Vitamin C

Is a glass of OJ or vitamin C tablets your go-to when the sniffles come? Loading up on this vitamin was a practice spurred by Linus Pauling in the 1970s, a double Nobel laureate and self-proclaimed champion of vitamin C who promoted daily megadoses (the amount in 12 to 24 oranges) as a way to prevent colds and some chronic diseases.

Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin. This means that it dissolves in water and is delivered to the body’s tissues but is not well stored, so it must be taken daily through food or supplements. Even before its discovery in 1932, nutrition experts recognized that something in citrus fruits could prevent scurvy, a disease that killed as many as two million sailors between 1500 and 1800.

Vitamin C plays a role in controlling infections and healing wounds, and is a powerful antioxidant that can neutralize harmful free radicals. It is needed to make collagen, a fibrous protein in connective tissue that is weaved throughout various systems in the body: nervous, immune, bone, cartilage, blood, and others. The vitamin helps make several hormones and chemical messengers used in the brain and nerves.