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Danger of Low-Carb Diet: Not Enough Vitamin C

Posted Mar 23 2011 12:00am

I eat a low-carb diet for reasons that have nothing to do with weight loss: To keep my blood sugar down. I am sure high blood sugar is bad. A few months ago, I noticed that my lips were chapped, which was unusual. I suspected it was due to lack of Vitamin C. About two months before that, I had stopped doing two things that I usually did: taking a multi-vitamin pill (which had Vitamin C) and eating fruit. I don’t know if the Vitamin C in the pill is absorbed but I’m sure the Vitamin C in fruit is. I started eating kumquats the skins of four kumquats/day. (One kumquat contains about 15% of the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C ). My lips returned to normal.

Paul Jaminet, author of Perfect Health Diet, had a similar experience , which I knew nothing about when I noticed my chapped lips. While eating “a lot of vegetables but no starches and hardly any fruit,” he developed outright scurvy, including wounds that wouldn’t heal.  This happened while he was taking a multi-vitamin pill with 90 mg Vitamin C (my four kumquats contain only 35 mg Vitamin C). “Four grams a day of vitamin C for two months cured all the scurvy symptoms,” he found.

Why do we like sweet foods? The usual answer ( so that we will eat more calories ) is nonsense. The striking thing about our liking for sweetness is that it disappears when we are really hungry, which is the opposite of what the calorie-seeking explanation predicts. Desserts are served at the end of a meal because they taste much better then. But our liking for sweetness (when we’re not hungry) is so strong and obvious it must mean something important. I think it is pushing us to eat more fruit so that we will get enough Vitamin C. Fruits are much sweeter than other food groups and they are much higher in Vitamin C. We don’t like sweet things when we are hungry because a high-fruit diet is terrible (it is low in omega-3 and other necessary fats, for one thing). But a small amount of fruit is almost necessary. Paul and my experiences suggest it isn’t easy to get enough Vitamin C in other ways.

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