Vitamin C Deficiency

Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin which is needed for optimal metabolism and growth. Deficiency or inadequate serum levels of this vitamin can lead to development of severe health issues such as scurvy, impaired healing etc. It is not hard to meet the average daily requirement of vitamin C as it is present in many naturally occurring substances. However, in underdeveloped countries, the risk of developing nutritional deficiency of vitamin C increases due to lack of awareness or poor availability of high quality vitamin C foods. A mild or acute deficiency of vitamin C does not cause much harm, but severe and chronic decline in vitamin C levels may lead to a severe disease – also known as scurvy.

What Is Vitamin C Deficiency?

The normal human body has the ability to store about 1500 mg of vitamin C.The characteristic disease of vitamin C does not appear or present symptoms until this concentration reaches to less than 300 mg of vitamin C. In order to prevent the development of scurvy, healthcare providers recommend a daily intake of at least 10 mg of vitamin C. Chronic vitamin C deficiency can lead to a wide variety of health issues, such as:

  • Bleeding from gums
  • Impaired capacity of the body to repair injuries or heal wounds
  • Bleeding at the level of dermis which may result in bruising
  • Weak or vulnerable immune system that increases the propensity to develop health issues
  • Vitamin C is required to control serum cholesterol levels in the body – chronic vitamin C deficiency can interfere with cholesterol synthesis and its metabolism
  • A moderate to severe impairment of bone growth
  • Anemia

Functions of Vitamin C

Some of the characteristic benefits and functions of vitamin C are listed below.

  • It is required for the normal synthesis of collagen – a connective tissue that is responsible for the synthesis of cellular matrix of bones, tendons, ligaments, and virtually all the tissues. This collagen holds the tissues together and provides strength to major organs and systems.
  • It is required for synthesis of amino acids that helps in the regulation of the metabolic functions of the body, especially the synthesis of thyroid hormone.
  • It is required for the bone development and remodeling.
  • It is required for proper synthesis and absorption of different ions (calcium and iron).
  • Antioxidant properties.Vitamin C serves as an excellent antioxidant by preventing the formation of free radicals and reactive oxygen species. This function helps the body in the elimination of toxins. This property also increases the efficiency of the body to synthesize necessary enzymes. The antioxidant property also delays the process of aging.
  • Food industry. Vitamin C is now used in food industries as preservatives and additives. It prevents the discoloration of different synthetically produced foods. It is also known to inhibit the formation of nitrosamines, which is the leading cause of stomach cancer. For this reason it is also added as an integral component in the cured meats.

Necessary Amounts of Vitamin C

Given below is the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin C.

For Infants

40 milligrams per day

0-6 months

50 milligrams per day

7-12 months

For Children

15 milligrams per day

1-3 years

25 milligrams per day

4-8 years

45 milligrams per day

9-13 years

For Adolescents

65 milligrams per day

Girls of age 14-18 years

80 milligrams per day

Pregnant teenagers

115 milligrams per day

Breast feeding teenagers

75 milligrams per day

Boys of age 14-18 years

For Adults

90 milligrams per day

Men of age 19 years or older

75 milligrams per day

Women of age 19 years or older

85 milligrams per day

Pregnant women

120 milligrams per day

Breastfeeding women

Note: Smokers must add an extra 35 mg in their diet.

What Are the Symptoms of Vitamin C Deficiency?

Deficiency of vitamin C can leads to some serious health issues, it can be identified by symptoms such as,

  • Bruising under the skin
  • Bleeding from gums and nose
  • Muscle weakness and fatigue
  • Rough, dry and flaky skin
  • Damaged hair and split ends

What Are the Causes &Risk Factors of Vitamin C Deficiency?

Some of the significant causes for vitamin C deficiency are:

  • Less intake of vegetables and fruits and excessive intake of processed foods.
  • Exposure of vegetables and fruits to excessive heat destroys the vitamin C concentrations and lead to decline levels.

Risk factors for vitamin C deficiency are as follows:

  • Infants who don’t take breast milk
  • Alcohol intake
  • Nicotine intake (cigarette)
  • Diabetic patients
  • Patients on dialysis
  • Excessive water loss (diarrhea)

What Are the Treatments for Vitamin C Deficiency?

There is a list of vegetables and fruits that contains highest sources of vitamin C:

  • Mango
  • Pineapple
  • Papaya
  • Strawberries, blueberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Watermelon
  • Kiwi

Vegetables with high content of vitamin C include:

  • Peppers (red and green)
  • Potatoes
  • Tomato juice and fresh tomato
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower

There are some fortified cereals also available in the market in which vitamin C is added in the product. Check the ingredients given on the back of product to check the vitamin C content available in it.

It is to be noted that cooking fruits and vegetables on high heat decreases the vitamin C content however microwaving them can prevent some loss.


Deficiency of vitamin C can be overcome by taking supplements that are easily available in the market, in natural form and synthetic as well. Ascorbic acid is the most widely used vitamin C supplement, it is available in the form of tablets, granules and capsules etc.

It is recommended that the dose must be set as 250-500 mg 2-3 times per day for adults and it must be taken with meals. Consultation with your doctor is necessary before taking any vitamin C supplement as it can interacts with many medications.

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