Vitamin C an Anti-aging Supplement?

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Per the cellular damages theory of aging (CDTA), many of the symptoms of aging are due to the long term cellular damage caused by free radicals. The theory suggests that using antioxidants such as vitamins C, E, and Beta Carotene may lessen the amount of free radical damage inflicted on DNA and other cellular structures. Many believe that, over time, cumulative free radical damage promotes diseases such as cancer, heart disease,arthritis and accelerates the aging process.  Many vitamins and other supplements are antioxidants that can potentially lessen the effects of free radical damage. What follows is mostly about vitamin C but it is typical of what you will find when researching any anti-ageing vitamin or supplement. All anti-ageing supplements have pros and cons and have vocal supporters and detractors. Opinions vary greatly and there is scientific disagreement on many issues. You really need to evaluate all sources of information before you can form your own "reasonable" opinion. To get the most from the material below visit and read the supporting links as you go along. I state my non expert educated "conclusions" (opinions) at the end of the discussion.

Vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) is an important anti-oxidant we can only obtain through our diet and/or supplements. This essential nutrient is needed for the growth and repair (including wound healing) of all tissues. It promotes the body's production of collagen, a key protein is found in skin, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels. Vitamin C is used to directly treat scurvy and may help with the infant disease
Tyrosinemia. Aside from scurvy, mild Vitamin C deficiency can have other serious negative effects.

A few (there are many more) of the documented positive health effects of Vitamin C include:

Anything we eat can have potentially positive and/or negative effects. Vitamin C is officially acknowledged to be a very safe nutrient when taken in moderate amounts (less than 1 gram) and is totally non toxic even in large (10 grams+) amounts. Most people can adjust to increased Vitamin C intake without any problems but in a few individuals this can have negative effects (Ref 1) (Ref 2) (Ref 3). Note that the first two "authoritative" sources disagree about the effects of Vitamin C on high blood pressure, stroke, cataracts, gout etc.

Negative effects of too much Vitamin C, such as abdominal cramps and diarrhea can be minimized by taking a slow release form of Vitamin C or by taking it in smaller doses several times a days with plenty of water (Vitamin C is a strong diuretic). The sodium ascorbate and calcium ascorbate forms of Vitamin C are less irritating to the stomach. Do not take Iron supplements and Vitamin C at the same time. Other negative effects such as being allergic to Vitamin C (tip: use a non corn based Vitamin C formulation), increased risk of developing kidney stones (taking 100mg of vitamin B6 and a magnesium supplement helps prevent this) and/or other kidney problems, interfering with blood thinning medicines, interfering with various other medications, and other possible effects are harder to overcome. Always check for possible Vitamin C interactions when taking any medication (Ref 4). Many specific medications and conditions (Thalassemia, Hemochromatosis, sickle cell anemia, G6PD metabolic disorder) can be adversely affected by too much Vitamin C. On the other hand only large doses of Vitamin C are effective against viral infections and other conditions (Ref 5). Vitamin C is a fairly inexpensive product whose possible negative effects can, for the most part, be easily avoided or are managable. This implies that, when used with care, Vitamin C's positive effects should be available to everyone.

Given the above considerations, one's daily Vitamin C dosage should be determined on an individual basis. If you are  healthy you may be able to gradually increase the daily amount of Vitamin C you use until you get to a level just a bit lower than that which causes negative effects. For many people this can translate to taking 2 or 3 grams of Vitamin C on a daily basis. If negative effects are experienced simply reduce the dosage to problem free levels. The official minimum daily requirement of Vitamin C has been raised several times and is now (2016) at 90 milligrams . Many think this amount is much too low and are not shy in voicing their dissatisfaction (Ref 6). The Vitamin C Foundation says the current recommended minimum daily Vitamin C dosage is too low for the promotion and maintenance of optimum health. They strongly believe the vitamin has many health benefits and recommend a daily intake of several grams. You need to evaluate the evidence for yourself. History does suggest that the traditional medical community as a whole can take years to accept new ideas. 

Does Vitamin C have any proven anti-ageing effects? Many Vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin C, have anti-ageing properties in that they have been statistically associated with longer than average cellular telomere length. Renowned scientist, Dr. Linus Pauling, was a strong advocate of Vitamin C and believed that supplementing with high doses of Vitamin C and other antioxidants could extend one's healthy lifespan 20 or more years. There are studies that support the idea that Vitamin C has anti-ageing effects and there are other studies that show it can help with many of the symptoms of aging.

Studies on Vitamin C's positive effects on the symptoms of aging show:

Studies on Vitamin C's direct anti-ageing effect show: 
Two "reasonable" conclusions I drew from all the above:

Determining optimum antioxidant dosage (for any antioxidant) can be difficult. Too high a dose of any antioxidant can produce damaging oxidative stress that can negate any protective effects against free radical damage. This would completely defeat its use as an anti-ageing supplement. Too small a dose is ineffective while too large a dose can be more harmful than beneficial. Optimum dosage is somewhere in between and will vary with age. Young healthy individuals probably require less supplemental antioxidants than older individuals. Ideally one's optimum dosage should be determined on an individual basis via daily feedback we would get on antioxidant effectiveness from easy to use biomarkers. Today this type of optimization is not readily or widely available.

If you want or need to take multiple antioxidants in an attempt to do blanket antioxidant coverage, you will probably need to make educated guesses on what antioxidants and dosages are best for you. You may also need to work out a schedule for taking these supplements that minimizes possible harmful interactions with food, medicines, and other supplements. For most people simply sticking to the basics should be sufficient.

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