Vitamin C supplementation to curb deficiency: How much is adequate? by Delnaaz T Chanduwadia
Vitamin C was discovered in the 1930s as Ascorbic acid. It is a water-soluble vitamin i.e. it requires an aqueous medium for absorption. Having said that, unlike the fat-soluble vitamins – Vit C is not stored in the body, instead, it is excreted out of the system via urine.
A symptom that arises due to the lack of a vitamin is the last sign of deficiency. This was also known as sailors disease. It is because, due to long voyages and lack of fresh fruits and vegetables, the sailors experience a deficiency of vitamin C. It was seen that when they were given fruits like oranges & lemons, the symptoms were reversed.
If you consume a balanced diet, it is likely that you are getting enough Vit C. However, if you do not eat fresh fruits and vegetables, and rely on fast foods- chances are you are touching rock bottom on your Vit C.
Few main functions of Vit C are: Production of collagen which helps to maintain skin integrity, facilitates wound healing, the first line of defense to maintain immune function i.e. it protects you from diseases, keeps blood vessels healthy, has a high antioxidant function which deals with free radical damage, Scurvy – bleeding gums… to name a few.
Before we address a deficiency – we should know the daily requirements of Vitamin C. 65 to 90mg of Vit C is the recommended dose. However, due to its myriad functions, 1000 mg of Vit C is safe to consume. If one is a smoker- then he requirements would be more.
A slightly higher intake of Vit C via food has not shown to have side-effects as against an overdose with commercial supplements exceeding 2000 mg- have shown symptoms like nausea and diarrhea.
Handling a deficiency would mean to give an initial boost to push the levels up and then prescribe a consistent dose to sustain the levels.
The initial management of the deficiency is to adequately replenish the stores of Vit C in the patient. The treatment is generally started with 250 mg of Vit C x 4 times a day. As the stores are replenished- the symptom tends to ease out.
It is important to supplement the patient's diet with adequate sources of Vit C- Amla, Limes; lemons, oranges, orange juice, berries, kiwi, sprouts, tomatoes, peppers (red, green and yellow), broccoli, cherries, Guavas.
It is wise to eat a variety of fresh fruits, and salads to get your daily dose of Vit C. If you are one who doesn’t like fruits and salads and has a relatively low intake…it would be wise to speak to your health care professional or a qualified nutritionist who would prescribe you a supplement best meant for you.
Delnaaz T Chanduwadia is the Chief Dietician at Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre