The Connection between Smoking and Vitamin C Deficiency

vitamin c

Vitamin C is an important part of your daily dietary intake. Humans must obtain vitamin C from food and other sources, since the body cannot synthesize it spontaneously. While getting enough vitamin C is usually quite effortless for the average healthy person, smokers are more prone to vitamin C deficiency. Here’s a look at why this is the case.

Getting Enough Vitamin C

According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, the recommended daily value for vitamin C intake is 90 mg for adult men and 75 mg (or more if pregnant or breastfeeding) for adult women. Smokers of both genders require 35 mg more vitamin C per day.

A severe form of vitamin C deficiency is called scurvy. However, the Office of Dietary Supplements states that this only develops if vitamin C intake falls below 10 mg per day for many weeks. Since citrus fruit and several types of vegetables have around 50 mg or more of vitamin C per serving, scurvy is incredibly rare in developed countries.

Why are Cigarette Smokers at Greater Risk for Vitamin C Deficiency?

Smoking produces free radicals in the body, which are unstable compounds that react readily to nearby substances. This can cause tissue damage, contribute to disease and speed up the aging process.

Free radicals also deplete vitamin C levels. Smokers’ bodies use up vitamin C faster than nonsmokers’ bodies in an effort to counter the cell damage caused by smoking. This is why smokers need more vitamin C to stay healthy and are therefore at a higher risk of vitamin C deficiency.

How to Counter Vitamin C Deficiency

The easiest way to increase vitamin C levels in your body is to consume nutrient-dense foods. Fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of vitamin C include green and red peppers, oranges, grapefruit, kiwifruit, broccoli, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, cantaloupe, cabbage, and cauliflower.

While food should be your first source of vitamin C, dietary supplements can make up for where your diet lacks. Dietary supplements typically contain vitamin C in the form of ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbate, calcium ascorbate or other mineral ascorbates.

Don’t Overdo It

While vitamin C is water soluble, meaning the body uses what it needs and discards the rest through urination, it’s possible to get too much vitamin C. The Office of Dietary Supplements recommends setting an upper limit of vitamin C intake from food and supplements to 2,000 mg per day.

Since this nutrient has a low toxicity, the most common complaints of unabsorbed vitamin C in the gastrointestinal tract are nausea, diarrhea, cramps and other digestive disturbances. People with hemochromatosis store too much iron in their body. Since high doses of vitamin C increase iron retention, it’s important to watch your intake if you have this condition.

Other Health Facts about Smoking

In addition to causing vitamin C deficiency, the National Cancer Institute points out other health problems caused by smoking. It’s the leading cause of preventable death in America. About 40 percent of preventable deaths caused by smoking are from cancer; 35 percent are from stroke and heart disease; and 25 percent are from lung disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Smoking is a leading cause of various cancers, including cancer of the lungs, larynx, esophagus, mouth, throat, bladder, kidney, stomach, pancreas and cervix. The habit can lead to a number of other diseases as well, including stroke, heart disease, COPD, aortic aneurysm, cataracts and asthma. Smokers are also at a higher risk of airway infections and pneumonia than nonsmokers.

Clearly, if you smoke, vitamin C deficiency is the least of your problems. Consider finding help today to get on the fast track towards quitting and start building you vitamin levels back. To boost them up the natural way, a juicer can be handy. Your five-a-day in glass.

This is an article by Anita, Higher Click’s writer. She is a health and beauty expert, a healthy eater and a blogger. She is now writing on behalf of

James Caddell (23 Posts)

James Caddell is the Editor of and author of over 20 books. He is on the board of 3 educational non-profits and enjoys the arts.

About the Author

James Caddell
James Caddell is the Editor of and author of over 20 books. He is on the board of 3 educational non-profits and enjoys the arts.

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