Ascorbic acid, also known as Vitamin C, is an antioxidant that plays an important role in the body. It not only protects the body’s cells from damage, but it is also needed to maintain the health of skin, teeth, bone, cartilage, and blood vessels. Some studies have shown that it also helps improve brain function in people with cognitive impairments such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. Most people gain the essential amount of ascorbic acid needed from their diet. Others may require supplementation. Without the proper amount of vitamin C, people are at risk for cardiovascular illness, compromised immune systems, premature aging, increased stress response, and poor energy production. Extreme vitamin C deficiency can lead to a condition called scurvy. Symptoms of scurvy include rash or brown spots on the skin, muscle weakness, pale skin, joint pain, tiredness, depression, or tooth loss.
Ascorbic acid is necessary for collagen formation (e.g., connective tissue, cartilage, tooth dentin, skin, and bone matrix) and tissue repair. It is reversibly oxidized to dehydroascorbic acid. Both forms are involved in oxidation-reduction reactions. Vitamin C is involved in the metabolism of tyrosine, carbohydrates, norepinephrine, histamine, and phenylalanine. Other processes that require ascorbic acid include biosynthesis of corticosteroids and aldosterone, proteins, neuropeptides, and carnitine; hydroxylation of serotonin; conversion of cholesterol to bile acids; maintenance of blood vessel integrity; and cellular respiration. Vitamin C may promote resistance to infection by the activation of leukocytes, production of interferon, and regulation of the inflammatory process. It reduces iron from the ferric to the ferrous state in the intestine to allow absorption, is involved in the transfer of iron from plasma transferrin to liver ferritin, and regulates iron distribution and storage by preventing the oxidation of tetrahydrofolate. Ascorbic acid enhances the chelating action of deferoxamine during treatment of chronic iron toxicity (see Interactions). Vitamin C may have a role in the regeneration of other biological antioxidants such as glutathione and α-tocopherol to their active state.
Ascorbate deficiency lowers the activity of microsomal drug-metabolizing enzymes and cytochrome P-450 electron transport. In the absence of vitamin C, impaired collagen formation occurs due to a deficiency in the hydroxylation of procollagen and collagen. Non-hydroxylated collagen is unstable, and the normal processes of tissue repair cannot occur. This results in the various features of scurvy including capillary fragility manifested as hemorrhagic processes, delayed wound healing, and bony abnormalities.
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*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. Vitamin supplementation is for wellness only, and not intended to cure or treat disease.