Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)

General Info


Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that is easily absorbed from the small intestine.

Dietary Origins

The best sources of vitamin C are found in: asparagus, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cantaloupe, citrus fruits, collard greens, currants, lettuce, peas, and strawberries.


Vitamin C is an essential, water-soluble micronutrient that is produced by plants and animals, but not by humans. There is evidence of often-fatal "scurvy" dating back to 3000 B.C. In the 1700s, researchers found the link between scurvy and diets of rationed food lacking fruits and vegetables. In the 1800s, the British Royal Navy began issuing sailors an ounce of lemon or lime juice each day, beginning their second week at sea. In 1933, its chemical structure was established. It was successfully synthesized, and the name was changed to ascorbic acid. We must depend on our diet, or nutritional supplements, as the source of this vitamin.

Toxicities & Precautions


There are no known toxicities associated with vitamin C.

Health Conditions

In some individuals large amounts of vitamin C produces high amounts of oxalic acid, which could lead to the formation of kidney stones. People with a history of gout, kidney stones, or kidney disease should not take more than RDA vitamin C without medical supervision.

Side Effects

Diarrhea may occur with large doses of vitamin C. This can effect can be controlled by lowering the amount of vitamin C ingested. Approximately 15 percent of individuals taking moderately high doses of vitamin C experience abdominal gas, bloating, and cramping.

Functions in the Body


May have the ability to neutralize free radicals, and is capable of regenerating the antioxidant form of vitamin E.


May prevent the formation of cancer causing organic compounds.


Plays a role in the synthesis of collagen and elastin, the major structural components of blood vessels, bone matrix, connective tissues between cells, skin, tendons, and tooth dentin.


Detoxifies heavy metal toxins such as mercury, lead, cadmium, and nickel.

Fat Synthesis

Vitamin C aids in the conversion of cholesterol to bile acids for excretion.


Required for the synthesis of the body's main stress response hormones in the adrenal glands. Burns, exposure to cold, fever, fractures, high altitude, physical trauma, and radiation all require larger doses of vitamin C.

Symptoms & Causes of Deficiency

Scurvy in the United States is rare, but other forms of deficiencies are common. Deficiency symptoms include anemia, capillary fragility, easy bruising, gums that bleed easily, hemorrhage, muscular weakness, poor appetite and growth, poor wound healing, and tender or swollen joints. Stressful situations, including both physical and emotional, deplete vitamin C from they body. Individuals most likely to experience deficiencies include elderly people, alcoholics, the severely ill, individuals who have chronic stress, and infants who are only fed cow's milk.