Why Eating More Vitamin C Can Help You Live Longer

It’s key to get your vitamin C from fresh, raw ingredients, since the vitamin is lost through cooking and prolonged storage. (Photo: Getty Images)

Vitamin C has long been touted for its health-boosting benefits, but new research has found it goes one step further — it can help you live longer.

A new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who ate more fruits and vegetables have a 15 percent lower risk of developing heart disease and 20 percent lower risk of early death. While that finding wasn’t all that surprising, this one was: Those with the highest concentrations in their blood of vitamin C were the least likely to develop heart disease or die prematurely.

The study looked at previously collected health data of 100,000 people in Denmark, which included their food intake, as well as their DNA. 

Study author Børge Nordestgaard, MD, a professor of clinical medicine at the University of Copenhagen, tells Yahoo Health that the connection may have something to do with vitamin C’s antioxidant effects, which protect our cells from damage that can cause many diseases (including heart disease).

The link may also be due to vitamin C’s ability to maintain connective tissues that support and connect the organs in our bodies, he says.

Registered dietitian nutritionist Beth Warren, author of Living a Real Life with Real Food, isn’t shocked that more vitamin C may help us live longer since the vitamin helps protect us from oxidative damage and regenerate other antioxidants in our bodies such as vitamin E.

Related: How Your Body Signals That You’re Vitamin Deficient 

Vitamin C does a host of things for our bodies, Warren tells Yahoo Health, including help with wound healing, collagen production, blood vessel maintenance, and even our moods.

Research published last year in the journal Science Transitional Medicine even found that vitamin C may enhance the effects of chemotherapy treatment for cancer, while reducing its negative side effects.

It’s key to get your vitamin C from fresh, raw ingredients, Warren says, since “the vitamin is lost through cooking and prolonged storage.”

You already know you can get vitamin C from citrus fruits and their juices, but there are a slew of additional fruits and vegetables that are vitamin C-rich. Red and green peppers, kiwi, broccoli, strawberries, cantaloupe, baked potatoes, and tomatoes are also good sources of the vitamin, says Warren.

But nutrition expert Karen Ansel, RDN, CDN, says we shouldn’t all rush to gorge ourselves on vitamin C just yet, since the study doesn’t prove that vitamin C is responsible for the benefits — just that there is a link. “It could be that high vitamin C levels from increased fruit and vegetable consumption could be a marker for many other health promoting compounds that are also found in produce,” she tells Yahoo Health.

However, Ansel says, vitamin C has a host of proven beneficial properties, so it’s not a bad idea to incorporate it into your diet anyway.

How much vitamin C should you strive to eat? Nordestgaard recommends having at least two portions of foods rich in the vitamin a day.

Of course, you can also get the vitamin from a supplement, but Nordestgaard says it’s best to get it from whole foods…for now, at least. “Although our results are compatible with the possibility that a favorable effect of high intake of fruit and vegetables could in part be driven by high vitamin C concentrations, we cannot say for sure that vitamin C is the explanation,” he says.

So, keep eating your broccoli and oranges. They could help you live longer.

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