New study into vitamin C levels in care home residents and links to COVID-19
Grandparent’s lives matter – is vitamin C deficiency driving COVID care home deaths?
A new study, VitaC4Care, will test how much vitamin C is needed to achieve normal levels in care home residents.
One of the most vulnerable groups susceptible to COVID-19 is older people. In the UK, almost half (47%) of all COVID-19 deaths in the first wave were in care homes 1. In the US the Covid Tracking Project 2 estimates a third (34%) of deaths were in care homes.
Could a lack of vitamin C, which is essential for optimising immune function and fighting viral infections 3, be a major contributing factor? 3
The VitaC4Care study is led by Professor Phyo Myint, Clinical Chair in Medicine of Old Age and Dr Alan Sneddon from the Rowett Institute’s Metabolic Health Unit, University of Aberdeen, UK, together with Dr Stavroula Kastora from NHS Grampian and vitamin C researcher Associate Professor Anitra Carr from New Zealand’s University of Otago.
The latest UK government’s National Diet and Nutrition Survey estimates that almost half a million people over 65 have overt vitamin C deficiency (i.e. blood levels <11 µmol/L) 5. The survey, however, excludes care home residents.
A study from the MRC Human Nutrition Research Unit in Cambridge in the 1990’s indicated that an estimated 40% in care homes had deficient vitamin C levels. 6 This study, now over 20 years old, is the only estimate of how widespread deficiency is in care homes.
“We have no idea how much vitamin C our vulnerable elderly actually need to be fully protected.” says Associate Professor Anitra Carr, who has teamed up with professors and doctors from the University of Aberdeen, the Rowett Institute and NHS Grampian to conduct the landmark VitaC4Care study in care homes across Scotland.
“This trial will help to establish optimal intakes of vitamin C for this important and often forgotten group within our society.’ says Professor Carr.
People deficient in vitamin C are particularly susceptible to severe respiratory infections, such as pneumonia 7 and COVID-19 which cause vitamin C levels to drop dramatically due to increased need 8.
A survey of elderly Scottish patients hospitalized with respiratory infections found that 40% had deficient levels of vitamin C 9. Critical covid patients have been reported to have depleted vitamin C the level of which predicts their chances of survival 4. Older people who are already low in vitamin C before infection may not survive as a result.
Professor Jeanne Drisko, an expert in vitamin C from the University of Kansas Medical Center, USA says, “Aging individuals are particularly vulnerable to vitamin C deficiency and an effort to define the extent of deficiency is urgently needed.”
According to estimates made by the Linus Pauling Institute at the University of Oregon, their needs may be as high as 400mg a day, ten times the recommended intake in the UK. That equates to six oranges a day, hence supplementation may be essential for older people and care home residents.
When and Where
We can now confirm that the University of Aberdeen will be conducting this study. We are hoping that it starts in early Autumn, depending on funding.
We have started raising funds for the VitaC4Care study today! We have a starting pot of £4,500 from our previous donations, and thank you for those who have helped with this. We need to raise a further £15,500 to cover the costs of this study.
Remember, big pharmaceticals aren’t short of cash and they reap the benefits by pushing through studies quickly. Vitamin C can’t be patented and therefore the benefits of this study aren’t linked to one company so we need your help to make it happen. It is a huge problem for vitamin C and non pharmaceutical products.
You can track our old fundraising page here
What can you do to help??
We are really excited about this study and with talk of new varients and third waves we really need this research to help change behaviours when it comes to treatment options. As always we can’t do this without your help so please keep on reading and support us in any way you can:
What we’ve achieved since our launch…
Thank you for your continued support, encouragement and engagement with out campaign.
1. Oliver D. David Oliver: Let’s be open and honest about covid-19 deaths in care homes. BMJ. 2020;369:m2334.
2. See https://covidtracking.com/analysis-updates/what-we-know-about-the-impact-of-the-pandemic-on-our-most-vulnerable-community
3. Carr AC, Maggini S. Vitamin C and immune function. Nutrients. 2017;9(11):E1211.
4. Holford P, Carr AC, Jovic TH, Ali SR, Whitaker IS, Marik PE, Smith AD. Vitamin C – an adjunctive therapy for respiratory infection, sepsis and COVID-19. Nutrients. 2020;12(12).
5. Bates B, Collins D, Cox L, Nicholson S, Page P, Roberts C, Steer T, Swan G. National Diet and Nutrition Survey Years 1 to 9 of the Rolling Programme (2008/2009 – 2016/2017): Time trend and income analyses. In: England PH, editor. London: Public Health England; 2019. p. 56 pages.
6. Bates CJ, Prentice A, Cole TJ, van der Pols JC, Doyle W, Finch S, Smithers G, Clarke PC. Micronutrients: highlights and research challenges from the 1994-5 National Diet and Nutrition Survey of people aged 65 years and over. Br J Nutr. 1999;82(1):7-15.
7. Hemilä H. Vitamin C and infections. Nutrients. 2017;9(4):E339.
8. Carr AC. Vitamin C in pneumonia and sepsis. In: Chen Q, Vissers M, editors. Vitamin C: New Biochemical and Functional Insights. Oxidative Stress and Disease. Boca Raton, FL CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2020. p. 115-35.
9. Hunt C, Chakravorty NK, Annan G, Habibzadeh N, Schorah CJ. The clinical effects of vitamin C supplementation in elderly hospitalised patients with acute respiratory infections. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 1994;64(3):212-9.