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Ascorbic Acid

Ascorbic Acid, which is also called Vitamin C, is a natural water-soluble vitamin. It is an odorless, white to pale yellow crystalline powder with an acidic taste. Ascorbic acid is also a potent antioxidant that fights off free radicals and thus protects your cells from the damage caused by free radicals. Our body cannot make produce vitamin C, so we have to get it from food or supplements. Vitamin C is abundantly found in citrus fruits, potatoes, berries, tomatoes, cabbage, broccoli, peppers, spinach, etc.

Ascorbic acid tends to darken when exposed to light. It is stable in a dry state but quickly oxidizes in a solution. Its chemical name is L-ascorbic acid. Its chemical formula is C6H8O6. Its other chemical names include ascorbate and antiscorbutic vitamin.

Chemical Structure of Ascorbic Acid

The ascorbic acid molecule is made of asymmetrical six-carbon atoms (C6H8O6), which is related to glucose in terms of its structure.

Ascorbic Acid

Why is Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) prescribed?

It is generally prescribed when we are not getting a sufficient amount of vitamin C from the diet. It is also recommended to prevent and treat scurvy, a disease caused by the deficiency of vitamin C and which causes fatigue, anemia, bleeding gums, joint pain, and affect wound healing, and more. The required amount of vitamin C can be obtained from a healthy diet. Further, the deficiency of vitamin C is common in people who:

  • Smoke or exposed to passive smoking
  • Suffering from gastrointestinal problems or some cancer
  • Have a diet that lacks fruits and vegetables

Recommended Daily Dose of Vitamin C

For adult men: 90 milligrams

For adult women: 75 milligrams

Safety and side effects

The appropriate dose of vitamin is usually considered safe. However, taking a large amount of vitamin C can cause the following side effects:

  • Nausea, Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps or bloating
  • Fatigue and sleepiness
  • Headache
  • Skin flushing

Further, in some cases, too much consumption of vitamin C may lead to kidney stones, and when taken over 2,000 mg per day for a long time it may cause severe side effects. Also, before any medical test, inform your doctor that you are taking vitamin C supplements. This is because the high levels of vitamin C may affect the outcome of some medical tests such as stool tests for occult blood or glucose tests.

Interactions of Ascorbic Acid in the body

Here are the possible interactions of ascorbic acid:

Aluminum: The intake of vitamin C supplements can increase the absorption of aluminum from medicines that contain aluminum such as phosphate binders. It may lead to severe health issues in people with kidney problems.

Chemotherapy: It is believed that intake of antioxidants like vitamin C may reduce the effect of drugs during chemotherapy.

Estrogen: It may increase the estrogen hormone levels if taken with oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy.

Protease inhibitors: if taken orally, vitamin C may reduce the effect of these antiviral drugs.

Statins and niacin: The benefits of niacin and statins can be less if they are taken along with the vitamin C supplements.

Warfarin (Jantoven): The response to warfarin (an anticoagulant) may reduce if you are taking high doses of vitamin C.

Health Benefits of Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)

Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) offers lots of health benefits as it plays many vital roles in our body. Here are some of the major health benefits of ascorbic acid or vitamin C.

  • Reduces the risk of chronic disease: Ascorbic acid is a strong antioxidant. So, it improves our body's natural immunity and defenses by protecting body cells from harmful molecules known as free radicals. According to some studies, the intake of ascorbic acid can increase your blood antioxidant levels by up to 30%.
  • Helps manage high blood pressure: It has been found in studies that ascorbic acid may help reduce or control blood pressure.
  • Reduce the risk of heart disease: The intake of vitamin C supplements is linked with reduced chances of heart disease. It may also reduce high blood levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides.
  • May reduce uric acid: Intake of foods rich in vitamin C has been linked to reduced levels of uric acid.
  • Prevents iron deficiency: Iron is very important for our body. It forms red blood cells and transports oxygen in the body. Vitamin C aids in the absorption of iron from the diet.
  • Boosts immunity: It boosts immunity. During Covid-19 infection, the patients are also asked to include vitamin C supplements in their medications.
  • Protects memory as we age: Deficiency of vitamin C has been linked to a weakened ability to think and remember. Further, intake of vitamin C has been found to have a positive effect on memory as you age.

