Vitamin C or ascorbic acid is an essential nutrient in human diet because, man lacks the capacity to synthesise it like some animal species can do. Ascorbic Acid is present in plant foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, especially the green varieties. Of all vitamins, ascorbic acid is the most susceptible to destruction by atmospheric oxidation.
Deficiency of Vitamin C causes a disease called ‘Scurvy’ which is characterized by weakness, bleeding gums and defective growth of bones. Infants fed on an exclusive cow’s milk formula diet without being supplemented with foods rich in vitamin C or ascorbic acid are highly susceptible to scurvy. As a matter of fact, breast fed infants have an extremely low incidence of Vitamin C deficiency. In adults, scurvy is limited to individuals who consume a diet devoid of fruits or vegetables which provide Vitamin C.
Vitamin C deficiency causes an impairment of the normal formation of intercellular ground matrix like collagen. Defective collagen formation can cause many problems-impaired wound healing, skeleton becoming fragile and increased capillary fragility leading to hemorrhages in almost any tissue.
The incidence of scurvy among infants is usually between the fifth and fourteenth months. The child fails to gain weight, is irritable and cries easily, has little appetite and movement of the extremities become painful. In adults also scurvy can lead to weight loss, weakness, irritability, pain in the joints, etc. Emotional changes such as hypochondrias is, hysteria, depression, etc. can be recognized in advanced cases.
Scurvy patients need the administration of Vitamin C. Infants should receive 150 to 300 mg. of Vitamin C daily orally for 10 days followed by 150 mg. daily for a month. Thereafter it will be sufficient to ensure a daily intake of 30 to 60 mg. of Vitamin C in the form of fresh juice and other concentrated sources of vitamin C.
Adult patients should receive up to 800 mg. of Vitamin C daily orally for one week. This is followed by 400 mg. daily until complete recovery. When parenteral therapy is indicated because of gastro intestinal disturbances, Vitamin C is given intramuscularly or intravenously at the rate of half the recommended oral dosage.