Screening for vitamin C levels could improve diabetes outcomes

People with diabetes should be routinely screened for vitamin C deficiency as new research reveals it may help reduce the risk of complications from the disease.

Recently published findings  by Dr Shaun Mason from Deakin University’s Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition IPAN suggest that screening of vitamin C levels in the blood should become a routine part of clinical diabetes management, regardless of whether the person has type 1, type 2 or gestational diabetes.

“People with diabetes are at high risk of vitamin C deficiency due to a range of factors including higher body needs from oxidative damage, poorer uptake into cells, excessive losses via the kidneys, and insufficient dietary intake,” Dr Mason said.

“Improving deficient or low levels of vitamin C can improve blood sugar control and reduce risk factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure.

“Recent short-term interventions with vitamin C also appear promising for managing diabetes complications such as foot ulcers.

“These beneficial effects might relate to vitamin C supplementation correcting vitamin C deficiency as well as through the antioxidant effects of vitamin C.”

Dr Mason’s research involved a comprehensive review of evidence on the effects of vitamin C supplementation and its potential mechanisms in diabetes management.

He said further research was needed to determine the optimal levels of vitamin C required to protect against diabetes-related risks but it was likely that regular use of vitamin C at modest doses, such as the 500-1000mg per day achieved through readily available supplements, could be safely added to diabetes therapies.

“A personalised regimen of vitamin C supplementation that considers underlying factors such as a person’s disease status, vitamin C status, and level of diabetes control, is important to help optimize therapeutic effects safely.

“And despite previous concerns that vitamin C might interfere with blood sugar testing in diabetes patients, there is no convincing evidence for any interference in these tests when oral vitamin C supplements are taken at recommended doses.”

But Dr Mason said people should seek advice from their medical doctor before adding vitamin C supplements to their daily healthcare routine.

“This is a strong recommendation for all people with diabetes, but particularly those who have genetic diseases of iron overload, including haemochromatosis, and in those who have impaired kidney function,” he said.

Dr Mason said including more vitamin C rich foods in the diet was another way to boost vitamin C levels in the blood.

“Citrus fruits such as oranges, kiwi fruit, berries, and vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage are foods that can be eaten in moderation as part of a well-balanced diet to reduce the risk of vitamin C deficiency.”


Deakin media release, 13 March 2023