The importance of Vitamin C for the Production of Collagen

The importance of Vitamin C for the Production of Collagen

“We have come upon reasons why we require for good health so much larger amounts of vitamin C than are present in the plants we use as food… It has recently been shown by Myllyla and his colleagues that, one molecule of vitamin C is destroyed for each H (hydrogen atom) replaced by OH (during the formation of collagen)… Vitamin C, in the critical reactions that assemble collagen in the tissues, does not serve merely as a catalyst but is destroyed.”
Linus Pauling, Nobel Prize winner


Collagen is the most abundant protein in our body and in fact is more abundant than all other proteins combined. Collagen consists of strong white fibers, stronger than steel wire of the same weight, and combined with elastic fibers (called elastin) constitutes the connective tissue that holds our bodies together.  This includes the skin, bones, cartilage, teeth, blood vessels, eyes, heart, and, in fact, essentially all parts of the body.

The fact that Vitamin C is involved in almost every stage of the production of collagen demonstrates the importance of adequate intake of vitamin C in our diets. The lack of adequate Vitamin C results in Scurvy. This was common in sailors many years ago and it was found that they could be fed limes to cure the disease. Those with scurvy have inadequate collagen production and their bodies fall apart: from blood vessels to bones, joints, skin, and eventually immune system and their heart. If not treated with Vitamin C, they may eventually die.

Important Fact about the need for Vitamin C

1. We do not synthesize (produce) our own Vitamin C.

2. We must consume Vitamin C from our diets and/or supplements.

3. Vitamin C is essential for the production of collagen.

4. Vitamin C is destroyed and depleted during the process of collagen production.

5. The British sailors were fed limes, a whole food, not a synthetic or isolated part of the complex.  In fact, ascorbic acid will not cure scurvy.

6. Ascorbic acid is not a whole food vitamin and is not even Vitamin C. It is a synthetic or an isolate and is part of the Vitamin C complex. Stating it is Vitamin C would be like suggesting that a steering wheel is a car.

How much Vitamin C do we need?

It depends on your source of information. The Recommended Daily Allowance is 45mg for children ages 4-16 and 75mg to 90mg for adults. Sadly, most people do not get even these minimal amounts. For the important optimal antioxidant protection we need much more C than the RDA. For those who are exposed to pollution regularly, have a high stress level, who are older, smoke or are around smokers, have a family history of heart disease or cancer, low physical activity, and are exposed to the sun a lot (this list could go on) the more Vitamin C is needed for optimal health.

So how much do the researchers take? Dr. Albert Szent who won the Nobel Prize in 1937 for isolating pure vitamin C took 1,000mg until his 80′s when he started taking 2,000mg a day. Dr. Linus Pauling, also a Nobel Prize winner, and one of the most important scientists of the 20th century, suggested anywhere from 450mg to 4,500mg and even up to 10,000mg per day; in his 90′s he took up to 18,000mg per day. My suggestion is to take about 500 to 1,000 mg of whole food Vitamin C per day

My suggestion is to take a whole food Vitamin C and not simply ascorbic acid. We have millions of years eating food, and our bodies cannot adapt to synthetics or isolates in less than 100 years.

Vitamin C for Cosmetic Reasons

My additional interest in Vitamin C is for patients receiving volumizing injectable products that require collagen production to be successful. These are:

Sculptra Aesthetics and Artefill. These products are volumizers for the face, and keep in mind that loss of volume is a prime cause of sagging and looking older. Each of these products is more effective in someone who is producing adequate collagen, and we now know that Vitamin C is an integral part of collagen synthesis. It is my opinion that patients over 60 years old have inadequate collagen synthesis unless they are taking supplemental Vitamin C.

The best way to assure an adequate intake of Vitamin C is:

Eating an ample quantity of vegetables and fruits is the most natural way. Unfortunately, with pollutants, processed foods, modern day stress, additional supplements should also be taken to achieve adequate amounts of Vitamin C, and they should be derived from whole foods. There are many good whole food vitamin sources, and among them are New Chapter, Synthesis, Standard Process, Alive, and many more, which can readily be found with a Google search.

E. Ronald Finger, MD, FACS

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E. Ronald Finger MD