• Vol. 27 No. 2, 149–153
  • 15 March 1998

Plasma Vitamins A, C and E in the General Population of Singapore, 1993 to 1995



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The National University of Singapore Heart Study measured cardiovascular risk factors, including selected plasma vitamins, on a random sample of the general population aged 30 to 69 years.

Plasma vitamins A and E were normal and similar by ethnic group. Mean plasma vitamin A levels were: Chinese (males 0.68 and females 0.52 mg/L), Malays (males 0.67 and females 0.54 mg/L), and Indians (males 0.66 and females 0.51 mg/L). Mean plasma vitamin E levels were: Chinese (males 12.6 and females 12.6 mg/L), Malays (males 13.6 and females 13.3 mg/L), and Indians (males 12.9 and females 12.8 mg/L). No person had plasma vitamin A deficiency (<0.01 mg/L) and only 0.1% had vitamin E deficiency (<5.0 mg/L).

In contrast, plasma vitamin C was on the low side and higher in Chinese than Malays and Indians. Mean plasma vitamin C levels were: Chinese (males 6.3 and females 8.4 mg/L), Malays (males 5.1 and females 6.4 mg/L), and Indians (males 5.7 and females 6.9 mg/L). Likewise, the proportions with plasma vitamin C deficiency (<2.0 mg/L) were lower in Chinese (males 14.4 and females 0.7%), than Malays (males 19.7 and females 7.2%), and Indians (males 17.8 and females 11.0%). Relatively low levels of plasma vitamin C may contribute to the high rates of coronary heart disease and cancer in Singapore. In particular, lower plasma vitamin C in Malays and Indians than Chinese may contribute to their higher rates of coronary heart disease. However, plasma vitamin C does not seem to be involved in the higher rates of cancer in Chinese than Malays and Indians. The findings suggest a relatively low intake of fresh fruits and a higher intake is recommended. Also, food sources of vitamin C may be destroyed by the high cooking temperatures of local cuisines, especially the Malay and Indian ones.

The current disease pattern in Singapore (an island state of 3.3 million people composed of 76% Chinese, 14% Malays, 7% Asian Indians and 3% Others) is dominated by non-communicable diseases. There have been increasing trends, though with recent declines, for coronary heart disease (CHD) and cerebrovascular disease.

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