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Vitamin C

Vitamin C


Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is naturally produced in fruits and vegetables. The vitamin, which can be taken in dietary or supplementary form, is absorbed by the intestines. That which the body cannot absorb is excreted in the urine. The body stores a small amount, but daily intake, preferably in dietary form, is recommended for optimum health.

Certain health conditions may cause vitamin C depletion, including diabetes and high blood pressure. People who smoke and women who take estrogen may also have lower vitamin C levels. In addition, men are more likely to be vitamin C depleted, as are the elderly. High stress levels have also been linked to vitamin C deficiency.

In addition, certain medical and surgical procedures may lower the levels of vitamin C in the body. It has been found that hemodialysis causes patients with kidney disease to lose as much as 66 mg per session. Similarly, patients who have had kidney transplants are at increased risk of vitamin C deficiency.

Severe vitamin C deficiency leads to scurvy, a disease common on ships prior to the eighteenth century, due to the lack of fresh fruits and other dietary vitamin C sources. Symptoms of scurvy include weakness, bleeding, tooth loss, bleeding gums, bruising, and joint pain . Less serious vitamin C depletion can have more subtle effects such as weight loss, fatigue , weakened immune system (as demonstrated by repeated infections and colds), bruises that occur with minor trauma and are slow to heal, and slow healing of other wounds .

Low vitamin C levels have also been associated with high blood pressure, increased heart attack risk, increased risk for developing cataracts , and a higher risk for certain types of cancer (i.e., prostate, stomach, colon, oral, and lung).

General use

Vitamin C is a critical component of both disease prevention and of basic body building processes. The therapeutic effects of vitamin C include:

  • Allergy and asthma relief. Vitamin C is present in the lung's airway surfaces, and insufficient vitamin C levels have been associated with bronchial constriction and reduced lung function. Some studies have associated vitamin C supplementation with asthmatic symptom relief, but results have been inconclusive and further studies are needed.
  • Cancer prevention. Vitamin C is a known antioxidant and has been associated with reduced risk of stomach, lung, colon, oral, and prostate cancer.
  • Cataract prevention. Long-term studies on vitamin C supplementation and cataract development have shown that supplementation significantly reduces the risk of cataracts, particularly among women. One study published in 2002 found that adequate vitamin C intake in women under 60 years of age reduced their risk of developing cataracts by 57%.
  • Collagen production. Vitamin C assists the body in the manufacture of collagen, a protein that binds cells together and is the building block of connective tissues throughout the body. Collagen is critical to the formation and ongoing health of the skin, cartilage, ligaments, corneas, and other bodily tissues and structures. Vitamin C is also thought to promote faster healing of wounds and injuries because of its role in collagen production.
  • Diabetes control. Vitamin C supplementation may assist diabetics in controlling blood sugar levels and improving metabolism.
  • Gallbladder disease prevention. A study of over 13,000 subjects published in the Archives in Internal Medicine found that women who took daily vitamin C supplements were 34% less likely to contract gallbladder disease and gallstones , and that women deficient in ascorbic acid had an increased prevalence of gallbladder disease.
  • Immune system booster. Vitamin C increases white blood cell production and is important to immune system balance. Studies have related low vitamin C levels to increased risk for infection. Vitamin C is frequently prescribed for HIV-positive individuals to protect their immune system.
  • Neurotransmitter and hormone building. Vitamin C is critical to the conversion of certain substances into neurotransmitters, brain chemicals that facilitate the transmission of nerve impulses across a synapse (the space between neurons, or nerve cells). Such neurotransmitters as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine are responsible for the proper functioning of the central nervous system, and a deficiency of neurotransmitters can result in psychiatric illness. Vitamin C also helps the body manufacture adrenal hormones.

Other benefits of vitamin C are less clear cut and have been called into question with conflicting study results. These include vitamin C's role in treating the common cold , preventing heart disease , and treating cancer.

Respiratory health

Doses of vitamin C may reduce the duration and severity of cold symptoms, particularly in people who are vitamin C deficient. The effectiveness of vitamin C therapy on colds seems to be related to the person's dietary vitamin C intake and their general health and lifestyle. In addition, however, other researchers have found that vitamin C is associated with improved lung function and overall respiratory health.

