Women show higher vitamin C plasma concentrations than men, but the reasons for this observation still require elucidation. The objective of the present study was to investigate whether sex differences in vitamin C plasma concentrations are present in elderly subjects and whether these differences are due to sex-specific lifestyles, total antioxidant status (TAOS) and/or body composition. Fasting plasma concentrations of vitamin C were assessed by photometric detection in a cross-sectional study of 181 women and eighty-nine men aged 62–92 years. Body composition was determined by bioelectrical impedance analysis. Vitamin C intake was assessed with a 3 d estimated dietary record. Stepwise multiple regression analyses were performed to investigate whether sex is an independent predictor of vitamin C plasma concentrations by controlling for age, vitamin C intake, lifestyle factors, TAOS and body composition. Women showed higher vitamin C plasma concentrations than men (76 v. 62 μmol/l, P< 0·0001). In the multiple regression analysis, male sex was a negative predictor of vitamin C plasma concentrations (β = − 0·214), as long as absolute fat-free mass (FFM) was not considered as a confounder. When absolute FFM was included, sex was no longer a predictor of vitamin C plasma concentrations, whereas absolute FFM (β = − 0·216), physical activity level (β = 0·165), intake of vitamin C supplements (β = 0·164), age (β = 0·147) and smoking (β = − 0·125) affected vitamin C plasma concentrations. The results indicate that a higher absolute FFM, and thus a higher distribution volume of vitamin C, contributes to lower vitamin C plasma concentrations in men than women.