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Original Research

Mild Vitamin C Deficiency Is Common in the Inpatient Psychiatric Setting

Bilal A. Bari, MD, PhD; Ana Ivkovic, MD; and Bryce A. Wininger, MD

Published: June 14, 2023


Objective: Mild vitamin C deficiency is a psychiatrically relevant nutritional state, with symptoms including apathy, fatigue, and low mood. Although complete vitamin C deficiency has largely been eradicated, mild deficiency remains common in certain populations. Here, we aimed to identify the prevalence of mild vitamin C deficiency in the inpatient psychiatric setting.

Methods: We identified 221 patients with plasma vitamin C levels collected on an inpatient psychiatric unit serving a metropolitan area between January 1, 2015, and March 7, 2022. We identified demographic (age, sex, race, housing status, Area Deprivation Index [an index of neighborhood disadvantage]), substance use (tobacco use, alcohol use), diagnostic (depressive, bipolar, psychotic, anxiety, substance use, catatonia, neurocognitive, autism spectrum), and micronutrient (folate, vitamin B12, vitamin D) risk factors. DSM-5-TR was used as the diagnostic system. Bayesian log-normal regressions were constructed to predict vitamin C as a function of these risk factors. We used these same models to predict vitamin C as a function of significant risk factors.

Results: We found that 64% (141 of 221; 95% confidence interval 57%–70%) of patients met criteria for mild vitamin C deficiency. While we did not identify robust demographic, substance use, or diagnostic-based risk factors, we found that folate and vitamin D strongly predicted vitamin C levels. To test the utility of these predictors, we simulated vitamin C as a function of folate and vitamin D and found that predicted deficiency remained high ( 50%–55%), even when folate/vitamin D were sufficiently replete.

Conclusions: We find that vitamin C deficiency is highly prevalent in the inpatient psychiatric setting and remains high even when the relevant risk factor profile is favorable.

J Clin Psychiatry 2023;84(4):22m14616

Author affiliations are listed at the end of this article.

Volume: 84

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