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5 Worrying Signs of Vitamin C Deficiency

Are you suffering from any of these symptoms?

Vitamin C, also known as L-ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in some foods, added to others, and available as a dietary supplement. Humans, unlike most animals, are unable to synthesize vitamin C endogenously, so it is an essential dietary component. 

Vitamin C is required for the biosynthesis of collagen, L-carnitine, and certain neurotransmitters; vitamin C is also involved in protein metabolism [1,2]. Collagen is an essential component of connective tissue, which plays a vital role in wound healing. Vitamin C is also an important physiological antioxidant [3] and has been shown to regenerate other antioxidants within the body, including alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E) [4]. 

BENEFITS OF VITAMIN C

  • Necessary for the growth, development and repair of all body tissues
  • Strong antioxidant
  • Studies have shown that vitamin C may help lower blood pressure in those both with and without high blood pressure (7)
  • Improves Iron absorption
  • Boosts immunity by improving the functionality of white blood cells
  • Protect memory as you age
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Studies suggest that oxidative stress and inflammation near the brain, spine and nerves (altogether known as the central nervous system) can increase the risk of dementia (5). Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant. Low levels of this vitamin have been linked to an impaired ability to think and remember (67). Moreover, several studies have shown that people with dementia may have lower levels of vitamin C in the blood (89).

While deficiency is relatively rare in developed countries due to the availability of fresh produce and the addition of vitamin C to certain foods and supplements, it still affects roughly 7% of adults in the US (10).

Table 1: Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Vitamin C [11]
AgeMaleFemalePregnancyLactation
0–6 months40 mg*40 mg*  
7–12 months50 mg*50 mg*  
1–3 years15 mg15 mg  
4–8 years25 mg25 mg  
9–13 years45 mg45 mg  
14–18 years75 mg65 mg80 mg115 mg
19+ years90 mg75 mg85 mg120 mg
SmokersIndividuals who smoke require 35 mg/day
more vitamin C than nonsmokers.

* Adequate Intake (AI)

The most common risk factors for vitamin C deficiency are poor diet, alcoholism, anorexia, severe mental illness, smoking and dialysis (12, 13).

SIGNS OF VITAMIN C DEFICIENCY

While symptoms of severe vitamin C deficiency can take months to develop, there are some subtle signs to watch out for.

BRIGHT RED HAIR FOLLICLES

Hair follicles on the surface of the skin contain many tiny blood vessels that supply blood and nutrients to the area.

When the body is deficient in vitamin C, these small blood vessels become fragile and break easily, causing small, bright red spots to appear around the hair follicles.

This is known as perifollicular hemorrhage and a well-documented sign of severe vitamin C deficiency (1415).

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