Vitamin C, Immune Function, and Geekery

January 30, 2014

Being a total geek pays off sometimes.

What am I talking about? I’m talking about this wicked cold that I’ve recently come down with. I hate being sick. It turns me into a hopelessly useless and miserable wretch.

So, Vitamin C. The go-to cure-all for the common cold, right? You’re sick, drink some orange juice. As old wive’s tales catch up with modern science, the general public has become more and more aware that this isn’t always the case. Studies keep showing up that give us reason to rethink heavy antioxidant supplementation: perhaps there’s impaired muscle recovery, or no actual DNA protective effects, or, and this is important, it might not actually have any tangible effect on the common cold. Except it might have some effect, especially for athletes, at doses around 2,000mg+/day.

I subscribe to the school of thought that excessive antioxidant supplementation (as in, taking the pill and not eating the food) isn’t ideal, but isn’t necessarily harmful either. To me, the benefits of  some antioxidant supplementation outweigh the  possible downsides. Especially during illness, when the possible downsides (impaired muscle recovery, etc.) are of lesser important than  feeling better.

So, enough rambling. Let’s talk about practical optimization here.

We know that Vitamin C is water-soluble, and therefore doesn’t need to be taken with a meal. We know that Vitamin C supplementation has a very short half-life, perhaps even as quick as 30 minutes, and therefore can be supplemented frequently without fear of saturation (and we know that Vitamin C oversaturation isn’t much of anything to worry about.) We also know that, generally, the body best absorbs Vitamin C in doses maxing out around 500 mg, and much more of that is progressively more poorly absorbed (which we can see with profoundly yellow urine and possible stomach upset.)

So, given all of this information, I’ve come up with a self-prescribed routine to optimize Vitamin C’s effect on the immune system and disease recovery: I want 2,000mg/day, taken in doses of 500mg with a large glass of water every couple of hours. This is taken alongside a barrage of other supplements, the details of which I’ll spare you at this time.

Now you know.