Factors Affecting Vitamin C Status and Prevalence of Deficiency: A Global Health Perspective

Nutrients. 2020 Jul 1;12(7):1963. doi: 10.3390/nu12071963.


A recent review of global vitamin C status has indicated a high prevalence of deficiency, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, as well as in specific subgroups within high-income countries. Here, we provide a narrative review of potential factors influencing vitamin C status globally. The in vivo status of vitamin C is primarily affected by dietary intake and supplement use, with those who supplement having a higher mean status and a lower prevalence of deficiency. Dietary intake can be influenced by cultural aspects such as traditional cooking practices and staple foods, with many staple foods, such as grains, contributing negligible vitamin C to the diet. Environmental factors can also affect vitamin C intake and status; these include geographic region, season, and climate, as well as pollution, the latter partly due to enhanced oxidative stress. Demographic factors such as sex, age, and race are known to affect vitamin C status, as do socioeconomic factors such as deprivation, education and social class, and institutionalization. Various health aspects can affect vitamin C status; these include body weight, pregnancy and lactation, genetic variants, smoking, and disease states, including severe infections as well as various noncommunicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. Some of these factors have changed over time; therefore, we also explore if vitamin C status has shown temporal changes. Overall, there are numerous factors that can affect vitamin C status to different extents in various regions of the world. Many of these factors are not taken into consideration during the setting of global dietary intake recommendations for vitamin C.

Keywords: communicable disease; dietary intake; global health; infection; noncommunicable disease; obesity; smoking; vitamin C; vitamin C deficiency; vitamin C status.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ascorbic Acid Deficiency / epidemiology*
  • Ascorbic Acid Deficiency / ethnology
  • Ascorbic Acid Deficiency / genetics
  • Ascorbic Acid* / administration & dosage
  • Body Weight
  • Cooking / methods
  • Culture
  • Diet
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Environment
  • Female
  • Global Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nutritional Requirements
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Pregnancy
  • Socioeconomic Factors


  • Ascorbic Acid