Are you getting enough vitamin C? Probably not, according to a new report in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. A group of scientists from the USA, France and Denmark assessed the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of vitamin C, currently 40mg in the UK, and stated that there is “compelling evidence” that the RDA of vitamin C should be much higher – 200mg.
Whilst public health recommendations of vitamin levels aim to prevent deficiencies, the researchers believe that the RDA should reflect the optimum level of vitamin intake. The report cites numerous examples of chronic disease arising as a result of a lack of vitamin C and lead researcher Professor Balz Frei presented evidence from a number of metabolic, laboratory and demographic studies which have found that vitamin C could help to reduce the prevalence of conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, high blood pressure, immune disorders and atherosclerosis.
Prof Frei went on to state that “…the RDA [of vitamin C] should be increased… the benefit-to-risk ratio is very high. A 200 milligram intake of vitamin C on a daily basis poses absolutely no risk, but there is strong evidence it would provide multiple, substantial health benefits.”
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is found in many fruits and vegetables, particularly oranges, kiwi fruits, broccoli and peppers. It is needed to maintain healthy cells and absorb iron from food and a lack of vitamin C can lead to scurvy, bleeding gums and tiredness.
We asked Mrs Helen Money, nutritionist for totalhealth, her thoughts on the study.
The Reference Nutrient Intake for vitamin C in the UK of 40mg is the amount that is sufficient to prevent 97% of the adult population from showing signs of deficiency. However this was last reviewed by the Department of Health in 1991. The past two decades have seen huge advancement in nutritional research and we are increasingly finding that certain vitamins and minerals play a greater role in maintaining health and wellbeing than previously thought. The RNI level of 40mg refers to the prevention of scurvy and not prevention of other diseases discussed in this report. Scientific evidence is building to support an increase in the RNI for vitamin C recommended by the Department of Health in their next review.
Vitamin C is water soluble, which means excess vitamin C that is consumed and not needed by the body flushes through. Therefore toxicity risk is low meaning that you cannot take too much vitamin C. The most common signs of vitamin C toxicity are diarrhoea, nausea and skin rashes.