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Gummies have become a trendy (and delicious) way to get vitamin C.
Vitamin C plays a vital role in immune health and wound repair. Luckily, most people get enough of this nutrient from fruits and veggies in their daily diet. Deficiencies are rare, but supplements are available in a variety of forms if needed.
If you’ve been diagnosed with low levels of vitamin C, your healthcare provider may recommend adding a supplement. There are so many options to choose from, though, that it can get confusing fast.
Are vitamin C gummies the way to go? While it might look like the most palatable option on the shelf, supplements like these aren’t always the best bet. Here’s everything you need to look for when it comes to getting your daily dose of vitamin C.
How to choose a vitamin C gummy
Many popular supplement brands offer vitamin C gummies, including Nature Made, Vitafusion, and Nature’s Bounty.
Vitamins and minerals can taste bitter on their own, so gummy vitamins are often sweetened with sugar or corn syrup to make them more appealing. Some also contain natural or artificial flavoring.
Companies also make sugar-free gummy vitamins using artificial sweeteners like xylitol. Natural sweeteners like agave nectar are also popular alternatives to products that contain pure cane sugar. And if you’ve had a gummy vitamin before, you’ll know they taste more like candy than like a typical drugstore vitamin (Čižauskaitė, 2019).
It’s also common for vitamin C gummies to be enhanced with other vitamins, minerals, or herbal additives. Common ones you may notice are vitamin E, elderberry, rosehip, vitamin D, and zinc.
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For people following vegan or vegetarian diets, some brands use jellifying agents like pectin, which are free from animal by-products (Čižauskaitė, 2019).
If you’re worried about whether you can get enough vitamin C from a gummy, research shows these are a good option when it comes to vitamin C supplements (Evans, 2020).
How do vitamin C gummies compare to tablets?
Research has found vitamin C gummies have similar effects on the body to vitamin C tablets. More research is needed, but studies suggest gummies are equally effective as traditional vitamin C supplements such as pills, tablets, and caplets (Evans, 2020).
Vitamin C gummies come in an assortment of flavors and dosages, which can be a bonus if you’re not a fan of taking pills. Typical dosages range from 75 mg to 2,000 mg. You may need to take two or more gummies to reach the recommended daily allowance of 75–90 mg if you aren’t getting any vitamin C from your diet (NIH, n.d.).
How common are vitamin C deficiencies?
A true vitamin C deficiency is pretty rare. Around 90-95% of adults get enough through diet alone and aren’t at risk for a vitamin C deficiency (Pfeiffer, 2013). And while vitamin C deficiency is uncommon today, it used to be a real problem.
The most well-known cases were among sailors who spent years at sea with little or no access to fresh fruits and vegetables. The resulting lack of vitamin C, known as scurvy, would cause characteristic symptoms like bleeding gums, slow-healing wounds, and easy bruising. Sailors would develop confusion, fever, and shortness of breath, and eventually, the condition would prove fatal (Padayatty, 2016).
Today most people get enough vitamin C from their diets. However, deficiencies still exist. Things like air pollution and smoking can result in low vitamin C levels. People who smoke tend to have higher rates of vitamin C deficiencies and need to consume larger amounts through diet or supplements (Krinsky, 2000).
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In general, people at risk for low vitamin C include those who (Carr, 2017):
- Smoke or use drugs or alcohol
- Do not eat a well-rounded diet
- Do not have access to fresh fruits and vegetables
- Experience physical or psychological stress
People with pre-diabetes or diabetes may also be at risk for vitamin C deficiency (Wilson, 2017).
How much vitamin C do you need every day?
Since our bodies can’t produce vitamin C, we have to rely on diet to get it (Young, 2015). Adults need between 75-90 mg per day, and children ages 0–12 months should get 40–50 mg per day (Padayatty, 2016).
But that doesn’t mean you should start popping vitamin C gummies on the daily—it is possible to get too much of a good thing. Your kidneys are pretty good at removing any excess but taking too much can cause digestive problems like diarrhea (Padayatty, 2016).
For the majority of people, it’s not necessary to take vitamin C supplements. If you’re not getting enough, your best bet is to pick foods packed with vitamin C. Great natural sources of this essential nutrient include (Doseděl, 2021):
- Citrus fruits
- Brussel sprouts
The truth is your body gets a bigger boost when you get vitamin C from food sources. Fruits and vegetables, which are high in vitamin C, also contain other micronutrients, fiber, and phytochemicals, which are beneficial compounds that come from plants.
All this good stuff works together to help your body absorb nutrients from your food, including vitamin C (Carr, 2013). Even though gummies are delicious, you won’t get the same benefits with a vitamin C gummy.
Some cereals and grain products contain added vitamin C and are a good option to increase your intake. Cooking fruits and veggies reduces the amount of vitamin C, so go raw if you need a boost (NIH, n.d.).
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What does vitamin C do in the body?
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is an essential micronutrient that acts as an antioxidant in the body that protects your cells from damage.
Besides cell protection, vitamin C helps your heart, immune system, and skin. Here are some other vital roles vitamin C plays in your body (Carr, 2017):
- Making hormones that affect heart rate and blood pressure
- Forming collagen, which is a building block for skin
- Playing a pivotal role in wound healing
- Fueling important protector cells in your immune system
- Protecting cells from toxins and pollution like cigarette smoke
Vitamin C does a lot for your body, and if you’re low, it’s important to boost your levels.
Should you take vitamin C gummies?
There have been many studies about the effects of vitamin C supplementation, but few have demonstrated a clear benefit for people without a deficiency. That means if you don’t have a vitamin C deficiency, you probably don’t need vitamin C gummies.
A recent study found that vitamin C supplements may reduce blood pressure in people with essential hypertension, which is a type of high blood pressure (Guan, 2020). A meta-analysis that evaluated more than 11,000 people found that vitamin C supplements didn’t reduce the severity of symptoms and duration of colds, except in people who recently engaged in intense exercises (Hemilä, 2013).
You may have heard that vitamin C can prevent cancer, but that’s just not true. Linus Pauling, a famous researcher in the 1900s, recommended vitamin C to prevent and treat cancer, but the studies he conducted were poorly designed and later studies contradicted his work (Kamangar, 2012). Ultimately, you only need to take vitamin C if you’re low.
If you think you might have a vitamin C deficiency, you can check in with a healthcare professional. And when picking supplements, make sure to stick with a reputable brand. Not all products are created equal and regulation on many of these supplements is limited.
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Yael Cooperman is a physician and works as a Senior Manager, Medical Content & Education at Ro.