Background: Hypovitaminosis C is frequent in populations at risk (men who live alone, old people, homelessness, patients with psychiatric diseases, foodfaddists,...) and is underestimated in the general population.
Strong points: Scurvy occurs after 3 months without consumption of ascorbic acid, and is due to lack of consumption fresh fruits and vegetables. Clinical manifestations are weakness, myalgia and arthralgia, vascular purpura and hemorrhagic syndrome, and later the stomatologic manifestations: gingivorragia and loss of teeth. Biological signs are nonspecific: anemia, hypocholesterolemia, hypoalbuminemia. Clinical suspicion must be confirmed by a low level of ascorbic acid (<2.5 mg/l), but this value needs to be interpretated according to the presence of an acute phase response. Leucocyte ascorbic acid level reflects total body store and is more reliable, but not available in practice. Treatment consists in administration of 1 g vitamin C per day during 15 days.
Perspectives: Vitamin C depletion (serum ascorbic acid level between 2 and 5 mg/l) may occur long-term complications such as increase cardiovascular and neoplasic risks or cataract. The new recommended dietary allowance of vitamin C (110 mg per day for an adult) takes into account of these risks.