Millions of people take extra vitamins each day in hopes of staying as healthy as possible. Of these supplements, some of the most popular are drink mixes that promise to deliver extra vitamin C. While vitamin C is an incredibly important vitamin, there are many debates as to whether or not supplements and mixes are necessary or effective. Advocates insist vitamin C-enriched products have a range of positive effects and can prevent many diseases.

Functions of Vitamin C

The body needs vitamin C to create muscle, blood vessels, cartilage, and collagen in bones. The vitamin is also vital to the body’s healing process. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that protects against the effects of free radicals, which play a role in cancer, heart disease, and many other ailments. Studies show that vitamin C may stimulate both the creation and activity of leukocytes, improving immune function. These abilities explain why many people believe that vitamin C supplements are integral to good health.

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Impact on Colds

One of the biggest claims about vitamin C is that the drinks and supplements are capable of preventing or improving the common cold. Currently, there is no evidence that vitamin C in any form can outright prevent the cold. However, some evidence shows that individuals who regularly take vitamin C supplements like drink mixes have colds that are shorter in duration with less severe symptoms. One study found that a regular dose of one to two grams was enough to shorten the duration of a child’s cold by 18%. Drinking a vitamin C mix after developing a cold does not affect the illness.

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Effects on Other Conditions

In addition to reducing the impact of a cold, vitamin C may also affect other conditions. Research suggests it could

  • Reduce high blood pressure by relaxing the blood vessels that carry blood from the heart
  • Lower the risk of heart disease
  • Reduce blood uric acid levels and prevent gout
  • Prevent iron deficiency
  • Improve memory and reduce the effects of aging on the brain

While there are some claims that vitamin C reduces the risk of certain cancers, most studies contradict this. In general, evidence points to vitamin C supplements and drinks being helpful.

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Placebo Effect

Something to consider when evaluating the effects of vitamin C supplements and mixes is the placebo effect. Essentially, this is a beneficial effect that occurs only because of an individual’s belief in the product. The placebo effect is not capable of curing a disease or improving overall health. However, it can make a person feel better and make symptoms of an already existing condition feel less severe. Sometimes, it can even alleviate fatigue and nausea. Even if a person is aware of the placebo effect, they may still benefit from it.

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Safe to Consume

Most people get enough vitamin C through their diet and do not require any supplements or drink mixes. However, many underlying conditions can make a person susceptible to vitamin C deficiency. A deficiency weakens the immune system and can increase the risk of infections. Most drink mixes contain a helpful level of vitamin C. This, in combination with the vitamin's various functions and the placebo effect, means that drinking a vitamin C mix regularly is safe for most people. It may also improve their overall wellness.

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Being Cautious

While there is little risk in drinking most vitamin C mixes, there is always the possibility of side effects and complications. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate the safety or effectiveness of these drink mixes because they fall under the “dietary supplement” category. Because of this, some contain other additives that are not as safe as vitamin C. They may also have high levels of sugar or other ingredients that make them less healthy than companies advertise. It is important to always research any product before consuming it.

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Possible Side Effects

In appropriate doses, vitamin C is safe. However, excessive levels can become dangerous. Symptoms of too much vitamin C include:

  • Sleepiness
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Heartburn
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Inflammation that can damage the esophagus
  • Intestinal obstructions or blockages

Some people also tend to develop kidney stones when taking vitamin C supplements. To be safe, those who take any type of supplement should speak with their doctor.

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Possible Interactions

In addition to the various side effects that excess vitamin C can have, it may also interact with various other supplements or medications. For example, drinking a vitamin C mix while on chemotherapy may reduce the treatment’s effectiveness. The efficacy of anticoagulants, which help prevent blood clots, can also be affected. Vitamin C can increase the absorption of aluminum from some medications, which is harmful to those with kidney issues.

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People in Need of Vitamin C

Some demographics and individuals are more likely to have a vitamin C deficiency and doctors may suggest they address the issue with supplements, drink mixes, or dietary changes. People who smoke have lower plasma and leukocyte vitamin C levels and need at least 35 mg more vitamin C a day than nonsmokers. People who lack food variety often require vitamin supplements. Additionally, conditions like end-stage renal disease can affect the body’s ability to absorb vitamin C. Those with the disease will need additional vitamin C to compensate.

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Is There Enough

When purchasing a vitamin C drink mix or supplement, it is important to check how much vitamin C is in the product. Because the FDA does not regulate these goods, the packaging may be misleading. They may contain a surprisingly low or dangerously high amount of vitamin C. Adult males should receive around 90 mg of vitamin C each day while females need 75 mg. If a person is pregnant or lactating, these requirements increase. Exceeding 300 mg per day may increase the risk of certain heart conditions, and no adult should exceed 2,000 mg in a single day.

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