Vitamin C Deficiency -  A Problem with Many Health Consequences

Click to save on quality supplements!

Vitamin C deficiency, even mild forms, can play out in many health problems  - both large and small.

Healthy Balanced Diet

My Plate


Low-Glycemic Diets

Food Labels


Even though the US government figures indicate that intake of Vitamin C has increased over the last few decades, both through increased supplementation, fortification in foods and intake of Vitamin C rich foods and that dietary deficiency is becoming rare,   large sub-populations remain at risk for inadequate Vitamin C and the many health conditions that can result .

Why Care about Vitamin C Deficiency?

Why care about not getting enough Vitamin C or absorbing effectively what you do consume?

Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for the body and a player in many physiological processes including building and maintaining blood vessels, skin and collagen, hormone production including the stress hormones cortisol as well as immune function.  Press on the Benefits of Vitamin C for a run down on the importance of Vitamin C for our bodies.

Symptoms of Not Enough Vitamin C

Not surprisingly, because of the pervasive role Vitamin C plays in the body, deficiency symptoms are many.

A snapshot includes the following:

  • fatigue and malaise
  • recurrent infections and colds
  • bleeding gums and gingivitis
  • dry hair
  • loose teeth

  • aching bones and muscles
  • excess bruising
  • eye problems including cataracts and macular degeneration
  • poor wound healing
  • amino acid imbalance
  • cardiovascular disease
  • rash on the legs and buttocks called follicular hyperkeratosis which gives the skin a bumpy toad like appearance.

Conditions associated with Inadequate Vitamin C  -

 1.   Vitamin C Deficiency:  Scurvy – The Ultimate Vitamin C deficiency disease  and when Vitamin C deficiency was first observed   - Scurvy is the condition most associated with Vitamin C deficiency.


It takes weeks of little or no Vitamin C to cause symptoms of scurvy. As mentioned, these include fatigue and exhaustion, bloody gums, loose  teeth, dry hair, excess bruising and slow wound healing, as well  as  heart irregularities.  As little as 30 mg of Vitamin C per day will prevent it.


Scurvy was the sailors' disease, rife among those at sea for months with little or no Vitamin C rich fresh fruit or vegetables on the menu.


A few keen observers in the day had associated the symptoms of scurvy with a lack of fresh fruit and vegetable. A few enlightened sea captains, like the explorer Captain James Cook, provided cress, sauer kraut and orange extract to keep sailors symptom-free on long voyage.  Despite these exceptions, thousands died over the centuries because of lack of knowledge or refusal to take measures. Some military historians argue wars were lost because of Vitamin C deficient scurvy, before the British Navy and years later the Board of Trade who controlled the merchant marine instituted the lime juice ration for enlisted seamen. Amazing the effects nutrition can have on history!



Who Discovered Vitamin C and Its Many Benefits?

It wasn’t until the 20th century that scientists identified vitamin C as the cause of scurvy. Albert Szent Gyorgi identified and distilled the nutrient that later became known as vitamin C, a discovery for which he won the Nobel Prize in 1937. Later he became a proponent of the many health benefits of vitamin C along with high dose Vitamin C supplementation.

2.  Vitamin C Deficiency:  Atherosclerosis & Cardiovascular Disease Benefit from Vitamin C Chronic low level Vitamin C deficiency has been linked to  increased risk of cardiovascular disease including heart attack and stroke. Some medical experts consider cardiovascular disease a modern day scurvy and a potential sign of chronic low level Vitamin C deficiency, causing, over the long term, damage to blood vessels, abnormal cholesterol profile and inflammation.


As well as affecting the integrity and elasticity of the blood vessels themselves, Vitamin C also plays a role in plaque development. When Vitamin C is insufficient, the plaques that form atherosclerosis become more fragile with increased tendency to detach and form clots that can cause heart attack or stroke.


Vitamin C’s anti-inflammatory function helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, viewed by many health professionals as an inflammatory condition.


While Vitamin E is an important antioxidant for cardiovascular health, Vitamin E requires Vitamin C to  keep E from oxidizing  and in order to prolong its antioxidant function. It follows that Vitamin C is an important player in the antioxidant team of nutrients needed for cardiovascular health.


3.   Vitamin C Deficiency:  Osteoporosis & Arthritis Benefit from Vitamin C – Because  of Vitamin C’s role in collagen  formation, a primary constituent of bone and connective tissue, Vitamin C helps prevent and improve symptoms of osteoporosis and arthritis.

