Is scurvy, a symptom of serious vitamin C deficiency, common in Toronto? Apparently it’s not as uncommon as we have been led to believe, even in fit, young, non-smoking men and women. What is more, deficiency has observable negative health consequences. Researchers at the University of Toronto checked blood levels of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) in 979 young (20-29 years) non-smoking men and women in Toronto between 2004 and 2008, who were participating in the Toronto Nutrigenomics and Health Study. They also assessed vitamin C intake from food and supplements using a 1-month, 196-item food frequency questionnaire.
Results showed that 53% of subjects had adequate, 33% suboptimal, and 14% deficient levels of serum ascorbic acid. Those who were deficient in vitamin C were within in the range usually associated with scurvy. They had significantly higher waist circumference, body mass index, and blood pressure, as well as C-reactive protein (CRP). CRP is a plasma protein that rises in the blood during inflammation. The cause may be infection, or the generalized inflammation that accompanies disorders like rheumatoid arthritis. Inflammation is believed to play a major role in the development of coronary artery disease, and CRP is the only marker of inflammation that independently predicts the risk of a heart attack.
And while low serum levels of ascorbic acid were often a sign of poor dietary intake of vitamin C, this was not always the case, suggesting yet again that genetic difference play a role in vitamin C requirements in some individuals.
Vitamin C deficiency in a population of young Canadian adults. Cahill L, Corey PN, El-Sohemy A. Am J Epidemiol. 2009 Aug 15;170(4):464-71