Washington: Up to three quarters of older people in India have vitamin C deficiency due to poor dietary habits, smoking and consumption of tobacco, a new study has suggested.The study, coordinated by Professor Astrid Fletcher of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in collaboration with Aravind Eye Hospital Pondicherry and the All India Institute for Medical Sciences in Delhi, is the first-ever large screening of vitamin C blood levels in the elderly Indian population.Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for human health, playing a role from maintenance and repair of tissues to antioxidant activities. This study shows that Vitamin C deficiency is primarily due to a diet, which is low in fruit and vegetables.Smoking or chewing tobacco and cooking with fuels such as wood crops or dung (used by 70 percent of the rural population) can cause depletion of Vitamin C blood levels. One of the effects of tobacco and inhaling fumes from home or cooking fires is oxidative stress (which can cause damage to cells) and the body uses vitamin C to combat this.The research, funded by the Wellcome Trust, highlights marked differences between the study locations in the north and south of the country, although in both regions the percentages of vitamin C deficient people over 60 years of age were extremely high, with 74 percent in the north and 46 percent in the south.Only 11 percent and 26 percent respectively, met the criteria for adequate levels. Vitamin C levels were also found to vary seasonally, in conjunction with the monsoon months, thought to reflect the lower intake of fruit and vegetables.
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