Discrepancies in global vitamin C recommendations: a review of RDA criteria and underlying health perspectives

Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2021;61(5):742-755. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2020.1744513. Epub 2020 Mar 30.


The concept of a 'recommended dietary allowance' (RDA) and similar terms describing the daily intake of essential nutrients recommended for healthy individuals is widely used by various health authorities around the world. For vitamin C, however, there remain significant discrepancies in the criteria used to establish dietary recommendations and consequently, global recommendations for daily vitamin C intake vary by more than five fold. While it appears that the scientific data underlying the recommendations are more or less the same, the interpretation differs considerably. Moreover, although a number of the assumptions used in e.g. the body pool estimates of the 1960s and 1970s have later been proven wrong and give rise to significant underestimations, these data are still used as the main support of several recommendations. Aspects that modify vitamin C requirements, such as gender, age, pregnancy, lactation, and smoking, have been taken into consideration by many but not all regulatory authorities, and are thus subject of debate. In contrast, body weight, a significant predictor of vitamin C status and requirement, has not been taken into consideration with respect to vitamin C recommendations, even in the face of the looming global obesity pandemic. The present review examines the discrepancies in vitamin C dietary recommendations of international authorities and critically discusses representative examples of criteria and the underlying health perspectives used to derive current recommended intakes of vitamin C. New biological signatures of vitamin C nutriture are also explored with regard to their potential use for future updates of dietary recommendations.

Keywords: Recommended intake; ascorbate; epigenetics; ascorbic acid; dietary recommendations; health goals; obesity; smoking.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ascorbic Acid*
  • Diet
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Nutritional Requirements
  • Nutritional Status
  • Pregnancy
  • Recommended Dietary Allowances
  • Vitamins*


  • Vitamins
  • Ascorbic Acid