Relatively large doses of vitamin C may cause indigestion, particularly when taken on an empty stomach.
When taken in large doses, vitamin C causes diarrhea in healthy subjects. In one trial in 1936, doses up to 6 grams of ascorbic acid were given to 29 infants, 93 children of preschool and school age, and 20 adults for more than 1400 days. With the higher doses, toxic manifestations were observed in five adults and four infants. The signs and symptoms in adults were nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, flushing of the face, headache, fatigue and disturbed sleep. The main toxic reactions in the infants were skin rashes.
As vitamin C enhances iron absorption, iron poisoning can become an issue to people with rare iron overload disorders, such as haemochromatosis. A genetic condition that results in inadequate levels of the enzyme glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) can cause sufferers to develop hemolytic anemia after ingesting specific oxidizing substances, such as very large dosages of vitamin C.
There is a longstanding belief among the mainstream medical community that vitamin C causes kidney stones, which is based on little science.
Although recent studies have found a relationship, a clear link between excess ascorbic acid intake and kidney stone formation has not been generally established. Some case reports exist for patients with oxalate deposits and a history of high dose vitamin C usage. Discussions of a possible link are given in articles such as .
In a study conducted on rats, during the first month of pregnancy, high doses of vitamin C may suppress the production of progesterone from the corpus luteum. Progesterone, necessary for the maintenance of a pregnancy, is produced by the corpus luteum for the first few weeks, until the placenta is developed enough to produce its own source. By blocking this function of the corpus luteum, high doses of vitamin C (1000+ mg) are theorized to induce an early miscarriage. In a group of spontaneously aborting women at the end of the first trimester, the mean values of vitamin C were significantly higher in the aborting group. However, the authors do state: 'This could not be interpreted as an evidence of causal association.' However, in a previous study of 79 women with threatened, previous spontaneous, or habitual abortion, Javert and Stander (1943) had 91% success with 33 patients who received vitamin C together with bioflavonoids and vitamin K (only three abortions), whereas all of the 46 patients who did not receive the vitamins aborted.
Recent rat and human studies suggest that adding Vitamin C supplements to an exercise training program can cause a decrease in mitochondria production, hampering endurance capacity.
Chance of overdose
As discussed previously, vitamin C exhibits remarkably low toxicity. The LD50 (the dose that will kill 50% of a population) in rats is generally accepted to be 11.9 grams per kilogram of body weight when taken orally. The LD50 in humans remains unknown, owing to medical ethics that preclude experiments which would put patients at risk of harm. However, as with all substances tested in this way, the LD50 is taken as a guide to its toxicity in humans and no data to contradict this has been found.
A cancer-causing compound, Hexavalent chromium, can be triggered by the effects of vitamin C.
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Last Updated: Sep 16, 2013