg to 90 mg per day. The maximum limit is 2,000 mg a day. Eating vitamin C-rich foods in excess is unlikely to cause problems. However, very high doses of supplements can cause problems like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, heartburn, stomach cramps, insomnia, and headache.

What are some good dietary sources of vitamin C?

Examples of vitamin C rich foods include: 

  • Citrus fruits like oranges (70 mg of vitamin C in a medium orange) and grapefruits (64 mg in a medium grapefruit)
  • Tropical fruits like guavas (125 mg in one guava) and kiwis (70 mg in one medium kiwi)
  • Orange juice (93 mg in 3/4-cup)
  • Red peppers (95 mg in 1/2 cup) 
  • Yellow peppers (135 mg in 1/2 cup)
  • Black currants (100 mg in 1/2 cup)
  • Kale (80 mg in 1 cup)

For most people, a healthy diet provides enough vitamin C, and there is no need to obtain more vitamin C through dietary supplements. 

Important notes on vitamin C and weight loss

It is important to understand that higher vitamin C intake cannot help you lose weight if you consume extra calories. If you want to lose weight or prevent further weight gain, you need to limit caloric intake, eat a balanced diet, and exercise regularly. Vitamin C can aid in healthy weight loss if you control overall caloric intake and include physical activity in your daily routine.


References:

  1. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07315724.2005.10719460
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/vitamin-c/faq-20058030
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17585027/