«Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid and L-ascorbic acid, is a vitamin found in various foods and sold as a dietary supplement. It is used to prevent and treat scurvy. Vitamin C is an essential nutrient involved in the repair of tissue and the enzymatic production of certain neurotransmitters. It is required for the functioning of several enzymes and is important for immune system function. It also functions as an antioxidant.
Evidence does not support use in the general population for the prevention of the common cold. There is, however, some evidence that regular use may shorten the length of colds. It is unclear if supplementation affects the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, or dementia. It may be taken by mouth or by injection.
Vitamin C is generally well tolerated. Large doses may cause gastrointestinal discomfort, headache, trouble sleeping, and flushing of the skin. Normal doses are safe during pregnancy. The United States Institute of Medicine recommends against taking large doses.
Vitamin C was discovered in 1912, isolated in 1928, and in 1933 was the first vitamin to be chemically produced. It is on the World Health Organization Model List of Essential Medicines, the most effective and safe medicines needed in a health system. Vitamin C is available as an inexpensive generic medication and over-the-counter drug. Partly for its discovery, Albert Szent-Györgyi and Walter Norman Haworth were awarded the 1937 Nobel Prizes in Physiology and Medicine and Chemistry, respectively. Foods containing vitamin C include citrus fruits, kiwifruit, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, raw bell peppers, and strawberries. Prolonged storage or cooking may reduce vitamin C content in foods.
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for certain animals including humans. The term vitamin C encompasses several vitamers that have vitamin C activity in animals. Ascorbate salt such as sodium ascorbate and calcium ascorbate are used in some dietary supplements. These release ascorbate upon digestion. Ascorbate and ascorbic acid are both naturally present in the body, since the forms interconvert according to pH. Oxidized forms of the molecule such as dehydroascorbic acid are converted back to ascorbic acid by reducing agents.
Vitamin C functions as a cofactor in many enzymatic reactions in animals (and humans) that mediate a variety of essential biological functions, including wound healing and collagen synthesis. In humans, vitamin C deficiency lead to impaired collagen synthesis, contributing to the more severe symptoms of scurvy. Another biochemical role of vitamin C is to act as an antioxidant (a reducing agent) by donating electrons to various enzymatic and non-enzymatic reactions. Doing so converts vitamin C to an oxidized state - either as semidehydroascorbic acid or dehydroascorbic acid. These compounds can be restored to a reduced state by glutathione and NADPH-dependent enzymatic mechanisms.
In plants, vitamin C is a substrate for ascorbate peroxidase. This enzyme utilizes ascorbate to neutralize toxic hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) by converting it to water (H2O).
Scurvy is a disease resulting from a deficiency of vitamin C, since without this vitamin, collagen made by the body is too unstable to perform its function.
Scurvy lead to the formation of brown spots on the skin, spongy gums, and bleeding from all mucous membranes. The spots are most abundant on the thighs and legs, and a person with the ailment looks pale, feels depressed, and is partially immobilized. In advanced scurvy there are open, suppurating wounds and loss of teeth and, eventually, death. The human body can store only a certain amount of vitamin C, and so the body stores are depleted if fresh supplies are not consumed. The time frame for onset of symptoms of scurvy in unstressed adults on a completely vitamin C free diet, however, may range from one month to more than six months, depending on previous loading of vitamin C.
Notable human dietary studies of experimentally induced scurvy have been conducted on conscientious objectors during World War II in Britain and on Iowa state prisoners in the late 1960s to the 1980s. These studies both found that all obvious symptoms of scurvy previously induced by an experimental scorbutic diet with extremely low vitamin C content could be completely reversed by additional vitamin C supplementation of only 10 mg a day. In these experiments, there was no clinical difference noted between men given 70 mg vitamin C per day (which produced a blood level of vitamin C of about 0.55 mg/dl, about 1/3 of tissue saturation levels) and those given 10 mg per day. Men in the prison study developed the first signs of scurvy about four weeks after starting the vitamin C-free diet, whereas in the British study, six to eight months were required, possibly due to the pre-loading of this group with a 70 mg/day supplement for six weeks before the scorbutic diet was fed.
Men in both studies on a diet devoid, or nearly devoid, of vitamin C had blood levels of vitamin C too low to be accurately measured when they developed signs of scurvy and, in the Iowa study, at this time were estimated (by labeled vitamin C dilution) to have a body pool of less than 300 mg, with daily turnover of only 2.5 mg/day, implying an instantaneous half-life of 83 days by this time (elimination constant of 4 months).
Vitamin C has a definitive role in treating scurvy, which is a disease caused by vitamin C deficiency. Beyond that, a role for vitamin C as prevention or treatment for various diseases is disputed, with reviews reporting conflicting results. A 2012 Cochrane review reported no effect of vitamin C supplementation on overall mortality. It is on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines as one of the most effective and safe medicines needed in a health system.» (wikipedia)