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Arizona State University Researchers Find Scurvy Is Serious Health Problem


Arizona State University Researchers Find Scurvy Is Serious Health Problem
Provided by AScribe Newswire on 6/18/2004
by Arizona State University
Source: Healthy News

TEMPE, Ariz., June 3 (AScribe Newswire) -- Researchers at Arizona State University have found that scurvy, a vitamin C deficiency historically associated with pirates and pioneers, is once again a serious problem that health care experts need to address in the United States.

In an examination of vitamin C deficiency and depletion among U.S. males and females, ASU researchers Carol Johnston and Jeffrey Hampl found that "a considerable number of U.S. children and adults are deficient or depleted in vitamin C."

Johnston, ASU professor of nutrition, and Hampl, ASU associate professor of nutrition, report their findings in the May issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

The researchers' findings show that six to 17 percent of males and five to 12 percent of females in the study had vitamin C deficiency. Fifteen to 23 percent of males and 13 to 20 percent of females suffered from vitamin C depletion.

Smokers, non-supplement users, and non-Hispanic black males had the most elevated risk of vitamin C deficiency, while Mexican Americans had a lower risk.

"Overall, we found, 12 percent of Americans had vitamin C deficiency," said Hampl. "Normally, doctors and other health professionals think of scurvy as a disease of the past, but our research has shown that this really isn't true."

Scurvy, or vitamin C deficiency, is associated with low-grade inflammation, fatigue, limping, gum bleeding, or swollen extremities. Vitamin C depletion can also lead to a multitude of other health problems and diseases.

Younger and older research participants had the lowest deficiency levels in the ASU study. For all age groups, males suffered from vitamin C deficiency more than females, with males reaching a peak of 17 percent among 25 to 64 year olds. Among females, the greatest prevalence, at 12 percent, of vitamin C deficiency was found among 25 to 44 year olds.

Children and seniors were least likely to be deficient in vitamin C, Hampl suggests, because children eat more fortified foods, and seniors are most likely to take supplements.

The researchers suggest that health professionals recommend that patients eat vitamin C-rich vegetables and fruits and that they should recommend those at risk of vitamin C deficiency take vitamin supplements.

Johnston calls on the nation's health care community to give equal focus to the problems caused by vitamin C deficiencies.

"Our nation spends a significant amount of time and money aimed at improving iron deficiencies," said Johnston, "but iron deficiency is no greater problem in terms of our health than vitamin-C deficiency."

Hampl maintains the solution to maintaining proper vitamin C levels is one that doesn't require a visit to the doctor.

"The easiest solution is to take a one-a-day vitamin that has vitamin C," said Hampl. "As a dietitian, though, I want to see people eating more vitamin C-rich vegetables and fruits like oranges, grapefruits, strawberries, and kiwi."

Recommended daily allowances in the United States for vitamin C are 75 and 90 milligrams per day for women and men, respectively.

Hampl and Johnston used the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of 30,818 individuals to assess dietary, supplemental, and serum vitamin C. The cross-sectional survey included personal household information and health examinations on all study participants, aged 2 months and older, who were interviewed over a six-year period from 1988 to 1994.


Jeff Holeman, 480-727-1173 or 602-316-6484; Nancy Neff, 480-965-4836;


AScribe - The Public Interest Newswire / 510-653-9400

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