Vitamin C Levels Up But Smokers Still At Risk Of Deficiency

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August 25, 2009

Vitamin C levels up, but low income groups and smokers still at risk of deficiency

Vitamin C levels up, but low income groups and smokers still at risk of deficiency

An article published online on August 12, 2009 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed that vitamin C status has improved in the United States over the past decade, yet a significant incidence of deficiency still exists among smokers and individuals of low socioeconomic status.

For their report, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta compared data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III, conducted from 1988 to 1994, to data from NHANES 2003-2004. Serum vitamin C levels were available for 20,636 participants in NHANES III, and for 7,277 NHANES 2003-2004 participants.

Overall, the presence of vitamin C deficiency among NHANES 2003-2004 participants was 7 percent, down from 12.4 percent among NHANES III participants. The researchers found that children aged 6 to 11 currently had the highest average vitamin C concentrations of any age group examined, however, levels declined during adolescence. Women belonging to all ethnic groups had higher vitamin C levels than men. For both men and women, vitamin C levels increased after the age of 60.

Smokers had levels that were one-third lower than nonsmokers, and over three times as great risk of deficiency. Obese individuals had levels that were 15 percent lower than those classified as overweight. Vitamin C concentrations rose and deficiency declined with increased socioeconomic status. Effects of vitamin C deficiency ranged from anemia, bleeding gums and loosened teeth to changes in mood consistent with latent scurvy.

Thirty-seven percent of men and 47 percent of women over the age of 20 reported having taken at least one vitamin C-containing supplement over the month prior to being queried. Men and women who used supplements had serum vitamin C concentrations that were 57 to 73 percent higher than nonusers. The authors attribute the increase in vitamin C status among older persons partly to supplement use. They note that "Recent data show increased usage since the overall 40 percent usage reported during NHANES III and are likely to explain in part the improved vitamin C status of the US population."

"The vitamin C status of the US population appears to have substantially improved from 1988-1994 to 2003-2004," the authors conclude. "Nevertheless, the prevalence of vitamin C deficiency in various subgroups remains a concern, considering the wide availability of vitamin C in common fruit and vegetables, as well as in fortified foods and beverages."

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Health Concern Life Extension Highlight

Blood disorders: Anemia, leucopenia and thrombocytopenia

Anemia is a common blood disorder characterized by a decrease in the amount of red blood cells, or a decrease in the capacity of red blood cells to transport oxygen.

Red blood cells are manufactured in the bone marrow. This process relies on various nutrients, including iron, vitamin B12, and folic acid, as well as smaller amounts of vitamin C, riboflavin, and copper. Also, the production of red blood cells is stimulated by a hormone called erythropoietin. Deficiencies in any of these nutrients or in erythropoietin can result in anemia.

Besides iron deficiency anemia caused by bleeding, other forms of anemia include:

  • Pernicious anemia (vitamin B12 deficiency)—It is estimated that 300,000 to 3 million people in the United States have a vitamin B12 (cobalamin) deficiency (Diamond AL et al 2004). Vitamin B12 deficiency is rarely related to a dietary deficiency. Rather, vitamin B12 relies on intrinsic factor, a protein generated by cells in the stomach, to be bound to vitamin B12 and then absorbed in the ileum, the last segment of the small intestine. People who lack intrinsic factor cannot use the available vitamin B12, meaning that anemia can develop even if large amounts of vitamin B12 are consumed. Besides a lack of intrinsic factor, pernicious anemia can be caused by Crohn's disease, stomach surgery, or a strict vegetarian diet. Breast-fed infants of vegan mothers are particularly at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency.
  • Folic acid deficiency anemia—Folic acid is abundant in green leafy vegetables. Because many people in industrialized countries don't eat enough vegetables, folic acid deficiency is more common than pernicious anemia. Folate deficiency is found in malnourished individuals (especially alcoholics), infants who are fed only cows’ milk, pregnant women, and adults over age 60. It can also be caused by diseases that affect absorption in the small intestine, including Crohn's disease.
  • Anemia of chronic disease—Anemia is associated with various chronic diseases and conditions, including infections, inflammatory diseases, and cancers that affect the ability of the body to produce red blood cells (Brill JR et al 2000; Bron D et al 2001).

Prostate Cancer Research Institute (PCRI)
2009 Prostate Cancer Conference
Marriott Los Angeles Airport Hotel
Los Angeles, California

September 12-13, 2009

The Prostate Cancer Conference 2009

The Prostate Cancer Research Institute (PCRI) mission is to improve the quality of men’s lives by supporting research and disseminating information that educates and empowers patients, families and the medical community. PCRI is pleased to announce the 11th major conference devoted to prostate cancer, planned and/or produced by members of The Prostate Cancer Research Institute. As in the past, this conference will provide insight for patients, caregivers and medical professionals.

Moderated by the highly regarded Dr. Mark Moyad and Dr. Mark Scholz, this year’s conference will again focus on quality of life Issues. Faculty will talk about important lifestyle and health issues including diet and dietary supplements, erectile dysfunction, hormone blockade side effects and other current issues relating to advanced disease. Exciting up-and-coming technology and research will also be presented.

Marriott Los Angeles Airport Hotel
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