7 months ago

Vitamin C deficiency

What is vitamin C ?

Vitamin c, also known as ascorbic acid, is a powerful antioxidant that helps fight against free radicals. It helps combat against cell ageing by supporting collagen production and promotes wound healing. Vitamin c also supports the immune system and protects blood vessel walls, which helps prevent cardiovascular disease. It is also vital in the absorption of iron by the intestine. 

Ascorbic acid is very sensitive to air, heat and light, and in order to preserve its many qualities, it is essential to favour raw foods containing vitamin c, and to keep them away from heat and light. If cooking, it is also favourable to keep cooking time to a minimum, and preferably vapour cooking. Limit soaking the food in water and peel the foods as thinly as possible. 

Hypovitaminosis and scurvy.

Some forms of hypovitaminosis c are not at all, or only slightly symptomatic, and can cause fatigue, loss of appetite, drowsiness, insomnia, bleeding gums, etc. These symptoms are fairly common in the general population, and can be due to a lack of intake in vitamin rich foods, a reduction is absorption of vitamins, or an unmet increase in needs which is predominantly seen in athletes, alcoholics and smokers (more than a pack per day), as these individuals use up to 20% more vitamin c per day. 

Hypovitaminosis c can also lead to scurvy, which will develop after a heavy and prolonged deficiency in vitamin c. Scurvy can lead to damage to collagen rich tissues, and capillary haemorrhages. The 1st signs of scurvy may be bleeding gums, associated with tooth loss. Subsequently, subcutaneous haemorrhages will appear, associated with hypersensitivity in the extremities of the body, making movements painful. If scurvy is not treated in time, it can lead to gangrene development, and eventually death. 

How do you know if you have a vitamin C deficiency?

Diagnosis of a vitamin c deficiency is based on the observation of clinical symptoms, and a blood test to confirm. An ascorbemia (the measure of ascorbic acid in the blood) of less than 2.5mg/L can be interpreted according to either an inflammatory syndrome or the dosage of leukocyte ascorbic acid, which highlights the reserves of vitamin c in the body. This remains the most reliable method in diagnosing a vitamin c deficiency. 

Where to find vitamin C?

Vitamin C cannot be produced or stored in the body, hence why it must be supplied daily through your diet. It is relatively easy to find in nature, and is mainly found in fresh fruit and vegetables, which provide around 69-73% of your daily requirements. It is mainly found in the pigmented parts of plants, such as acerola, blackcurrants, citrus fruits and especially in parsley and red peppers. Offal (liver and kidneys), meat, fish and dairy products can also be a source of vitamin C.

So in practice, how can you reach the recommendations set by the ANSES ? 

The ANSES recommends that you consume 110 mg per day. 

This corresponds to approximately :

  • One raw vegetable + lemon juice + parsley
  • Two portions of cooked vegetables
  • Two portions of fresh fruit.

Do not hesitate to season and enrich your dishes with chopped parsley, lemon juice, watercress, red fruit and raw vegetables. Eat raw vegetables every day!

What about food supplements? 

Vitamin C is often used in the general population in self-medication, to give you that “boost” when you are tired or fatigued. As a supplement, it can be marketed on its own, or in combination with a variety of other vitamins and minerals (polyvitamin preparations), or other active ingredients, in various galenic forms. 

Hypervitaminosis C could lead to headaches, diarrhoea and kidney stones, but not to worry, as the risks of overdosing are slim to none, as vitamin C is eliminated naturally by the body, and cases of overdosing are extremely rare. 

Marion LATOUR

Nutritionist at Nutrimis