Illness Dose per 24 hours
Asthma 520 grams (g); 48 doses per 24 hours
Hay fever 520 grams (g); 48 doses per 24 hours
Common cold 3060 g; 610 doses per 24 hours
Influenza 100150 g; 815 doses per 24 hours
Viral pneumonia 50200+; 1218 doses per 24 hours

Heart disease prevention

Some studies have indicated that vitamin C may prevent heart disease by lowering total blood cholesterol and LDL cholesterol and raising HDL, or good cholesterol, levels. The antioxidant properties of vitamin C have also been associated with protection of the arterial lining in patients with coronary artery disease. A study published in 2002 reported that the protective effects of vitamin C on the lining of the arteries reduces the risk of heart disease in patients who have received heart transplants.

On the other hand, the results of a recent study conducted at the University of Southern California and released in early 2000 have cast doubt on the heart protective benefits of vitamin C. The study found that daily doses of 500 mg of vitamin C resulted in a thickening of the arteries in study subjects at a rate 2.5 times faster than normal. Thicker arterial walls can cause narrow blood vessels and actually increase the risk for heart disease. Study researchers have postulated that the collagen-producing effects of vitamin C could be the cause behind the arterial thickening. Further studies will be needed to determine the actual risks and benefits of vitamin C in relation to heart disease and to establish what a beneficial dosage might be, if one exists. For the time being, it is wise for most individuals, particularly those with a history of heart disease, to avoid megadoses over 200 mg because of the risk of arterial thickening.

Blood pressure control

A 1999 study found that daily doses of 500 mg of vitamin C reduced blood pressure in a group of 39 hypertensive individuals. Scientists have hypothesized that vitamin C may improve high blood pressure by aiding the function of nitric oxide, a gas produced by the body that allows blood vessels to dilate and facilitates blood flow. Again, recent findings that vitamin C may promote arterial wall thickening seem to contradict these findings, and further long-term studies are needed to assess the full benefits and risks of vitamin C in relation to blood pressure control.

Cancer treatment

Researchers disagree on the therapeutic use of vitamin C in cancer treatment. On one hand, studies have shown that tumors and cancer cells absorb vitamin C at a faster rate than normal cells because they have lost the ability to transport the vitamin. In addition, radiation and chemotherapy work in part by stimulating oxidation and the growth of free radicals in order to stop cancer cell growth. Because vitamin C is an antioxidant, which absorbs free radicals and counteracts the oxidation process, some scientists believe it could be counterproductive to cancer treatments. The exact impact vitamin C has on patients undergoing chemotherapy and other cancer treatments is not fully understood, and for this reason many scientists believe that vitamin C should be avoided by patients undergoing cancer treatment.

On the other side of the debate are researchers who believe that high doses of vitamin C can protect normal cells and inhibit the growth of cancerous ones. In labbased, in vitro studies, cancer cells were killed and/or stopped growing when large doses of vitamin C were administered. Researchers postulate that unlike normal healthy cells, which will take what they need of a vitamin and then discard the rest, cancer cells continue to absorb antioxidant vitamins at excessive rates until the cell structure is effected, the cell is killed, or cell growth simply stops. However, it is important to note that there have been no in vivo controlled clinical studies to prove this theory.

Based on the currently available controlled clinical data, cancer patients should avoid taking vitamin C supplementation beyond their recommended daily allowance.


The U.S. recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of vitamin C was changed in 2000 to reflect growing recognition of the importance of vitamin C in the diet as an antioxidant as well as a protection against deficiency. The new values are as follows:

  • men: 90 mg
  • women: 75 mg
  • pregnant women: 80 mg
  • lactating women: 95 mg
  • smokers: should consume an additional 35 mg

The National Academy of Sciences also established for the first time an upper limit (UL), or maximum daily dose, of 2,000 mg. Daily values for the vitamin as recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the values listed on food and beverage labeling, remain at 60 mg for both men and women age four and older.

Many fruits and vegetables, including citrus fruits and berries, are rich in vitamin C. Foods rich in vitamin C include raw red peppers (174 mg/cup), guava (165 mg/fruit), orange juice (124 mg/cup), and black currants (202 mg/cup). Rose hips, broccoli, tomatoes, strawberries, papaya, lemons, kiwis, and brussels sprouts are also good sources of vitamin C. Eating at least five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables daily should provide adequate vitamin C intake for most people. Fresh, raw fruits and vegetables contain the highest levels of the vitamin. Both heat and light can reduce vitamin C potency in fresh foods, so overcooking and improper storage should be avoided. Sliced and chopped foods have more of their surface exposed to light, so keeping vegetables and fruits whole may also help to maintain full vitamin potency.

Vitamin C supplements are another common source of the vitamin. Individuals at risk for vitamin C depletion such as smokers, women who take birth control pills, and those with unhealthy dietary habits may benefit from a daily supplement. Supplements are available in a variety of different forms including pills, capsules, powders, and liquids. Vitamin C formulas also vary. Common compounds include ascorbic acid, calcium ascorbate, sodium ascorbate, and C complex. The C complex compound contains a substance called bioflavonoids , which may enhance the benefits of vitamin C. Vitamin C is also available commercially as one ingredient of a multivitamin formula.

The recommended daily dosage of vitamin C varies by individual need, but an average daily dose might be 200 mg. Some healthcare providers recommend megadoses (up to 40 g) of vitamin C to combat infections. However, the efficacy of these megadoses has not been proven, and in fact, some studies have shown that doses above 200 mg are not absorbed by the body and are instead excreted.


Overdoses of vitamin C can cause nausea, diarrhea , stomach cramps, skin rashes , and excessive urination.

Because of an increased risk of kidney damage, persons with a history of kidney disease or kidney stones should never take dosages above 200 mg daily, and should consult with their healthcare provider before starting vitamin C supplementation.

A 1998 study linked overdoses (above 500 mg) of vitamin C to cell and DNA damage. However, other studies have contradicted these findings, and further research is needed to establish whether high doses of vitamin C can cause cell damage.

Side effects

Vitamin C can cause diarrhea and nausea. In some cases, side effects may be decreased or eliminated by adjusting the dosage of vitamin C.


Vitamin C increases iron absorption, and is frequently prescribed with or added to commercial iron supplements for this reason.

Individuals taking anticoagulant, or blood thinning, medications should speak with their doctor before taking vitamin C supplements, as large doses of vitamin C may impact their efficacy.

Large amounts of vitamin C may increase estrogen levels in women taking hormone supplements or birth control medications, especially if both the supplement and the medication are taken simultaneously. Women should speak with their doctor before taking vitamin C if they are taking estrogen-containing medications. Estrogen actually decreases absorption of vitamin C, so larger doses of vitamin C may be necessary. A healthcare provider can recommend proper dosages and the correct administration of medication and supplement.

Persons who take aspirin, antibiotics, and/or steroids should consult with their healthcare provider about adequate dosages of vitamin C. These medications can increase the need for higher vitamin C doses.

Large dosages of vitamin C can cause a false-positive result in tests for diabetes.



Reavley, Nocola. The New Encyclopedia of Vitamins, Minerals, Supplements, and Herbs. New York: M. Evans & Company, 1998.


du Plessis, A. S., H. Randall, E. Escreet, et al. "Nutritional Status of Renal Transplant Patients." South African Medical Journal 92 (January 2002): 68-74.

Fang, J. C., S. Kinlay, J. Beltrame, et al. "Effect of Vitamins C and E on Progression of Transplant-Associated Arteriosclerosis: A Randomised Trial." Lancet 359 (March 30, 2002): 1108-1113.

Henderson, C.W. "Prevalence Lower in Women with Increased Vitamin C Levels." Women's Health Weekly (April 22, 2000): 7.

Jacob, R. A., and G. Sotoudeh. "Vitamin C Function and Status in Chronic Disease." Nutrition in Clinical Care 5 (March-April 2002): 66-74.

Leibman, Bonnie. "Antioxidants." Nutrition Action Health Letter (June 2000):9.

Morena, M., J. P. Cristol, J. Y. Bosc, et al. "Convective and Diffusive Losses of Vitamin C During Haemodiafiltration Session: A Contributive Factor to Oxidative Stress in Haemodialysis Patients." Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation 17 (March 2002): 422-427.

"New Questions About the Safety of Vitamin C Pills." Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter (April 2000): 1.

Schunemann, H. J., S. McCann, B. J. Grant, et al. "Lung Function in Relation to Intake of Carotenoids and Other Antioxidant Vitamins in a Population-Based Study." American Journal of Epidemiology 155 (March 1, 2002): 463-471.

Taylor, A., P. F. Jacques, L. T. Chylack, Jr., et al. "Long-Term Intake of Vitamins and Carotenoids and Odds of Early Age-Related Cortical and Posterior Subcapsular Lens Opacities." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 75 (March 2002): 540-549.

Tsuchiya, M., A. Asada, E. Kasahara, et al. "Smoking a Single Cigarette Rapidly Reduces Combined Concentrations of Nitrate and Nitrite and Concentrations of Antioxidants in Plasma." Circulation 105 (March 12, 2002): 1155-1157.


United States Department of Agriculture. Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. 1120 20th Street NW, Suite 200, North Lobby, Washington, D.C. 20036. (202) 4182312.

Paula Ford-Martin

Rebecca J. Frey, PhD


In vivo testing
A test performed on a living organism, such as a controlled clinical study involving human test subjects. In vivo is Latin for "in the living body."

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Vitamin C

Vitamin C


For the Record

Selected discography


Vitamin C is a pop singer whose colorful image, talent for reinvention and several chart-toppers has earned her a place among the abundance of teen pop divas in the year 2001. Her catchy vocals and dynamic presence have linked her musically with the likes of young starlets Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. However, her career, which included a stint as the vocalist for alternative pop-punk band Eves Plum and several acting roles in major motion pictures has been likened to that of Madonnas. Both women have been acknowledged for their firm multi-media presence. Ironically, the vocalist whose hit single Graduation (Friends Forever), made her a favorite among teen music fans, was hardly a teenager when her breakthrough occurred. The singer holds an approximate ten-year age jump over her musical contemporaries as well as the majority of her audience.

Vitamin C was born Colleen Fitzpatrick on July 20, 1969, in Old Bridge, New Jersey, the youngest of three children. While the vocalist denies coming from a creative family, it may have been obvious from an early age she was destined for a career in the arts. As Vitamin C explained to Interviews Vivian Golden, From the time I was a little girl I was just one of those kids that would grab the typewriter and try to write a play or a novel. As a preteen, Fitzpatrick, diagnosed with a foot problem, began dancing as a form of physical therapy. Much to the dismay of her parents, by the age of 13 she was already securing professional jobs in the field. The talented youngster proceeded to sign with an agent and subsequently performed in several music videos and commercials.

During high school, Fitzpatrick had a fortunate break when she landed a part in eccentric director John Waters 1988 film Hairspray. Despite having a substantial role playing the part of Amber Von Tussle, archenemy to (now talk-show host) star Ricki Lakes character Tracey Turnblad, she continued with her education at New York University (NYU). Initially it may have seemed the ambitious teenager had her feet firmly planted in the possibility of a dance or acting career. However, Fitzpatrick expressed that she had always been interested in music. I used to take a tennis racquet and pretend that I was playing guitar, she explained to Interview magazine. I saw music as a vehicle to get out all the stuff I couldnt say. While she was inspired early on by mega-groups The Beach Boys and The Beatles and later by grunge rockers such as The Breeders, it wasnt until the early nineties that she chose to utilize music as her main form of self-expression. Fitzpatrick proceeded to implement herself in the New York City club scene and began performing with the New Wave band, Pure Liquid.

In 1991, several months prior to graduating from NYU, Fitzpatrick answered an ad in New York paper The Village Voice which sought a vocalist. She was surprised to find the advertisement had actually been

For the Record

Born Colleen Fitzpatrick on July 20, 1969, in Old Bridge, NJ; daughter of Gerard (a communications executive) and Vita (a legal secretary). Education: Bachelor of arts degree, New York University, 1991.

Began dancing as a child and by age 13 was securing professional jobs in the field; prior to career in music, landed several small acting rolls; played Amber Von Tussle in Hairspray, 1988; appeared in Naked Gun 2 1/2, 1991; appeared in The Mambo Kings, 1992; formed pop-punk band, Eves Plum, 1991; group signed to Sony Music, 1992; released Envy, 1993; released Cherry Alive, 1995; left Eves Plum, 1996; signed development deal with Elektra Records and began working under the name Vitamin C, 1998; released Vitamin C, 1999; had top ten single Graduation (Friends Forever), 1999; released More, 2000; played Lucy in Dracula 2000, 2000.

Addresses: Record company Elektra Entertainment, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, 15th floor, 10019. Website-Vitamin C at Elektra Records:

placed by Michael Kotch, one of her college classmates. Impressed by her ability, Kotch along with his twin brother, Ben (drums), asked Fitzpatrick to join their group. With the addition of bassist Theo Mack, the four aspiring musicians conjointly evolved into pop punk outfit, Eves Plum. The group was named for the actress who played often-troubled middle child Jan Brady on the family sitcom The Brady Bunch. After establishing a grassroots following, Eves Plum soon found themselves in the midst of a record label bidding war, culminating with the group signed to Sony Music in 1992. The band subsequently put forth their debut Envy in 1993 and a second album, Cherry Alive, two years later. Both were received to moderate success. Unfortunately, the band failed to make the impact in which the record label expected. In 1996, the group was dropped by Sony Music. Fitzpatrick, frustrated with her bandmates unwillingness to experiment with a new sound amicably parted ways with the group, thereafter traveling to Los Angeles in order to contemplate her next move.

In the midst of a bad depression, Fitzpatrick wrote the song Smile. It invariably lightened her spirits and pointed her interests in a more positive direction. She returned to New York with the intentions to reinvent herself. The result: the once-edgy vocalist emerged as pop star Vitamin C, a move criticized by many as selling out. However, Fitzpatrick proudly defends her position. People need to see the sense of humor in it, she explained to Gear magazine, With Vitamin C, I wanted to do no rules pop. Everything is all about branding now, everything has to come back to this one image and Ive never seen myself as that. When I was growing up artists challenged you, they were more creative. Fitzpatrick landed a development deal with Elektra Records in 1998 and for the next year worked with a series of collaborators and producers to develop her 1999 self-titled debut. Vitamin Cs syrupy high-school anthem Graduation (Friends Forever) which Entertainment Weekly described as destined to become as much a June perennial as Alice Coopers Schools Out, helped turn the album platinum and in turn parlayed Vitamin C into a pop icon.

Despite being in her late twenties at the time, Vitamin C was grouped into a set of teen heroes including Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Mandy Moore. This could be attributed to the saccharine hooks of her first effort, but most notably to her popular image. The attractive blonde singer maintains a dramatic visual appeal, frequently sporting stylish clothes and a bright, multi-colored head of hair. Her trendsetting look has proven to be widely admired by fans and the fashion conscious alike. According to Cosmopolitan magazine, In an era of cookie-cutter music video presences, her catchy tunes and ever-changing Day-Glo locks have made her refreshingly one of a kind. In August of 2000, the Mattel toy company issued a Vitamin C doll, complete with interchangeable hair extensions, a microphone and platform shoes. Additionally, Tommy Hilfiger, a popular clothing designer, named an exclusive shade of lipstick Vitamin C in the colorful singers honor.

At the end of 2000, Vitamin C released her sophomore effort More. Due to the success of her first album, on More the prolific singer had the assistance of many notable collaborators, including Billy Steinberg (a co-writer on Madonnas Like a Virgin), Billy Mann (who had worked with Jennifer Lopez) and Andy Marvel (who had worked with Celine Dion and the Cover Girls. ) The record was a catchy, slightly more mature offering. While it comfortably maintained Vitamin Cs pop appeal, it definitely held a more adult edge than its predecessor. This is evidenced particularly by two notable tracks on the album: Sex Has Come Between Us and the indiscreetly flirtatious The Itch. A&R guru Josh Deutsch, who worked with Vitamin C on her debut, explained in a 2000 press release, I think this record is more charged all the way around. Lyrically its more challenging and I think its musically more dangerousa little more risk taking going on. Vitamin C has an incredible ability to go in different directions and still be true to herself.

