With the harmattan season, the dust and cold often lead to catarrh and cough, which means you might choose to just walk into a pharmacy and buy some vitamin C tablets.


Many vegetables and fruits contain vitamin C, which is very essential in maintaining a healthy immune system, supporting wound healing, and strong bones. But what happens when you take too much vitamin C?

Can you take too much of this vitamin?

Vitamin C is popular because many people strongly believe that it helps prevent or fight the common cold. The common cold can indeed make life very uncomfortable, but the desperation to keep it away isn’t the only reason why a lot of people take it. A biochemist, Linus Pauling, winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, helped the public make the connection between vitamin C and the common cold. In 1971, he began to talk about high doses of vitamin C as a way to prevent common cold. This idea was quickly rejected by the medical community, but ever since most people haven’t dropped the habit.


Vitamin C has many health benefits, from improving brain function to helping keep cancer away, so you can be forgiven for holding it dear to your heart. But the question remains, whether taking loads and loads of it is good for you. The answer is not simple. If a person frequently gets their vitamin C from foods, there may not be problems at all, but if it comes from supplements, there can be side effects, as the body does not absorb all of the vitamin C that it gets from supplements.

For instance, if you take 30–180 mg of vitamin C every day, your body will only absorb about 70–90% of it. 90 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C is the recommended dose for adult males, while 75 mg is recommended for females. As an adult, if you take more than 2,000 mg of vitamin C in a day, you may experience some discomfort because the excess that your body doesn’t use goes on to irritate some of your organs and can have the following reactions:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea
  • Bloating
  • Abdominal discomfort

How much vitamin C is too much? 


It is nearly impossible for you to have too much vitamin C just from the foods you eat. You would have to take 29 oranges before your intake reaches the tolerable upper limit. The risk of overdose lies with those who take supplements. Therefore, if you must take supplements, stick with the ones that contain no more than 100% of your daily needs.

To keep things regulated, the Food and Nutrition Board has established the level of vitamin C that is good for you. 2,000 mg is the upper limit for males and females over the age of 19, including pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers. The upper limit is the level you should never cross unless recommended by your doctor. Below is the upper tolerable limit for infants and children:

  • 400 mg for infants aged 1–3 years
  • 650 mg for children aged 4–8 years
  • 1,200 mg for children aged 9–13 years
  • 1,800 mg for teenagers aged 14–18 years

Severe side effects of excessive intake

Though less common, some people whose intake has been over the upper limit for prolonged periods can experience severe side effects, which can include:

  • Kidney stones

Experts believe that overdoses of vitamic C of  can lead to loss of compounds that can cause the formation of kidney stones.

  • Imbalances of nutrients

Excess vitamin C in your body can result in the inability of the body to process other nutrients. Its presence can also reduce the levels of copper and vitamin B12.

  • Bone spur

Bone spur happens when a bone projects close to the joints. This condition is quite painful and can be caused by very high vitamin C levels. To avoid such a condition, it is important to maintain the right levels in the body.

What kinds of foods should I get my vitamin C from?


Since food sources of vitamin C make for healthier and safer options, find some below:

  • Cantaloupe
  • Citrus fruits and juices
  • Kiwi
  • Mango
  • Papaya
  • Pineapple
  • Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries
  • Watermelon
  • Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower
  • Green/red peppers
  • Spinach, cabbage, turnip greens, and other leafy greens
  • Sweet/white potatoes
  • Tomatoes/tomato juice

If you suspect that your vitamin C intake is causing you some side effects, you should see your doctor immediately.

This article was first published on AfricaParent.com


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