Vitamin C

Last revised by Francesco Sciacca on 30 May 2023

Vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) is a water soluble vitamin that is a coenzyme for the formation of the structure protein collagen, particularly creating cross-linking of collagen fibers which greatly increases its tensile strength. It also acts as an antioxidant. Vitamin C is one of the hematinics.

Vitamin C has close chemical analogies with hexoses, the simple sugars characterized by six carbon atoms per molecule. Vitamin C is strongly sensitive to oxidizing agents which transform it - with reversible process - into dehydroascorbic acid 4.

Vitamin C was discovered by Albert Szent-Györgyi (1893-1986), a Hungarian biochemist and (non-practising) physician, who emigrated to the USA after World War II. For his vitamin C work he was awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine or physiology in 1937 3.

Pathological manifestations occur primarily with deficiency:

  • hypovitaminosis C: scurvy

  • hypervitaminosis C: true toxicity has not been observed, although megadosing (>2 g per day has been associated with nausea, abdominal cramps, diarrhea and kidney stones)

    • in vitro experimentation has found that ascorbic acid causes cell apoptosis at only 100-200 times the recommended daily allowance 2

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