How Vitamin C can help fight Viruses?

How Vitamin C can help fight Viruses

Vitamin C breaks down to generate hydrogen peroxide, which can damage tissue and DNA, writes Dr. Noor Gill

Everywhere you look, people are shoving down the idea of washing your hands and strengthening your immune system and so they are also shoving oranges and limes down your throat. There are posters and WhatsApp forwards everywhere you look.

Ever cared to stop and ask why? I mean, we understand why they want us to wash our hands, but what is with this sudden obsession with all things sour and citrusy? Maybe now is the time you ask, because we have an answer for you.

What exactly does Vitamin C do?

Vitamin C is an essential antioxidant and enzymatic co-factor (acts as a catalyst) for many physiological functions and biochemical reactions such as the making of collagen, hormone production and immune system potentiation.

There is a growing interest in the administration of Vitamin C beyond the treatment of deficiency of Vitamin C in malnourished patients.

Does Vitamin C have anti-viral properties*? 

(*based on a study by NCBI, NLM, NIH)

Vitamin C breakdown to generate hydrogen peroxide, which can damage tissue and DNA.

L-Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) is a well-known anti-viral agent, especially to influenza. However, the in vivo anti-viral effects are still controversial.

You will come across the word “in vivo” a lot in the coming paragraphs, it means the studies that have seen the various biological entities and effects on a whole, living organism or cell- usually animals or humans or plants, as opposed to tissue extracts or dead cells.

Vitamin C shows anti-viral immune responses at the early stages of infection, especially against influenza virus, through increased production of IFN α/β(type I IFN)

IFN α or β stands for interferon alpha or beta- they are a group of signalling proteins that are produced and released by the host body in response to a viral infection. Typically, a virus infected cell releases IFN which heightens the anti viral response and defenses of the neighboring cells.

Vitamin C shows its anti-viral and anti-tumour effects through the up-regulation of the activity of Natural Killer (NK) cells and tumour specific cytolytic T lymphocytes- its related evidence in vivo are still unclear.

Cytolytic T lymphocytes- are a type of white blood cells that kill cancerous cells, cells that are infected (mostly virally infected) or damaged in other ways.  The role of NK cellsis analogous to cytolytic T cells.

However, the National Center for Biochemistry Information, confirmed that Vitamin C up-regulates NK cell activity. And it is common knowledge that Vitamin C and NK cells are closely related to the prevention of common cold and flu.

Vitamin C plays an essential role in the production of antiviral immune response during the early phase of viral infections through the production of Type I interferon’s.


What other roles does Vitamin C play?

 Antioxidant activityVitamin C’s antioxidant properties are its primary function. It is one of the most famous antioxidant supplements. Humans have lost their ability to make their own Vitamin C, talk about evolution. We also have a very small fuel tank for its storage- it can only last us for 30 days. So keep refilling and refueling.


Vitamin C as a Co-factorCo-factors is like a catalyst that is required to enable and activate the enzyme to function. Vitamin C is a co-factor for enzymes for:

  1. Collagen Synthesis: Collagen is the Fevicol which keeps us from falling apart. It is the basic building block of all connective tissue that builds, holds together and strengthens our skin, bones, teeth, ligaments, etc.
  1. L-Carnitine: Now to simplify this, Vitamin C deficiency inhibits the transfer of fat into the mitochondria, which we all have come to know as the “powerhouse of the cell”, hence it is not converted into energy, causing lethargy. This is because without sufficient amounts of Vitamin C shows anti-viral immune responses at the early stages of infection, especially against influenza virus Vitamin C the body may not be able to burn the fat to produce energy.
  1. Norepinephrine: It is the “fight and flight” or the “get up and do” neurotransmitter of our body which works for the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS). The SNS keeps us breathing and beating even when we are unconscious or fast asleep and by extension, so does Vitamin C.


ImmunityLow levels of Vitamin C can result in an impaired immune system and increase the risk of infections.

Infections further decrease the Vitamin C levels in the body, since the immune cells use up the stores already present to tackle the current infection on-hand. This becomes a vicious cycle which ends in Vitamin C deficiency.

Ascorbic acid is required for the maturation of T lymphocytes, and is thus and so vital for cellular immunity.


Reduces Risk of Heart Failure and Cardiac Disease“Higher food sources Vitamin C intake and higher supplement based Vitamin C intake (>700mg/day) have both been shown to decrease the risk of coronary heart disease.” -NCBI


Wound healing – Skin wounds require collagen synthesis and adequate amounts of Vitamin C to heal properly. Impaired wound healing could be associated with deficiency, which could be corrected by taking Vitamin C orally or topically.


How can Vitamin C deficiency present?

Vitamin C deficiency can present as a wide array of symptoms. Deficiency of Vitamin C leads to severe injury to multiple organs, especially heart and brain- since they are both highly aerobic organs (that produce oxygen radicals).

It can also present as

  • Fatigue and lethargy
  • Bleeding gums
  • Poor wound healing
  • Joint pains, swelling
  • Thin hair, tooth loss

But hey, don’t go around diagnosing yourself with Hypovitaminosis C. Leave the testing and diagnosing to the experts and eat those citrus fruits.

A colleague’s doctor friend recommended you and your family to consider an extra intake of 3-10g of Vitamin C on an average day – going through this actual adventurous times! If one of you does have to stay in an hospital, he insists in receiving 10-20g of vitamin C intravenously a day.

Here’s wishing you and your family happiness, health and confidence in this crazy times.


About Dr Noor Gill

Dr Noor Gill, MBBS, deciphers the space between heartbeats, figuratively and literally. Powered by frequent long naps and caffeine, she believes that “knowledge without giving back to society is meaningless” and works to make caring cool again.

View all posts by Dr Noor Gill

One Comment on “How Vitamin C can help fight Viruses?”

  1. Sir.
    The detail topic enlighted me & I request more u to publish more latest research papper, s

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *