C and CA Are Not the Same: The Differences Between the Oft-Confused and Equally Critical Nutrients Vitamin C and Calcium

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    While vitamin C and calcium are sometimes thought to be the same thing, they’re not. They do, however, both play a critical role in your health.

    Is vitamin C the same as calcium?

    While vitamin C and calcium are both essential nutrients, they are not the same thing. It can be easy, though, to confuse them, as calcium is referred to as Ca on the periodic table of elements and vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is often simply referred to as C.

    Function of vitamin C vs. calcium

    Vitamin C is an antioxidant that aids in the production of collagen, promotes a healthy immune system, supports seasonal lung and sinus issues, enhances the intestinal absorption of dietary non-heme iron from plants and vegetables, and contributes to musculoskeletal health through biosynthesis of carnitine. It is not made in the body so it must come from a diet rich in fruits and vegetables (including most citrus fruit, strawberries, white potatoes, avocados, tomatoes, and cruciferous vegetables) or supplementation. It is readily available in premium supplements such as Care/of’s Vitamin C supplement.

    Calcium is a mineral that is primarily absorbed in the small intestine. It supports bone health and is necessary for blood clotting, muscle contraction, heart rate, nerve function, and in maintaining healthy blood pressure that is already within a normal range. It is important for pregnant people to maintain a healthy calcium level to promote healthy development of the baby. It can be found in foods including cheese, yogurt, milk, fortified plant milks, almonds, leafy greens, edamame, and fortified orange juice. The bioavailability of calcium is higher in certain food groups (dairy, if you have a tolerance for it) than in others (leafy greens that contain phytic acid and oxalates for example). Calcium should be consumed in foods or in a high quality supplement like Care/of’s Calcium Plus.

    Health benefits of vitamin c and calcium supplementation

    Bone health

    Vitamin C was shown to induce osteoblast and osteoclast formation in this study, and to have protective effects on the bone health of elderly men in this research. While it appears vitamin C may have beneficial effects on bone health, more rigorous studies and clinical trials are needed to validate this claim.

    Calcium is usually paired with vitamin D for bone support. In this study, 318 volunteers over the age of 65 participated in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study that found that the total body bone mineral density was improved in the group receiving calcium and vitamin D. Again, more research may be required.

    Oral health

    Vitamin C plays an important role in the production of healthy collagen which is necessary for healthy teeth and gums. This study highlights the positive effects of vitamin C on dental health, though it calls for more extensive study to further understand the relationship between the two.

    Calcium is necessary for teeth to develop properly in babies and children. It also helps keep teeth mineralized in adults, thereby positively impacting teeth retention, according to this study.

    The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin C is 75-90 mg for all persons. The RDA for calcium is 1000-1200 mg, usually depending upon age.

    As always, it is always important to consult with your physician or health care provider when determining proper supplementation.

    Signs and symptoms of low levels of vitamin c and calcium

    Low levels of vitamin C (vitamin C deficiency) can manifest symptomatically after 8 to 12 weeks of inadequate intake. The deficiency often presents as irritability, easily bruising due to blood vessel weakness, bleeding gums, slow wound healing, or dry skin. It can also appear as spoon-shaped dents in fingernails and toenails, and splinter hemorrhages (tiny blood vessels that burst underneath the nail creating this appearance). Due to the disruption of disulfide bond formation, both corkscrew and swan-neck hairs may also occur. Low levels of vitamin C can be attributed to insufficient fruit and vegetables in the diet, oxidative stress, and lifestyle choices such as smoking.

    Low levels of calcium are rarely experienced with physical symptoms in the body since calcium can be released from the bones if the diet is deficient. If symptoms do appear, they could be any of a wide variety since calcium impacts so many organ systems. Tingling and numbness around the mouth and at the fingertips may be an indication of calcium deficiency. Long-term deficiency can exist due to poor digestion or absorption, medication side effects, or kidney issues. Populations at risk of low calcium intake are those with dietary restrictions (including vegans), digestive issues, and postmenopausal people.

    What happens if you take too much vitamin c or calcium?

    Vitamin C is water-soluble, so any excess that your body doesn’t use will be excreted through urine. You may, however, experience stomach distress, diarrhea, nausea, or indigestion as a result of taking too much.

    Excess calcium can lead to kidney issues, palpitations, shortness of breath, weakness, and digestive problems such as bowel changes or stomach distress.

    Final takeaways

    Vitamin C and calcium may both be essential nutrients, but they are not the same thing. Each plays critical roles in a number of the body’s functions, so it is imperative to maintain healthy levels of both of them. The good news is that it’s fairly easy to do so with a healthy diet and supplementation when necessary. As always, check with your physician to ensure that you are getting, and absorbing, these nutrients for maximum well-being.

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    Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS
    Medical Content Manager
    Dr. Montrond-Correia is a licensed naturopathic physician and a certified nutrition specialist (CNS). She holds degrees from University of Bridgeport, Georgetown University, and University of Saint Joseph, and supplemented her education with internships in the health and wellness space. She's focused on research, herbal medicine, nutrigenomics, and integrative and functional medicine. She makes time for exercise, artistic activities, and enjoying delicious food.
    Our Editorial Staff
    Freelance Contributor
    The Care/of Editorial Team is made up of writers, experts, and health enthusiasts, all dedicated to giving you the information you need today. Our team is here to answer your biggest wellness questions, read the studies for you, and introduce you to your new favorite product, staying up to date on the latest research, trends, and science. Each article is written by one of our experts, reviewed both for editorial standards by an editor and medical standards by one of our naturopathic doctors, and updated regularly as new information becomes available.