Tobacco Smoke and Vitamin C Levels in Children.




American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

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Vitamin C has been heavily researched for its role in a long list of functions in the body. First, it is involved with the production of collagen and elastin, which are necessary for the health of skin, tendons, joints, bones, teeth and blood vessels. Second, vitamin C functions as an antioxidant, thus helping to limit damage to the body from free radicals. It also enhances the antioxidant activity of vitamin E. Next, vitamin C is important for production of the hormones that help the body respond to physical stress. Also, vitamin C may reduce some inflammatory reactions because it possesses anti-histamine activity. Finally, vitamin C can help the body rid itself of heavy metal toxins like mercury, lead, cadmium and nickel.

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that is stored in many tissues throughout the body, but the adrenal glands contain the highest concentration. The best sources of vitamin C are fresh fruits, especially citrus fruits, strawberries, cantaloupe and currants. Fresh vegetables, especially Brussels sprouts, collard greens, lettuce, cabbage, peas, and asparagus are also good sources.

Tobacco smoke is known to induce lower levels of vitamin C in smokers. A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined the impact of Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) on the levels of vitamin C in children. This study included 512 children and half of whom were exposed to ETS because their parents smoked. The vitamin C levels were measured and recorded in the ETS exposed group and the non-exposed group. Using a questionnaire, daily intake of vitamin C in these children was also determined. The results showed a significant difference. Children exposed to environmental tobacco smoke had lower levels of vitamin C than those who were unexposed. The authors of this study concluded that, “Children exposed to ETS should be encouraged to consume increased amounts of foods rich in vitamin C or should be given the equivalent amount of this vitamin as a supplement.”1


1. Preston AM, et al. Influence of environmental tobacco smoke on vitamin C status in children. Am J Clin Nutr. Jan 2003;77(1):167-172.