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Summary of key findings

The effect of supplement use on vitamin C intake

Publication: Health Reports 2010:21(1)

Authors: Didier Garriguet

Data: 2004 Canadian Community Health Survey - Nutrition

Vitamin C requirements

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that contributes to the formation and health of blood vessels, tendons, ligaments, bones, teeth and gums. According to the Institute of Medicine, the estimated average requirements for vitamin C range from 13 milligrams a day for toddlers aged 1 to 3 to 75 milligrams for adult men and 60 milligrams for adult women. Smokers’ requirements are 35 mg higher.

Fruit and vegetables are the main dietary sources of vitamin C, but it can also be taken as a supplement. In fact, vitamin C is taken more often than other supplements.

Vitamin C from food

According to results from the 2004 Canadian Community Health Survey–Nutrition, Canadians get an average of 132 milligrams of vitamin C a day from food. About one adult in five has inadequate dietary intake of vitamin C, below the Institute of Medicine recommendations.

Fruit juice, fruit drinks and citrus fruits accounted for 50% of   the vitamin C that Canadians got from food in 2004.

Vitamin C from supplements

A third of Canadians take vitamin C supplements, which add 100 milligrams to total average daily intake. Supplement use lowers the overall percentage of adults with inadequate intake by 5 percentage points to 17%.

For the population as a whole, supplements provided 43% of vitamin C intake, twice as much as the main dietary source, fruit juice. And for the minority of the population who were supplement consumers, the percentage was nearly 70%.

Smokers, people who eat fruit and vegetables infrequently, and members of households with low income and low educational attainment tend to have relatively low vitamin C intake.

Full article

For more information about this article, contact Didier Garriguet (1-613-951-7187: Health Analysis Division, Statistics Canada.