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Exclusive: One in 10 New Zealanders over 50 at risk of scurvy because of low vitamin C levels

More than one in 10 New Zealanders over the age of 50 have such low Vitamin C levels they run the risk of getting scurvy, according to an Otago University study.

With more than two thirds of Kiwis over 50 having some sort of Vitamin C deficiency, researchers are calling for regular testing to be introduced.

When it comes to Vitamin C, not all fruit is created equal.

Dietician Renee Wilson says both green and gold kiwifruit are good sources of Vitamin C. 

Bananas and apples are the most commonly eaten fruits, but are not as high in Vitamin C, she says.

And with 63 per cent of New Zealanders over the age of 50 suffering a Vitamin C deficiency, experts wonder if people know the best choices to make.

"I think there probably is a bit of confusion around this," Ms Wilson said. 

Four-hundred Christchurch people's blood was assessed as part of the University of Otago, Christchurch study.

An alarming 13 per cent showed very low levels of the crucial vitamin.

"At those levels you'd start feeling low mood, low energy levels. They're what's called pre-clinical signs of scurvy," said Anitra Carr, Chalice researcher. 

Only seven per cent had optimal Vitamin C levels.

"That was very surprising actually. So we need to get the message out there to increase fruit and vegetable intake," Ms Carr said. 

Experts say one serving of fruit or vegetables high in Vitamin C, like oranges, capsicum, tomatoes or broccoli should help solve the problem.

Researchers says it's time that Vitamin C levels were checked regularly, like they are with cholesterol and iron.

"I'm not sure why it isn't measured with all the other nurtients. It should be, it's just as important. You don't have it, you die. It's just as important, it's vital to life," Ms Carr said.

Researchers are calling for regular testing to be introduced. Source: 1 NEWS