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One Major Side Effect of Not Getting Enough Vitamin C, Say Experts

It’s not what you think.
FACT CHECKED BY Kiersten Hickman

The popular refrain, when it comes to vitamin C, seems to be its immune-boosting abilities. Mid-pandemic, scarfing down packets of the nutrient became habitual; research even showed us how this vitamin can help lower your COVID-19 risk.

But, while getting plenty of vitamin C can help prevent you from getting sick, not getting a healthy amount can have more dire consequences. It may sound mythical, like an ailment from another era, but after consulting with experts we discovered that the number one side effect of vitamin C deficiency is actually scurvy.

Yes—the disease made infamous by pirates. Turns out, they were prone to bouts of it due to a lack of edible produce (a.k.a. food containing this vitamin) during long sea voyages. But, swashbuckling aside, if you don't get enough you could still be at risk for scurvy today. (Related: The One Vitamin Doctors Are Urging Everyone to Take Right Now)

Dr. Krishna Singh explained that the disease is only a result of severe deficiency: you aren't at risk unless you've been under-consuming the vitamin for three consecutive months or more. However, even less severe deficiencies can result in the development of scurvy symptoms.

"Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for the body to help it produce collagen," says Singh. "Now, collagen is a significant component of the connective tissues in your body. Because connective tissues make up various body parts such as skin, muscle, ligament, and tendons, collagen becomes a vital protein for the body. The absence of collagen will result in the breakdown of connective tissues. Symptoms of scurvy such as weakness and skin problems will start to appear in the body."

Nutritionist Niyla Carson added that other symptoms of scurvy may occur before the disease itself including poor wound-healing, problems fighting infections, weight loss, dry skin, splitting hair, and even tooth loss.

"Vitamin C cannot be produced by the human body, therefore making it an essential part of our diet," Carson explained. "In order to combat and treat this deficiency and make up for the vitamins that you lack, one should actively include foods that are rich in vitamin C in the diet, along with the intake of vitamin C supplements."

On the opposite spectrum, here are the Dangerous Side Effects of Taking Too Much Vitamin C.

Kaley Roberts
Kaley Roberts is a food writer. Read more about Kaley
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