Refusing to stick with one medium, shortly after releasing her second album, the pop songstress made several appearances on the silver screen. She played the part of the infamous Lucy, a good girl gone bad, in famed horror director Wes Cravens Dracula 2000 and also had a role in Get Over It, a movie starring popular teen actress Kirsten Dunst. In 2001, Vitamin C continued to be a successful, multi-dimensional artist, one whose talent for reinvention enables her to successfully transform from icon to actress to musician without missing a beat.

Selected discography


Smile (CD5/cassette single), Elektra/Asylum, 1999.

Smile (vinyl single), Elektra/Asylum, 1999.

Me Myself and I (CD5/cassette single), Elektra/Asylum, 1999.

Itch (CD5/cassette single), 2000.

Graduation/Itch (CD5/single), Warner/Elektra/Atlantic, 2001.


Vitamin C, Elektra/Asylum, 1999.

More, Elektra/Asylum, 2000.



Cosmopolitan, February 2001.

Entertainment Weekly, June 30, 2000; January 26, 2001.

Gear, April 2001.

Interview, December 2000.

People, January 29, 2001.

Rolling Stone, February 1, 2001.

Teen People, December 2000/January 2001.

US Weekly, March 26, 2001.


Hip Online, (April 14, 2001).

Imusic, (April 17, 2001).

Vitamin C, (April 14, 2001).

Throttlebox, (April 16, 2001).

Ultimate Band List, (April 14, 2001).

Additional information was provided by Elektra Entertainment publicity materials, 2000.

Nicole Elyse

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Vitamin C


VITAMIN C. Vitamin C is also known as ascorbic acid, because it is the "anti-scorbutus" vitamin (scorbutus being the Latin name for the disease of scurvy). Unlike other vitamins, it is only required by a few species, particularly humans, but also guinea pigs and bats. Others, such as dogs and cats, make it for themselves by oxidizing glucose. Species that require the vitamin have lost the key enzyme that manufactures vitamin C because of a genetic mutation during evolution, in a period when the natural diet was vitamin Crich, resulting in no disadvantage. The empirical formula of the vitamin is C6H8O6; it is a white crystalline powder, freely soluble in water and pleasant tasting, but easily destroyed by heat and oxidation. A daily intake of as little as 7 milligrams (mg) has been found to be sufficient to prevent the development of signs of scurvy, but the usual recommendation is that adults should aim to take some 70 mg per day, partly as a safety factor. One school of thought recommends much higher intakes, of perhaps 1,000 mg, on the grounds that its antioxidant properties will increase resistance to infections, aging, and cancer. This assertion remains controversial, however. The Institute of Medicine recommends 2,000 mg/day as the tolerable upper intake level for adults. High levels may have a laxative effect, but this is welcomed by many people. The main natural sources of the vitamin are fresh fruits and vegetables. One of the first fruits valued for its antiscorbutic activity was the orangeeach one containing some 50 to 75 mg of the vitamin. In contrast, an apple of similar size has only 7 mg. Potatoes have been an important source of the vitamin in some cultures, not because they are particularly rich, but because they have been consumed in large amounts.

The value of potatoes as a source of vitamin C is influenced by the way in which they are prepared. Thus, one large potato cooked in its skin in a microwave oven may supply 30 mg of the vitamin, but the same quantity may supply only a third of that or even less when boiled, mashed, and reheated on a buffet table. One problem has been to understand how Eskimos, in their traditional lifestyle, managed to obtain enough vitamin C when they had no access to fruits or vegetables. Although fully cooked meats have lost essentially all their vitamin C, the scarcity of fuel meant that the Eskimos could only bring a piece of meat just to the boil in water. They then drank the vitamin-rich broth and ate the meat, thus meeting their need for vitamin C. Liver cooked in this way is richer than muscle meats in vitamin C. Cows' milk too loses most of its vitamin C when heat-sterilized or "condensed," and infantile scurvy has been a problem where mothers have economized by using canned milk as a complete food for their infant.

See also Beriberi ; Niacin Deficiency (Pellagra) ; Nutrient Bioavailability ; Nutrients ; Nutrition ; Scurvy ; Vitamins .


Counsell, J. N., and D. M. Hornig, eds. Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid). London: Applied Science Publishers, 1981.

Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, and Carotenoids. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 2000.

