Vitamin C Deficiency

Virtually everyone in the developed world has a vitamin C deficiency, if not in the more acute sense of scurvy, then certainly in the broader context of sacrificed vitality and health.

Humanity evolved in the fruit-abundant equatorial tropics of Africa eating a raw fruit-and-vegetable-based diet abundant in vitamin C. Unfortunately, today we consume a mostly-cooked-and-processed diet that's critically short in the nutrient.

While most people have more than enough intake to prevent scurvy, which is very rare, our health suffers and our disease rate skyrockets because of how poorly we meet our nutrient requirements.


Vitamin C Deficiency: Questioning The Numbers


Yesterday I consumed 3,012 mg of vitamin C from whole, raw fruits and vegetables. This is roughly 3,347 % more than the RDA, which may seem absurdly excessive if you don't understand the larger health context in which this discussion is taking place.

Let's start off by taking a look at how other species handle vitamin C, which will cast light on just how pathetic our diet is.

Apes Without Fruit

Vitamin C Deficiency OrangesIf we follow the RDA, our diet leaves us with the lowest circulating vitamin C levels on the planet.


Virtually every animal species with the exception of several fruit-eating primate groups (including our own), certain types of bats (who eat fruit), and a small list of other creatures have evolved to manufacture their own vitamin C because their diet doesn’t contain it in significant quantities.

We, on the other hand, are an aberration. Humans are unique in that our current diet does not in any way represent what we consumed during our early evolution. The fruit-based diets we once ate are long gone, and raw produce makes up but a small part of today's diet.

Thus, when it comes to preventing vitamin C deficiency, we neither consume enough of the nutrient from our food or possesses the ability to internally manufacture it


Vitamin C Level Survey
Vitamin C Levels
Overt vitamin C deficiency symptoms (scurvy) prevention:
10 mg
US RDA for an adult male human:
90 mg
Amount to lower human heart disease risk by 25% (1):
700 mg
Intake of other species lacking the ability to manufacture vitamin C (2)
20 to 80 times more dietary intake than the current RDA
Amount manufactured internally by a 154 pound adult goat whose diet lacks vitamin C (4, 5):
13,000 mg
Amount consumed by Andrew the day before he wrote this article
3,012 mg


Vitamin C Deficiency: How Animals Get By


Vitamin C Deficiency Group One: The Eaters

Let's take a look at the species that can't internally manufacture their own vitamin C. This group contains our closest genetic relatives, the bonobos and the chimps, humans, as well as a few other species like guinea pigs.

What do they do to prevent vitamin C deficiency? They do what they've always done and continue to eat the diet they evolved eating, which is primarily composed of raw fruits and vegetables. This diet supplies them with quantities of vitamin C which are 20 to 80 times greater than the current US RDA (2).

Vitamin C Deficiency Group Two: The Producers

So now let's take a look at the species that evolved to prevent vitamin C deficiency by synthesizing it internally. Some examples are goats and wolves.

These creatures can't get enough through diet to meet their requirements, so they crank it out themselves.

So here is the critical question: how much do their bodies manufacture?

Vitamin C Deficiency GoatIt can be argued that group one is composed of species who eat quantities of vitamin C that greatly exceed their actual needs for optimal health, and that humans don't need as much. This might be a fair argument, if we didn't have more data.

The species that produce their own vitamin C crank out enough so that they're often matching the levels of group one.

Take a goat, for instance, which produces a whopping 13,000 mg of vitamin C to meet its needs, and many times more than this when it's stressed (4, 5).

Evolution has left most species efficient in their bodily processes, and while some might consume more vitamins than they need and excrete out the rest, goats wouldn't be cranking out all that vitamin C unless their bodies actually required it.

Vitamin C Deficiency Group Three: The Unhealthy

Group three is really unique because it's only got one member: modern humans. Humans evolved in group one, but our modern dietary choices have placed us here. We're the only species on the planet dropping dead not because of lack of food, harsh weather, or predators, but because we eat ourselves into such a nutritional hole that we die of the diseases of affluence like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

In the roughly 200,000 years since our ancestors left the fruit-abundant tropics, evolution has failed to bring out any sort of genetic mutation to allow us to circumvent the sudden dearth of Vitamin C in our diets, but the lack of it probably didn’t become serious until we settled down to agriculture 10 to 15 thousand years ago and drastically cut down on fruits and vegetable consumption in favor of grains.

Vitamin C Deficiency Pears And PlumsToday, nutritional researchers often leave you thinking you're getting enough vitamin C if you take in a mere 90 mg, often pointing out that in many studies, diseases have not become less common when intake is increased.

But many researchers have pointed out that given the extremely low intakes commonly tested (usually less than 100 mg), studies would be unlikely to note health improvements (3)

In addition, several studies have shown significant disease reduction with larger intake levels.

Participants in one lowered their risk of heart disease by 25 percent by increasing their vitamin C intake to 700 mg (1), for instance.


The Solution To Vitamin C Deficiency:

Whole fruits And Vegetables

Some will look at the much-larger intake and production of other animal species and try to fill the vitamin C deficiency gap with a supplement pill.

I highly suggest you don't do this. Supplementing is rarely a good idea, and can cause many health problems.

Instead, take the smart road and do a mass overhaul of your diet. Embrace raw fruits and vegetables and watch your health improve drastically.

Fruits and vegetables are what we need, not pills, so have at them.


Vitamin C Deficiency: Following Up


Figure out how vitamin C deficiency fits in with other raw food health targets.

Learn what foods to eat, and which to avoid.

Get your health in gear with a raw food diet.


Vitamin C Deficiency Sources:


1) Knekt P, Ritz J, Pereira MA, et al. Antioxidant vitamins and coronary heart disease risk: a pooled analysis of 9 cohorts. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004;80(6):1508-1520.

2) Milton, K (2003). “Micronutrient intakes of wild primates: are humans different?”. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology - Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology 136: 47–59.

3) Sardi W. Narrow scope of vitamin C review. PLoS Med. 2005;2(9):e308; author reply e309.

4) Chatterjee, IB (1973). “Evolution and the Biosynthesis of Ascorbic Acid”. Science 182 (118): 1271–1272. doi:10.1126/ science.182.4118.1271. PMID 4752221

5) Irwin Stone, PC-A (1979). “Eight Decades of Scurvy”. Orthomolecular Psychiatry 8 (2): 58–62.

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