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Men's Health Month: Is Vitamin C the Key to Helping Men Live Longer?

June 1, 2020

Severe Vitamin C deficiency used to be far more common than it is today, at least in the United States. However, many people may not realize that they’re getting insufficient levels of vitamin C from their daily diets, or that men of all ages and ethnic backgrounds tend to have lower levels of vitamin C in their blood than women do.

Vitamin C is important every single day

Vitamin C is water-soluble, meaning it doesn’t get stored in your body for later use. If you take in more vitamin C than your body needs on any given day, the excess simply gets flushed out in your urine. But if you take in too little each day or your intake isn’t consistent, over time you may suffer effects of long-term vitamin C insufficiency. These effects tend to be harder to spot because they develop so gradually, but they can still be disruptive to your lifestyle and lead to serious health issues over time.

Recent research indicates that the following issues are common in cases of chronic vitamin C deficiency:

  • unexplained weight gain,
  • easy bruising,
  • fatigue and difficulty concentrating,
  • slow wound healing,
  • brittle hair and nails,
  • and decreased immune system function.

Some studies have even shown that the children of men who reproduce while deficient in vitamin C actually have an increased risk of birth defects, leading to the conclusion that inadequate levels of vitamin C negatively impact the health of sperm cells.

Why the Recommended Daily Allowance isn’t necessarily enough

Because vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, it also has a natural protective effect that is muted or lost when your body isn’t getting enough C on a daily basis. The human body naturally produces both harmful free radicals and beneficial antioxidants. However, free radicals tend to be produced in greater proportions. Without an equivalent level of antioxidants to “cancel out” the free radicals, these metabolic byproducts cause damage to the body’s tissues and organs. When levels of antioxidants are adequate, this damage occurs gradually and is simply viewed as the natural aging process.

When levels of antioxidants are especially low, though, damage from free radicals can result in greater incidence of cardiovascular disease, eye disease, certain cancers, and premature aging. This issue is of particular concern for men, since heart disease tends to develop 7-10 years earlier in males and is estimated to cause 1 out of every 4 deaths among American men. Could this association be due, at least in part, to the fact that males tend to have lower levels of vitamin C in their blood?

So how can we ensure that we’re getting enough vitamin C for ideal health?

Studies indicate that the FDA’s recommendation of 90mg a day for men is probably the bare minimum needed, not necessarily the optimal amount.  The good news is that most people can achieve an ideal daily intake of vitamin C through the foods they eat.  Fruits such as guava and kiwi are densely packed with vitamin C, but even a diet that incorporates lots of foods like kale, broccoli, cauliflower, pineapple, strawberries, and green or red peppers will still offer loads of daily C. High-quality supplements can be a good option for anyone whose diet may be limited for any reason.

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