Vitamin C functions

  • Vitamin C has a role in formation of  collagen, which is an important part of nearly all body tissue, in synthesis of neurotransmitters and in protein synthesis
  • Vitamin C is an antioxidant, which helps the body in removing the toxins (free radicals) produced by oxidation, a process that damage the cells and tissues of body. Ongoing research is examining whether vitamin C might help prevent or delay the development of certain cancers and cardiovascular disease
  • Vitamin C has an important role in absorption of non-haem iron (iron from plant sources), when taken concurrently with iron containing food in meals, thus helps to prevent anaemia, which is one of the commonest nutritional deficiencies in India

Vitamin C deficiency

At 40 mg/day, Indian RDA for vitamin C is much lower than international RDAs (75-90 gms) and even then only 70% Indians consume enough Vitamin C. Vitamin C deficiency gives rise to following signs/symptoms :

  • Feeling of tiredness, being miserable and irritable, pain in the legs, bruising of skin and growth of cork-screw hair
  • In severe cases, swollen gums, joint pain, shortness of breath, anaemia and impaired wound healing will happen

People at risk for vitamin C deficiency

  • Smokers and passive smokers
  • People eating less than five servings of fruits and vegetables
  • Those with malabsorption syndrome
  • Infants fed on boiled cow’s milk
  • Pregnant and lactating mothers
  • Those who consume significant amounts of alcohol
  • People on fad diets

Test for deficiency

Blood level of vitamin C is rarely done, instead, treatment with empirical supplementation is preferred

Rich Dietary Sources of Vitamin C

  • Five servings of most fruits and vegetables per day would provide > 200 mg of Vitamin C. Vitamin C is found in good amounts in citrus fruits, potato and GLVs (Green Leafy Vegetables), but cooking reduces Vitamin C content by 60-70%, hence consumption of fruits and salads are preferred intake method. Also cooking GLVs as meal with other food such as lentils reduces Vitamin C loss.

Vitamin C supplements

Vitamin C supplements are generally safe, to know more about them go to ‘ supplements : should you be taking any?’ and ‘Supplements: cautions to take’

CHECK OUT: Our references for recommendations on diet