Vitamin C Deficiency and Poisoning

Vitamin C deficiency and scurvy are rare in developed countries like Singapore. Moreover, overt deficiency symptoms occur only if vitamin C intake falls below approximately 10mg/day for many weeks. Although through a varied diet, most people should be able to meet the Vitamin C Required Dietary Amount (RDA) or at least obtain enough to prevent scurvy, elderly, alcohol and drug abusers, food faddists, and people with malabsorption and certain chronic diseases might not obtain sufficient vitamins

Some of the signs and symptoms of deficiency includes: fruits, vitamin C, vitamin C fruits

  • Anemia
  • Gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) & Bleeding gums
  • Decreased ability to fight infection and wound-healing rate
  • Dry and splitting hair
  • Easy bruising
  • Nosebleeds
  • Possible weight gain because of slowed metabolism
  • Rough, dry, scaly skin
  • Swollen and painful joints
  • Weakened tooth enamel
  • Scurvy

Studies consistently show that smokers and passive smokers have lower plasma and leukocyte vitamin C levels than non-smokers, due in part to increased oxidative stress. For this reason, smokers and passive smokers would need 35mg more vitamin C per day than non-smokers.

Health Risks from Excessive Vitamin C

Though it is rare to to get too much Vitamin C, amounts greater than 2,000mg/day are not recommended because high doses can lead to stomach upset and diarrhea. Eating multiple servings of fresh fruits and vegetables every day will likely be sufficient for the daily recommended dietary requirement. The RDA for Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) for Singaporean men aged between 19 – 65 is 105mg/ day and 85mg/day for women.

A theoretical concern is that high Vitamin C intakes might cause excess iron absorption since non-heme iron absorption is enhanced by Vitamin C. In individuals with hereditary hemochromatosis, chronic consumption of high doses of vitamin C could exacerbate iron overload and result in tissue damage.

You might want to consider increasing these Top 10 foods that are highest in Vitamin C to your diet:

top 10 foods rich in vitamin C, vitamin C

Find out more about What is Vitamin C, and its benefits and effects on our body and Why didn’t Eskimos get scurvy despite their traditional meat-and-fish diet?

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Why didn’t Eskimos get scurvy even though their traditional diet is only meat & fish?

Much of what we know about the Eskimo diet comes from the legendary arctic anthropologist and adventurer Vilhjalmur Stefansson, who made several daredevil journeys through the region. Stefansson noticed that the traditional Eskimo diet consisted largely of meat and fish, with fruits and vegetables (the usual source of vitamin C) accounting for as little as 2% of total calorie intake. Yet, the Eskimos did not suffer from scurvy.

Scurvy was recognized as far back as the ancient Greek healer Hippocrates. It plagued the crusaders. But its real death toll came as European sailors started voyaging farther and farther from home, starting in the 1500s. Living for months on end without fresh fruits and vegetables, sailors died in droves from the disease – during some years in the British Navy, more men succumbed to scurvy than died in combat.

Vitamin C can be found in a variety of traditional Eskimo staples, including the skin of beluga whales (known as muktuk), which is said to contain as much vitamin C as oranges. Other reported sources include the organ meats of sea mammals. There are speculations that Eskimos could get Vitamin C from berries during the summer months.

Stefansson argued that the native peoples of the arctic got their vitamin C from muscle meat that are raw or minimally cooked. Harsh cooking destroys Vitamin C. The extremely cold environment also protected the Eskimos from food poisoning by bacterial e.g. food poisoning by E. coli, streptococcus infections, etc. so that eliminates a concern.

Though Vitamin C is naturally vast in fruits and vegetables, Vitamin C is most present in the liver and least present in the muscle. However, since animal muscle provides the majority of meat consumed in the human diet, animal products are not a reliable source of Vitamin C.

Here’s a table showing the relative abundance of vitamin C in various foods of animal origin (raw), given in milligram of vitamin C per 100g of food:

vitamin C, eskimo, scurvy, meat diet


Find out more about What is Vitamin C, and the effects of Vitamin C deficiency and toxicity.

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What is Vitamin C?

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, may be the most familiar of all the nutrients. It is a water-soluble vitamin that functions as an essential co-factor in numerous enzymatic reactions necessary for normal growth and development. As the body is not able to make or store Vitamin C, it is therefore important to include plenty of Vitamin C rich foods in our daily diet to ensure continuous supply of this vitamin.

It is required to produce collagen, a protein that plays a critical role in fruits and vegetables, rich in vitamin C, vitamin C, fruits rich in vitamin C, vegetable rich in vitamin Cthe structure of our bodies. Collagen is the the framework for our skin and bones. Vitamin C is also necessary to make certain neurotransmitters that signals commands, thoughts and feelings to our brain and throughout our nervous system. In particular, our body need Vitamin C to produce serotonin, a hormone that plays a critical role in wide variety of body systems.

It is also one of the best known antioxidant that block damages caused by free radicals. Free radicals are produced when the body breaks down food or when it is exposed to radiation and tobacco smoking. The buildup of free radicals is largely responsible for the aging process. It plays a role in cancer, heart disease, and conditions like arthritis.


Vitamin C has an interesting ability as an antioxidant to transform iron into a state that is better absorbed by the intestine.  


The Vitamin C content of food will start to decline as soon as it is picked. Cooling or freezing the food can slow down or minimize loss. Long term storage of vegetables can cost a significant amount of Vitamin C. Canning is even more detrimental. While cooking will lower the amount of vitamin C in most foods, the loss will vary widely by cooking method though microwaving and steaming may reduce cooking losses. The best food sources of Vitamin C are uncooked or raw fruits and vegetables.

You might want to consider increasing these foods rich in Vitamin C to your diet:

vitamin C, citric acid, food rich in vitamin C, citrus effect

Find out more about Vitamin C Deficiency and Poisoning.


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