A deficiency of vitamin C causes the disease scurvy. Scurvy is rarely seen today except in alcoholics who receive their entire calorie intake from alcohol. Scurvy causes bleeding and inflamed gums, loose teeth, poor wound healing (purplish spots called petechiae), easy bruising, bumps of coiled hair on the arms and legs, pain in the joints, muscle wasting, and many other problems.
It was a Scottish physician named James Lind back in 1753 that first advocated fresh vegetables and ripe fruits to prevent scurvy. The British Navy adopted his advice some forty years later. The navy men were ever after nicknamed "Limeys" because they took limejuice on long sea voyages to ward off scurvy.
Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits such as oranges, limes, and grapefruit, and vegetables including tomatoes, green pepper, potatoes and many others. Vitamin C is easily damaged during the food preparation stage, such as during chopping, exposure to air, cooking, boiling, and being submerged in water. The amount of Vitamin C is high enough in most foods that the quantity that remains after processing is usually more than enough for a daily supply.
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of vitamin C is 60 to 90 milligrams per day. Men should consume more vitamin C than women and individuals who smoke cigarettes are encouraged to consume 35 more mg of vitamin C than average adults. This is due to the fact that smoking depletes vitamin C levels in the body and is a catalyst for biological processes which damage cells. As little as 5-7 mg a day will prevent scurvy, and the average American gets about 72 mg a day.
It is interesting to note that Vitamin C is used as an inexpensive preservative in many processed foods, making deficiencies even more rare.
One way an individual can up their intake of vitamin C is through the consumption of vitamin C supplements. A report issued by the Food and Nutrition Board in 2000 sets the upper intake level for vitamin C at 2,000 mg a day for adults. This dosage recommendation includes vitamin C obtained from both the the consumption of food and supplements containing vitamin C.