Pharmacists under the umbrella of Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria warn that ingestion of high doses of vitamin C can lead to insomnia, organ failure and, in extreme cases, death.
They warned that vitamin C is a poison, just like any other medication, hence the need to avoid random consumption as evident since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is involved in many bodily functions, including formation of collagen, absorption of iron, strengthening the immune system, wound healing, and the maintenance of cartilage, bones, and teeth.
It is mostly found in fresh fruits and vegetables, especially in citrus fruits like orange and grape.
The medication is considered as one of the 10 most sought-after drugs in states experiencing COVID-19, as recently published by PUNCH HealthWise.
According to PSN president, Sam Ohuabunwa, the medication seems to be receiving unusual attention, particularly because of its growing reputation for immune-boosting and wound repair.
“Because the body does not produce or store vitamin C, it is important to take it in the diet.
“While too much dietary vitamin C is unlikely to be harmful, mega doses of the drug may cause some health challenges.
“Normal dose is between 65-90mg per day for adults. But in times of sickness or in order to boost immunity (like in COVID-19), you may reach a maximum of 2000mg per day.
“Excess of this may lead to side effects such as nausea, vomiting, heartburn, abdominal cramps, headache and insomnia (difficulty to sleep),” Ohuabunwa said.
Speaking in the same vein, the National Chairman of Clinical Pharmacists Association of Nigeria, Dr. Joseph Madu, said misuse of vitamin C or any other medicine has nothing to do with craving or compulsion.
The clinical pharmacist warned of dire consequence when more than the normal recommended dosage is consumed.
According to him, the normal recommended doses will depend on many factors such as age, pre-existing medical conditions and other factors.
“The consequences can be disastrous, as it can lead to death or morbidity.
“For example, diabetics are advised not to take more than 500mg vitamin C per day; otherwise, it can lead to false urinary glucose levels.
“Again, persons who are about to undergo amine occult blood tests should avoid vitamin C for about 72 hours before such a test in order to get reliable results.
“Most importantly, diabetic patients and persons with kidney problems can develop kidney stones if they take more than the recommended doses of vitamin C,” he said.
While warning that kidney failure can result from excess intake of the vitamin because of hyperoxaluria (too much oxalate crystals in urine), Madu said persons with iron absorption and storage conditions such as hemachromatosis (too much iron build- up in the body) should desist from taking high vitamin C doses, as that can cause damage to liver and other organs.
He advised Nigerians to always consult certified pharmacists or other health care providers before taking vitamin C, in order to avoid misuse.
“The dose of any medicine, including vitamin C, depends on the user and factors such as age, sex, comorbid conditions, reason for intake, other medications the person may be taking and even the dosage form of the medicine.
“For instance, in the absence of other limiting factors, a normal adult with burns may require 1000mg to 2000mg of vitamin C daily. This is usually the highest dosage range.
“But persons who eat sufficient fruits and vegetables and are not sick or deficient in vitamin C may need just about 75 to 100 mg daily,” Madu advised.
The pharmacist emphasised that Vitamin C is good for boosting the immune system, especially against conditions such as COVID-19.