Furthermore, people who consume alcohol regularly and also have other illnesses often have a deficiency of vitamin C. They may need to take vitamin C for a longer time than normal duration to restore the vitamin C levels to normal.


Following types of patients should not take vitamin C over an extended period of time.

  • Diabetic patients
  • Patients who are at the risk of recurrent renal calculi.
  • Patients who are undergoing stool occult blood tests.
  • Who are on a sodium-restricted diet
  • Who are undergoing anticoagulant therapy

Side effects of Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)

  • In some cases, the intake of vitamin C may cause side effects like stomach cramps, heartburn, headache and nausea, and more.
  • When one takes more than 2000 mg of vitamin C in a day, it may cause kidney stones and severe diarrhea.
  • The high intake of vitamin C during pregnancy may affect the health of a newborn baby. However, it is safe to take vitamin C by mouth during pregnancy if the intake is not more than 2000 mg daily for women of age 19 years and more and it should not be more than 1800 mg in a day for girls who are 14 to 18 years old.
  • The intake of vitamin C which is more than 400 mg daily is not good for children of age 1 to 3 years; more than 650 mg daily is not good for 4 to 8 years of age; more than 1200 mg is not good for children of age 9 to 13 years, and more than 1800 mg in a day is not good for adults of 14 to 18 years of age. Similarly, people who regularly smoke or chew tobacco also have low levels of vitamin C, hence they need to consume more vitamin C than normally required intake.

The physical and chemical properties of ascorbic acid are based on its chemical structure.

Physical Properties of Ascorbic Acid

  • Molecular weight of ascorbic acid is 176.
  • Its melting point is around 190 degrees Celsius.
  • Its density is around 1.65 g/cm3.
  • It is soluble in water, e.g. 300 g/L at 20 degrees Celsius.
  • It is insoluble in chloroform, ether and benzene.
  • The color of its solution may be colorless or slightly yellow.
  • It has two pKa values: 4.2 and 11.6.

Chemical Properties of Ascorbic Acid

  • It is a weak, water-soluble, unstable organic acid.
  • It is easily destroyed or oxidized in light and aerobic conditions.
  • It is distributed in all body tissues, however, it is abundant in the adrenal gland, retina and pituitary gland.
  • Vitamin C metabolites (oxalate salts) and unmetabolized vitamin C are flushed out from the body by kidneys. Some amount of it is excreted through feces.
  • The absorption of ascorbic acid (vitamin C), takes place in the small intestine through an active transport mechanism.

Uses of Ascorbic Acid

It is widely used in the food industry as being a potent antioxidant it functions as a preservative that delays food spoiling due to bacteria, fungi, yeasts, mold and exposure to air. Further, the low pH of vitamin C helps prevent microbial growth. So, it is a popular natural preservative.

According to the FDA, antioxidants helps prevent fats and oils in foods from tasting bad and becoming rancid.

According to WHO, milk fortified with iron and vitamin C helps reduce iron deficiency in infants and young children as it promotes iron absorption.

Difference between Ascorbic Acid and Citric Acid

Citric Acid is also a weak organic acid with antioxidant properties like ascorbic acid. But, it is not a vitamin or nutrient like ascorbic acid. So, although these acids have lots of things in common, they are different from each other. Here are some of the major differences between ascorbic acid and citric acid.

Ascorbic Acid Citric Acid
It is a weak organic acid that is an important vitamin for the human body. It is a weak organic acid, but not a vitamin.
Its IUPAC name is (5R)-[(1S)-1,2-Dihydroxyethyl]-3,4-dihydroxyfuran-2(5H)-one. Its IUPAC name is 3-carboxy-3-hydroxypentane-1,5-dioic acid.
It is also known as vitamin C. Its other names include 3-carboxy-3-hydroxypentanedioic acid and 2-hydroxy-1,2,3-propanetricarboxylic acid.
Chemical formula: C6H8O6 Chemical formula: C6H8O7
Molar mass is 176.12 g/mol. Its molar mass is 192.12 g/mol
It is a white or yellow solid. It is a crystalline white solid.

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