An over-abundance of the adrenal hormone cortisol, whether caused by emotional or physical stress, can lower Vitamin C levels, weaken the tissue matrix, and lead to weakened bones, ligaments and cartilage.


4.  Vitamin C Deficiency:  Cataracts and Age Related Macular Degeneration Benefits from Vitamin C – Cataract and age related macular degeneration are the major causes of blindness among people over age 55  in the developed world. Both are associated with poor antioxidant status and sub-optimal collagen formation – something which Vitamin C  can help.  Decreased Vitamin C levels in the retina are associated with a higher incidence of both conditions.


Studies indicate that Vitamin C supplementation is associated with a slower progression of advanced cases of age related macular degeneration. 

Additional Benefits of Vitamin C for Ocular Health Because of Vitamin C’s collagen forming role and importance in maintaining healthy blood vessels, Vitamin C is key for the blood vessel rich eyes. Vitamin C concentration is high in eye tissue.

5.   Vitamin C Deficiency Diabetes Benefits from Vitamin CVitamin C has been associated with improved Diabetes symptoms because of its collagen forming role and its beneficial effects on building and maintaining healthy blood vessels. These can become damaged in Diabetes.


Vitamin C improves the function of insulin, the  blood sugar  regulating hormone that functions improperly in individuals with Type II Diabetes and is absent or decreased in those with Type 1 Diabetes.

A note of caution about vitamin C and diabetes in women – A study of post-menopausal diabetic women found those who supplemented 500 mg per day of vitamin C, had a higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease than those who did not supplement. It follows that this group should be cautious about vitamin C supplementation, although not dietary vitamin C since diabetics are often Vitamin C deficient.

6.   Vitamin C Deficiency:   Cancer and Pre-cancerous Conditions Benefits of Vitamin C – Studies point to an inverse correlation between high tissue Vitamin C levels and fruits and vegetable intake; and the incidence of colon, anal, breast, prostate, cervical, oral, esophageal and lung cancer as well as precancerous lesions including cervical dysplasia and colon polyps. It is unclear whether this is caused by the action of Vitamin C alone or by other health promoting nutrients found in Vitamin C rich fruits and vegetables.

7.   Vitamin C Deficiency Viral and Infectious Diseases Benefit from Vitamin C - There is evidence including  extensive anecdotal evidence about Vitamin C’s antiviral  and antibiotic function with infectious and viral diseases.  Conditions where adequate Vitamin C may either help reduce the severity of symptoms or eradicate the infection or virus from the system  include the common cold, polio, bronchitis, hepatitis, herpes zoster, herpes simplex, pneumonia, legionnaire’s disease (legionellosis), Human Immune Deficiency (HIV).  

Vitamin C ‘s Antiviral and Anti Infectious Effects

Some scientists have theorized that vitamin C’s antiviral and antibiotic properties arise from vitamin C saturated tissue’s effect on leukocytes, the white blood cells that immobilize viruses and infections. Most claims of vitamin C’s success in preventing or curing infectious or viral conditions is based on large mega-doses on a frequent basis of up to dozens of grams per day for extended periods. For clinical examples of the vitamin C therapy see the collection of Dr. Frederick R. Klenner and other clinicians’ papers who use vitamin C as therapy. Robert McCracken’s book Injectable Vitamin C and The Treatments of Viral and Other Diseases – A compilation of Pioneering Literature, 2nd Edition outlines many of these.

  • (i)     The Common Cold - Benefits from Vitamin C - While the studies have been conflicting about the benefits of  Vitamin C for preventing or curing the common cold, there is some medical consensus that even low levels of Vitamin C help diminish the severity and duration of cold symptoms. Many of the studies have included low, by orthomolecular standards, doses of Vitamin C (300 mg to a 2,000 mg per day) and not the dozens of grams recommended by many Vitamin C proponents, like Linus Pauling and others, in the case of illness.
A Cochrane Review of the Benefits of Vitamin C for the Common Cold found vitamin C affected the duration of the cold – not the severity of symptoms or frequency of contraction. Vitamin C therapy boosters criticize this meta-analysis for including studies of low dose and low frequency vitamin C therapy. Studies showing positive effect of vitamin C on the common cold frequently involve large doses of C.

  • (i)       Herpes Simplex Both genital and facial varieties may benefit from Vitamin C. One study gave 38 herpes sufferers 2,000 mg per day and saw 30 of them reduce substantially the number of episodes. Some physicians have observed improved healing by applying ascorbic acid directly to lesions and letting it dry.



