Smoking and Vitamin Absorption

As a result of smoking, the body not only absorbs toxins, but loses nutrients. Because smoking interferes with absorption of vital vitamins and minerals, deficiencies can develop. Vitamin deficiencies create or exacerbate some of the major health problems that smokers risk. One effective approach to avoiding vitamin deficiencies is to quit smoking. If not ready to quit, vitamin supplements may help avert dangerous deficiencies. A doctor can test you for vitamin deficiencies and prescribe the correct vitamin dosages.


Smoking interferes with absorption of calcium, which is essential for building new bones. Decreased calcium absorption, combined with decreased vitamin D absorption and impeded blood circulation, accelerates bone loss, resulting in increased risk of osteoporosis, bone fractures and pain. Even if they do not smoke, exposure by children and young adults to secondhand smoke increases their risk of low bone mass development.

Vitamin D

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Smoking causes malabsorption of vitamin D. Although typically associated with calcium intake, strong bones require vitamin D as well. Vitamin D is necessary for your body to absorb calcium from your intestines so that your body can metabolize it. Without sufficient vitamin D, bones grow brittle and weak and more susceptible to fracture and osteoporosis. Other symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include muscle aches and weakness.

Vitamin C

Not only does smoking decrease absorption of vitamin C, it also increases the body’s requirements for vitamin C by 30 percent, and so produces a common deficiency among smokers. Symptoms of vitamin C deficiency include fatigue, depression, skin rash and bad breath. Vitamin C promotes healing of infections and wounds. Without enough vitamin C, smokers tend to require longer recovery times from surgery, illnesses and wounds and risk more complications from their injuries and infections.


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Since vitamin C is required for blood cell production and iron absorption, leading to a residual iron deficiency. Iron is a key component in red blood cell production. The decrease in the numbers of healthy blood cells leads to a condition called vitamin deficiency anemia. Symptoms of vitamin deficiency anemia include fatigue, diarrhea, muscle weakness, irritability, confusion and forgetfulness.

Vitamin A

Some studies have found vitamin A deficiency in individuals who smoke. Vitamin A deficiency can result in eyesight decline and the development of serious eye conditions. Vitamin A deficiency is also associated with respiratory impairment, including airway hyperactivity or spasms, and a decrease in alveoli and alveolar duct density. Damage to the alveoli, which absorb oxygen from the lungs into the body and release carbon dioxide from the body, affects a smoker’s ability to breathe.