Packer, Lester, and Jürgen Fuchs, eds. Vitamin C in Health and Disease. New York: M. Dekker, 1997.

Kenneth John Carpenter

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Vitamin C

Vitamin C

Unlike other water-soluble vitamins, vitamin C (ascorbic acid), does not appear to act either as a catalyst or as a coenzyme. Instead, it plays a major role by regulating the formation of collagen. Collagen is a protein that makes up connective tissue. This tissue is found in skin, bones, cartilage, teeth, muscles and the walls of blood vessels. Vitamin C is also an important antioxidant. It helps protect vitamin A, vitamin E , and various fatty acids from the damage caused by excessive oxidation.

Because very little vitamin C is stored in the body, a daily dietary source is necessary. The vitamin is found almost exclusively in fruits and vegetables, particularly in citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons.

Interestingly, most animals are able to synthesize their own vitamin C. Only primates, guinea pigs, and a few fairly exotic creatures (such as the Indian fruit bat) need to get this vitamin from food.

Today cereals, infant formulas, and other foods are often supplemented with vitamin C, so that a serious deficiency is quite rare. Vitamin C deficiencies were common up until the early 20th century. They generally occurred during the winter months, occasionally lasting long enough to produce scurvy.


Scurvy is a debilitating and potentially fatal disease caused by a prolonged lack of vitamin C, leading to problems with the body's connective tissues. An early symptom of scurvy occurs when the walls of the smaller blood vessels become dangerously fragile and begin to rupture. The patient's gums bleed and small hemorrhagic spots appear on the skin. In later stages, teeth loosen and fall out, bones weaken, joints become swollen and painful, and anemia may develop. Additionally, wounds fail to heal because connective tissue is needed to repair cuts in the skin. Unless the disease process is halted, death results.

[See also Enzyme ; Vitamin ; Vitamin A ]

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vitamin C

vitamin C Ascorbic acid. Historically an inadequate intake of vitamin C led to scurvy, especially common among sailors unable to obtain fruits and vegetables. It has three main areas of function: (1)as a general (non‐enzymic) antioxidant, including the reduction of oxidized vitamin E in cell membranes;(2)as a coenzyme in the hydroxylation of lysine and proline in the synthesis of collagen and elastin, and hence essential for the normal formation of connective tissue;(3)as a coenzyme in the formation of noradrenaline.

Deficiency results in scurvy: seepage of blood from capillaries, subcutaneous bleeding, weakness of muscles, soft, spongy gums and loss of dental cement leading to loss of teeth, and, in advanced cases, deep bone pain. A lesser degree of deficiency results in impaired healing of wounds. The requirement to prevent scurvy is less than 10 mg/d; reference intakes are 30 mg/d (FAO); 40 mg/d (UK); 45 mg/d (EU); 90 mg/d (USA). All these differing figures can be justified, depending on the criteria of adequacy adopted and the assumptions made in the interpretation of experimental data. At intakes above 100–120 mg/d the vitamin is excreted in the urine; there is no evidence of any adverse effects at intakes up to 4000 mg/d.

Losses from foods can be high as they stale; it is easily oxidized, especially in foods kept hot, and it is leached into cooking water. Fruits and vegetables are rich sources. It is also used in curing ham, and as an antioxidant and bread improver. See also erythorbic acid; iron.

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vitamin C

vitamin C (ascorbic acid) A colourless crystalline water-soluble vitamin found especially in citrus fruits and green vegetables. Most organisms synthesize it from glucose, but humans and other primates and various other species must obtain it from their diet. It is required for the maintenance of healthy connective tissue; deficiency leads to scurvy. Vitamin C is readily destroyed by heat and light.

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vitamin C

vitamin C (ascorbic acid) n. a water-soluble vitamin with antioxidant properties that is essential in maintaining healthy connective tissues. A deficiency of vitamin C leads to scurvy. Recommended daily intake: 30 mg; rich sources are citrus fruits and vegetables.

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vitamin C

vi·ta·min C • n. another term for ascorbic acid.

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vitamin C

vitamin C See ASCORBIC ACID.

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"vitamin C." A Dictionary of Zoology. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"vitamin C." A Dictionary of Zoology. . (December 17, 2017).

"vitamin C." A Dictionary of Zoology. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from