8.   Infections and Inflammation Benefits from Vitamin C – Because of Vitamin C’s antioxidant and immune enhancing function, Vitamin C helps prevent and eradicate bacterial infections and attendant inflammation.  Also, via it’s collagen building role, Vitamin C strengthens the body’s tissue matrix, which can help stop the spread of infection as well as the growth of benign and cancerous cysts.


9.   Cervical Dysplasia and Prevention of Cervical Cancer Benefit from Vitamin C  - Women with “ low” Vitamin C intake (less than 88 mg per day –  ironically the RDA for adult women  is 75 mg) have been found to have a 4 times increase in cervical dysplasia, a precursor to cervical cancer. Smoking, a big Vitamin C sapper, is also associated closely with higher cervical cancer rates.   Experts  theorize that  Vitamin C’s antioxidant role prevents the development of cervical abnormalities. Vitamin C's immune enhancing effect on white blood cells may help those cells better fight the human papillomavirus, the cause of cervical cancer.


10.   Vitamin C Deficiency Snake , Spider bites, jellyfish stings and Mushroom Poisoning Antidote Benefit from Vitamin C - There is startling anecdotal evidence that Vitamin C in massive doses can reverse the effects of normally fatal or debilitating snake and spider bites, jellyfish stings as well as mushroom poisoning. This is likely through Vitamin C’s anti histamine qualities. Robert McCracken’s book Injectable Vitamin C and The Treatments of Viral and Other Diseases – A compilation of Pioneering Literature, 2nd Edition describes several example of this, many via mega-doses of several grams of Vitamin C.


11.   Vitamin C Deficiency Infertility as well as DNA Damage Benefits from Vitamin C - Human sperm contains high concentrations of Vitamin C. High blood levels of Vitamin C are associated with improved male fertility. Low levels are linked to sperm clumping (sperm agglutination) and reduced fertility. Experts theorize that Vitamin C benefits fertility through its antioxidant role;  improving sperm and arguably egg quality in women  by preventing DNA damage.


Vitamin C and Active Cancer - A concern

While there is strong evidence that vitamin C as well as other nutrients should be part of any cancer prevention and cancer therapy program, there is theoretical concern that excess Vitamin C might protect, along with the normal tissue, cancerous tissue; alternatively, in excess, some scientists have theorized that Vitamin C might function as a pro oxidant and worry that, in large supplemental doses, it may interfere with some chemotherapy drugs making them less effective. Other scientists dispute these concerns and advocate Vitamin C and other anti-oxidants to enhance cancer treatment. The solution? - discuss vitamin C and other nutrient supplementation with your oncologist. Ensure you consume a healthy well balanced diet.

12.   Vitamin C Deficiency:   Preeclampsia Benefits from Vitamin C Supplementing Vitamins C and E to at risk pregnant women was found to reduce the incidence of preeclampsia by 76%. Preeclampsia is marked by dangerously high blood pressure  and can, if untreated, lead to fatal eclampsia, the largest killer of pregnant women in the developed world. Not surprisingly one of the routine treatments for eclampsia is massive IV infusions of Vitamin C. Ensuring an adequate intake of Vitamin C  may prevent this condition.


13.   Vitamin C Deficiency Symptoms of Menopause and Peri-menopause Benefit from Vitamin C including hot flashes, urinary incontinence, and womb and bladder prolapse Vitamin C, along with flavonoid intake, has been associated with reduced hot flashes in menopausal and peri-menoposaul women, possibly because of Vitamin C’s role in adrenal function. The adrenal glands have the highest concentration of Vitamin C in the human body! Fluctuations in cortisol levels can produce hot flashes and sweating. Vitamin C’s collagen building role helps improve skin elasticity that deteriorates when a woman’s estrogen and progesterone levels decline before and after menopause.  Vitamin C can  help prevent vaginal dryness,  urinary stress incontinence as well as organ prolapse, all associated with the reduced hormone levels of menopause. Experts surmise Vitamin C’s collagen-building and tissue-matrix-strengthening role is responsible.


14.   Vitamin C Deficiency Detoxing Heavy Metals and Toxins Benefit from Vitamin C Vitamin C supplementation has been used to eliminate heavy metals including lead, copper and mercury. Adequate Vitamin C levels have been found to minimize heavy metal absorption in the first place, as well as prevent and minimize the effects of other pollutants that can have an oxidizing effect in the body.



