Vitamin C deficiency is an under-diagnosed contributor to degenerative disc disease in the elderly

Med Hypotheses. 2010 Apr;74(4):695-7. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2009.10.041. Epub 2009 Nov 22.


The human aging process is often accompanied by significant increases in degenerative spine disease. The pathophysiology of intervertebral disc degeneration has been extensively studied, but the etiology of this aging-related problem remains poorly understood. The elderly often have lower daily vitamin C intakes and circulating ascorbic acid values than younger people because of problems with poor dentition or mobility, and also are more likely to have underlying sub-clinical diseases that can reduce plasma ascorbate concentrations. Ascorbate is essential for collagen production, and vitamin C deficiency will result in defective connective tissue, including reductions in collagen synthesis and structural stability. It is hypothesised that vitamin C deficiencies may be a key contributing factor in the development of degenerative disk disease (DDD) in the elderly. Once degenerative disc disease has begun, the tissue inflammation that accompanies DDD may further increase vitamin C requirements in the affected patient, thereby creating a cascade of positive feedbacks that potentially accelerates and contributes to further disc degeneration and low-back pain. Aggressive monitoring of patient ascorbate status, as well as more finely-calibrated RDAs for vitamin C that explicitly take into account the patient's age, may be required if aging-related degenerative disk disease is to be minimised.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging*
  • Ascorbic Acid / metabolism*
  • Ascorbic Acid Deficiency / metabolism*
  • Collagen / metabolism
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Intervertebral Disc Degeneration / complications
  • Intervertebral Disc Degeneration / metabolism*
  • Low Back Pain / complications*
  • Low Back Pain / etiology


  • Collagen
  • Ascorbic Acid