Vitamin C insufficiency in Australia: underrated and overlooked?

Jenny E Gunton and Nada Bechara
Med J Aust 2023; 219 (10): . || doi: 10.5694/mja2.52146
Published online: 20 November 2023

Scurvy is an extreme manifestation of vitamin C deficiency;1 an estimated two million sailors died from scurvy during the age of sail,2 and it has often accompanied famines and war.1 Scurvy is now generally only of historical interest in developed countries, but vitamin C deficiency of various grades may be more common than generally appreciated.

  • 1 Western Clinical School, the University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW
  • 2 The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW



Jenny Gunton receives funding from a National Health and Medical Research Council program grant (Complexity in nutrition; 1149976). Jenny Gunton and Nada Bechara receive funding from the Western Sydney Local Health District Research and Education Network.

Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.

  • 1. Carpenter KJ. The discovery of vitamin C. Ann Nutr Metab 2012; 61: 259‐264.
  • 2. Lamb J. Scurvy: the disease of discovery. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2019.
  • 3. Magana AA, Reed RL, Koluda R, et al. Vitamin C activates the folate‐mediated one‐carbon cycle in C2C12 myoblasts. Antioxidants (Basel) 2020; 9: 217.
  • 4. Munday MR, Rodricks R, Fitzpatrick M, et al. A pilot study examining vitamin C levels in periodontal patients. Nutrients 2020; 12: 2255.
  • 5. Pemberton J. Medical experiments carried out in Sheffield on conscientious objectors to military service during the 1939–45 war. Int J Epidemiol 2006; 35: 556‐558.
  • 6. Christie‐David DJ, Gunton JE. Vitamin C deficiency and diabetes mellitus: easily missed? Diabet Med 2017; 34: 294‐296.
  • 7. Gunton JE, Girgis CM, Lau T, et al. Vitamin C improves healing of foot ulcers: a randomised, double‐blind, placebo‐controlled trial. Br J Nutr 2021; 126: 1451‐1458.
  • 8. Brookes JDL, Jaya JS, Tran H, et al. Broad‐ranging nutritional deficiencies predict amputation in diabetic foot ulcers. Int J Low Extrem Wounds 2020; 19: 27‐33.
  • 9. Ravindran P, Wiltshire S, Das K, Wilson RB. Vitamin C deficiency in an Australian cohort of metropolitan surgical patients. Pathology 2018; 50: 654‐658.
  • 10. Carr AC, Vissers MC, Lewis J, Elder P. Multiple nutrient insufficiencies: hypovitaminosis D and C in young adult New Zealand males. N Z Med J 2012; 125: 119‐120.
  • 11. Bhattacharyya P, Schemann K, Min SS, et al. Serum vitamin C status of people in New South Wales: retrospective analysis of findings at a public referral hospital. Med J Aust 2023; 219: 475‐481.
  • 12. McCall SJ, Clark AB, Luben RN, et al. Plasma vitamin C Levels: risk factors for deficiency and association with self‐reported functional health in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer–Norfolk. Nutrients 2019; 11: 1552.
  • 13. National Health and Medical Research Council; Australian Department of Health and Ageing; New Zealand Ministry of Health. Nutrient reference values for Australia and New Zealand. Updated 13 July 2017.‐reference‐values (viewed May 2023).
  • 14. Levine M, Conry‐Cantilena C, Wang Y, et al. Vitamin C pharmacokinetics in healthy volunteers: evidence for a recommended dietary allowance. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 1996; 93: 3704‐3709.
  • 15. Mosdøl A, Erens B, Brunner EJ. Estimated prevalence and predictors of vitamin C deficiency within UK's low‐income population. J Public Health (Oxf) 2008; 30: 456‐460.
  • 16. Schleicher RL, Carroll MD, Ford ES, Lacher DA. Serum vitamin C and the prevalence of vitamin C deficiency in the United States: 2003‐2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Am J Clin Nutr 2009; 90: 1252‐1263.
  • 17. Mashour S, Turner JF, Merrell R. Acute renal failure, oxalosis, and vitamin C supplementation: a case report and review of the literature. Chest 2000; 118: 561‐563.


remove_circle_outline Delete Author
add_circle_outline Add Author

Do you have any competing interests to declare? *

I/we agree to assign copyright to the Medical Journal of Australia and agree to the Conditions of publication *
I/we agree to the Terms of use of the Medical Journal of Australia *
Email me when people comment on this article

Online responses are no longer available. Please refer to our instructions for authors page for more information.