15.  Vitamin C Deficiency:   Smokers Benefit from Vitamin C – Smoking generates damaging free radicals. It follows that Vitamin C can minimize this damage, due to its antioxidant and detoxifying functions.  The RDA recommends that smokers take an additional 35 mg of Vitamin C per day than non smokers. Other health care providers, recommend considerably more Vitamin C to combat the oxidizing effects of smoking.


16.   Vitamin C Deficiency Radiation Damage Benefit from Vitamin C Those who have been exposed to excess solar radiation (too much sun) as well as excess radiation from trans-continental air travel, X rays and cancer therapy can benefit from increased Vitamin C intake because of C’s free radical quenching ability.


17.   Vitamin C Deficiency Women suffering Heavy Menstrual Flow and Painful Periods as well as Endometriosis Benefit from Vitamin C– Because of Vitamin C’s capillary strengthening capacity, Vitamin C therapy along with bioflavonoids can reduce heavy menstrual bleeding. In addition, Vitamin C’s positive effect on iron absorption can further help women avoid anemia from excess blood loss. Finally, Vitamin C relaxes smooth muscles and reduces inflammation, two factors that help reduce period cramping and the pain of endometriosis.


18.   Vitamin C Deficiency Skin Damage Benefits from Vitamin C Vitamin C is important for the skin for several reasons: (i) it is essential for collagen production;  (ii)  it blocks an enzyme called aryl sulfatase B that, otherwise, can damage skin; (iii) it prevents cross linking of collagen and elastin that can harm skin microfibers; and (iv) it refreshes the antioxidant powers of Vitamin E, important for maintaining youthful wrinkle-free skin.


19.   Vitamin C Deficiency:   Iron Absorption Benefits from Vitamin C Vitamin C improves the absorption of non-heme iron  (that found in plant as opposed to animal foods). This is important for vegetarians and vegans who don’t eat iron rich red meat or organ meats as an iron source.

20.  Vitamin C Deficiency:   TB Sufferers May Benefits from Vitamin C - Researchers in May 2013 have discovered that Vitamin C kills the  bacteria that causes tuberculosis (TB) in lab culture, opening the way for improved therapies for sufferers.

Those at risk for Vitamin C  Deficiency

While scurvy is rare today, there are several groups at risk for not getting enough Vitamin C.

Indeed, many experts believe that a number of the above diseases, including cardiovascular disease, some cancers, adrenal exhaustion, frequent and long lasting colds and infections, may be caused in part by chronic low level Vitamin C deficiency.


Groups particularly at risk for not getting enough Vitamin C are

  • Surgery patients and accident victims
  • Smokers and second hand smokers
  • Alcoholics
  • Those on restricted diets that minimize Vitamin C rich foods including the sick as well as those who consume an over-abudance of highly refined foods with few or no vegetables or fruits (teenagers)
  • The chronically ill
  • Diabetics
  • Babies fed exclusively boiled or evaporated milk as opposed to breast milk or infant formula
  • Those suffering kidney failure

Poor Vitamin C Absorption  Because of a high sugar diet is a factor  in not getting enough Vitamin C. - Diabetics, Teenagers and Sugaraholics Take Note

The glucose molecule is structurally similar to the Vitamin C molecule. Because of this, excess glucose can compete with Vitamin C for absorption.

It follows that high blood  glucose levels, often associated with diets high in refined carbohydrates and with uncontrolled diabetes, have been found to block Vitamin C absorption. This impaired Vitamin C absorption is particularly harmful in the case of diabetes, because sufferers need the collagen building  and anti-inflammatory benefits of Vitamin C to repair and build the healthy blood vessels  damaged by high blood glucose levels.

For more on the importance of  low glucose levels, see  Benefits of Low Glycemic diets.Diabetes Diet Information  and Anti-inflammatory Diet.

To read more about Vitamin C and related topics, press on the below.

Press here to read more about the Benefits of Vitamin C.

Click here to read more about Anti-inflammatory Diets and Inflammatory Foods.

Click here to read more about Antioxidant Levels of Food (ORAC Values).

Click here to read more about Cancer and Nutrition, Cancer Prevention Diets and Cancer Fighting Diets.

Click here to read more about the Benefits of Vitamin D.


Click here to read more about the Benefits of Magnesium.


Click here to read more about the Benefits of Zinc.

Click here to read more about the Benefits of Supplements including the Benefits of Vitamin C Supplements.



Click here to go to Healthy Diet Healthy You home.