Of all the nutrient deficiencies discussed, vitamin C is certainly not the most common. It’s almost invariably associated with scurvy, a condition characterized by mood imbalance, connective tissue defects, rashes, impaired wound healing, and even internal bleeding.
Scurvy occurs in circumstances of dire malnutrition—such conditions are still endured in developing countries, and sailors historically struggled with it (because vitamin-C-rich fruits and vegetables couldn’t be preserved onboard during long voyages). But surely it’s no longer a concern in the developed world?
Is vitamin C deficiency more common than we think?
Scurvy is admittedly a state of extreme deficiency, and one which is very uncommon, especially in the United States. Less than 20,000 cases of scurvy are reported annually in the United States, and it’s estimated that only around 6% of the population has ever suffered from the condition (probably from a combination of nutrient-poor diet and preexisting medical issues that interrupt the process of nutrient absorption).
As recently as 2016, though, major media outlets like the BBC reported that scurvy may be making a comeback in the developed world—hospital admissions related to scurvy increased 27% between 2009 and 2014. This may not seem like much, but it’s an important reminder that vitamin C deficiency is still worthy of our concern.
If you don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables, routinely fast or engage in restrictive dieting, have a medical condition like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis that inhibits nutrient absorption, use drugs or alcohol frequently, or smoke, you should be especially careful. These factors place you at high risk for vitamin C deficiency, so consider supplementing with a high-bioavailability vitamin C product (and altering your lifestyle habits whenever possible).
Here’s a quick checklist of vitamin C deficiency symptoms to watch out for:
Frequent illness and other signs of poor immune function.
Depression and other mood imbalances.
Joint pain and inflammation
Rashes, dryness, and other skin issues
Dry and brittle hair and nails
Periodontal issues such as swollen or bleeding gums
Easy bruising and slow wound healing
Even if you’re not currently experiencing any of these symptoms, though, don’t write off vitamin C just yet. Research into the mechanisms of this amazing nutrient are beginning to redefine the terms of deficiency. Due to the complex and multi-faceted role that vitamin C plays in the body, individuals can suffer the effects of insufficient vitamin C long before any symptoms begin to present (and certainly before they progress to full-blown scurvy).
And because of its seemingly miraculous healing capacities, having anything less than optimal levels of vitamin C (and thus missing out on its incredible benefits) is its own brand of deficiency.
We’ve certainly encountered this issue with other nutrients, such as vitamin D. Our government-approved RDAs (recommended daily allowances) are often woefully low, because they target only the level necessary to prevent severe deficiency.
Fortunately, a growing number of health experts are starting to speak out about the power of optimizing our nutrient levels, rather than simply meeting our body’s barebones requirements. Dr. Mark Moyad, M.D. speaks particularly highly of vitamin C, claiming that “vitamin C may be the ideal nutrition marker for overall health. The more we study vitamin C, the better our understanding of how diverse it is in protecting our health, from cardiovascular, cancer, stroke, eye health [and] immunity to living longer.”
There’s lots to love about vitamin C
Dr. Moyad is the latest in a long line of vitamin C enthusiasts. In a past article, we covered the research of Dr. Fredrick Klenner, who in the 1940s used high-dose vitamin C to cure a staggering number of serious diseases, such as leukemia, cancer, Herpes simplex infection, schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis, and even physical ailments like ruptured intervertebral discs.
Dr. Klenner’s work remains controversial to this day, but modern research is nevertheless revealing that vitamin C can be profoundly healing for a wide variety of health conditions, from sepsis to cancer to heart disease. This is because of its profound antioxidant capacity—fighting the free radicals generated by oxidative stress is centrally important for maintaining overall health and preventing disease.
And here’s the best part: you can enjoy the many benefits of vitamin C easily and inexpensively. Always start with food, and don’t overthink it. While there’s some foods that are especially rich in vitamin C—like guavas, black currants, red and green peppers, kiwis, oranges, strawberries, papayas, broccoli, kale, parsley, and Brussel sprouts—you’ll do just fine as long as you eat a varied, colorful diet with lots of fruits and vegetables.
Once your body has a good foundation of food-sourced vitamin C, you can unlock the more acutely therapeutic benefits of this nutrient through supplementation.
==> Also seek out liposomal vitamin C, which is dramatically more absorbable (and thus more effective) than any other type of formulation. Studies have even shown that oral supplementation with liposomal vitamin C approaches the absorption capacity of intravenous administration.