The EclecticPhysician

The Eclectic Physician
Vitamin and Mineral Information

Vitamin C/ Ascorbic Acid

The information on this page compiled by
Beth Burch N.D.
(click on the keywords)


Vitamin Cís main function in the body is in the production of collagen, a protein necessary for all connective tissue in the body- important for strong cartilage, tendons, blood vessel walls, gums, etc. Vitamin C is also required to activate folic acid, for the synthesis of norepineprine, serotonin, tyrosine, adrenal steroid hormones and carnitine, and to convert cholesterol to bile acids. It functions as an antioxidant, protecting cells from damage, promotes iron absorption, and assists in detoxification. Scurvy is the name of vitamin C deficiency and is characterized by bleeding gums, loose teeth, easy bruising and poor wound healing- all symptoms of decreased collagen formation. Early signs of vitamin C deficiency include fatigue, weakness, irritability, weight loss and vague muscle and joint pains. Other signs of scurvy are dry skin and eyes, hair loss, arthritis, anemia and decreased resistance to infections. While overt scurvy is uncommon in the US, low vitamin C reserves are relatively comm on, especially in the elderly and cancer patients. (11) Deficiency is usually due to improper diet (18), but may be due to increased requirements for vitamin C as in pregnancy, lactation, hyperthyroidism, acute and chronic inflammation, surgery and burns. Chronic diarrhea increases loss of vitamin C in the stool. Several authors have recently recommended an increase in the RDA for vitamin C. (21, 22)

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  • Ascorbic acid- most widely used and least expensive
  • Buffered vitamin C (calcium ascorbate, magnesium ascorbate, potassium ascorbate)- good for those people whose stomachs are upset by ascorbic acid

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Food Sources

  • Best sources are peppers, greens, broccolli and brussels sprouts. Good sources include citrus fruits, cabbage and strawberries. Vitamin C is quickly destroyed by heat and exposure to air.

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  • Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA)
  • Infants- 30-35 mg
  • Children (ages 1-10)- 40-50 mg
  • Adults- 60 mg
  • Pregnancy- 70 mg
  • Lactation- 95 mg

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Optimal Supplementation

  • 500 mg daily

Treatment of Health Conditions

  • 1000-9000 mg daily

Conditions used for

  • Arthritis (1, 2, 23)
  • Possibly helpful with exercise induced asthma (3)
  • Cancer prevention (4)
  • Carpel tunnel syndrome (5)
  • Cataract prevention (6, 7)
  • Cervical dysplasia prevention (8, 9)
  • Coronary artery disease prevention (10)
  • Herpes- topical application (14)
  • Possibly helpful with high blood pressure (15)
  • Improves immune function (16)
  • Prevention of colds (17, 20)
  • Prevention of poor circulation in smokers (19)
  • Male infertility (25)

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Side effects

  • Diarrhea and gas especially with high doses

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  • Recurrent kidney stones, severe kidney disease, gout, iron overload, and glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency

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Interactions with other nutrients

  • Works with beta-carotene, vitamin E and selenium as antioxidants
  • Regenerates vitamin E
  • Increases the absorption of iron
  • Required for the conversion of folic acid to its active form
  • High levels of vitamin C can deplete copper stores

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Interactions with medications and herbs

  • Increases kidney reabsorption of acidic medications increasing their effects (12)
  • Decreases kidney reabsorption of alkaline medications decreasing their effects
  • Vitamin C increases the diuretic effect of furosemide (13)
  • Use with sulfonamides may cause crystallization
  • Use with warfarin may decrease anticoagulant effects
  • Use with ethinyl estradiol may increase estradiol levels
  • Salicylates inhibit cellular uptake of vitamin C and may cause deficiency
  • Antibiotics may decrease blood levels of vitamin C (24)

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1. McAlindon TE et al, Do antioxidant micronutrients protect against the development and progression of knee osteoarthritis?, Arthritis Rheum 1996;39(4):648-56
2. Eldin AA et al, Effect of vitamin C administration in modulating some biochemical changes in arthritic rats, Pharmacol Res 1992;26(4):357-66
3. Cohen HA et al, Blocking effect of vitamin C in exercise-induced asthma, Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 1997;151(4):367-70
4. Head KA, Ascorbic acid in the prevention and treatment of cancer, Altern Med Rev 1998;3(3):174-86
5. Keniston RC et al, Vitamin B6, vitamin C, and carpal tunnel syndrome. A cross-sectional study of 441 adults, J Occup Environ Med 1997;39(10):949-59
6. van der Pols JC, A possible role for vitamin C in age-related cataract, Proc Nutr Soc 1999;58(2):295-301
7. Jacques PF et al, Long-term vitamin C supplement use and prevalence of early age-related lens opacities, Am J Clin Nutr 1997;66(4):911-6
8. Ho GY et al, Viral characteristics of human papillomavirus infection and antioxidant levels as risk factors for cervical dysplasia, Int J Cancer 1998;78(5):594-9
9. Kwasniewska A et al, Frequency of HPV infection and the level of ascorbic acid in serum of women with cervix dysplasia, Med Dosw Mikrobiol 1996;48(3-4):183-8
10. Nyyssonen K et al, Vitamin C deficiency and risk of myocardial infarction: prospective population study of men from eastern Finland, BMJ 1997 Mar 1;314(7081):634-8
11. Johnston CS et al, Vitamin C status of an outpatient population, J Am Coll Nutr 1998;17(4):366-70
12. Schumann K, Interactions between drugs and vitamins at advanced age, Int J Vitam Nutr Res 1999;69(3):173-8
13. Lee MG et al, Mechanism of ascorbic acid enhancement of the bioavailability and diuretic effect of furosemide, Drug Metab Dispos 1998 May;26(5):401-7
14. Hovi T et al, Topical treatment of recurrent mucocutaneous herpes with ascorbic acid-containing solution, Antiviral Res 1995;27(3):263-70
15. Bates CJ et al, Does vitamin C reduce blood pressure? Results of a large study of people aged 65 or older, J Hypertens 1998;16(7):925-32
16. de la Fuente M et al, Immune function in aged women is improved by ingestion of vitamins C and E, Can J Physiol Pharmacol 1998;76(4):373-80
17. Hemila H et al, Vitamin C and common cold incidence: a review of studies with subjects under heavy physical stress, Int J Sports Med 1996;17(5):379-83
18. Hurlimann R et al, Scurvy--a mistakenly forgotten disease, Schweiz Med Wochenschr 1994;124(31-32):1373-80
19. Zhang J et al, A Single High Dose of Vitamin C Counteracts the Acute Negative Effect on Microcirculation Induced by Smoking a Cigarette, Microvasc Res 1999 Nov;58(3):305-311
20. Hemila H et al, Vitamin C and acute respiratory infections, Int J Tuberc Lung Dis 1999;3(9):756-61
21. Ausman LM et al, Criteria and recommendations for vitamin C intake, Nutr Rev 1999;57(7):222-4
22. Carr AC et al, Toward a new recommended dietary allowance for vitamin C based on antioxidant and health effects in humans, Am J Clin Nutr 1999;69(6):1086-107
23. Cocchi P et al, Nonconventional therapy in a case of systemic juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, Pediatr Med Chir 1996;18(3):319-20
24. Alabi ZO et al, The effect of antibacterial agents on plasma vitamin C levels, Afr J Med Med Sci 1994;23(2):143-6
25. Dawson EB et al, Effect of ascorbic acid on male fertility, Ann NY Acad Sci 1987;498:312-23

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* The information presented in this web site is intended to inform and educate. It is not intended replace a qualified medical practitioner to diagnose or treat medical conditions.

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