1. Acute hyperglycaemia may impair endothelial function. Ascorbic acid (AA), administered intra-arterially, has been reported to improve endothelium-dependent vasodilatation during a forearm hyperglycaemic clamp. Using a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over study, we investigated the potential for intravenous ascorbic acid to modify the endothelial response to acute systemic hyperglycaemia in humans. 2. Nine healthy male volunteers were recruited from the hospital staff. Endothelial function was determined by measuring the forearm blood flow responses to intrabrachial infusions of endothelium-dependent (ED) and endothelium-independent (EID) vasodilators. The endothelial function index (EFI) was derived from the ratio of ED and EID vasodilatation. Haemodynamic and endothelial function measurements were performed at baseline and then repeated 2 h after a systemic hyperglycaemic clamp (14 mmol/L). The subjects, studied on two separate occasions, were randomized to placebo or 2 g intravenous ascorbic acid prior to the initiation of hyperglycaemia. 3. After systemic hyperglycaemia with placebo pretreatment, the EFI fell from 1.08 +/- 0.21 to 0.74 +/- 0.13 (difference (95% confidence interval): 0.34 (0.20, 0.47); P < 0.001). When subjects were pretreated with ascorbic acid, the EFI was not affected by hyperglycaemia (1.11 +/- 0.21 to 1.12 +/- 0.17; P = 0.938). This difference between placebo and ascorbic acid was significant (P < 0.001). Plasma ascorbate concentrations decreased during hyperglycaemia and correlated directly with the reduction in the EFI (r = 0.798; P < 0.001). 4. Pretreatment with an intravenous bolus of ascorbic acid can prevent endothelial dysfunction during acute systemic hyperglycaemia. Therefore, ascorbic acid may have potential therapeutic use in clinical situations where acute hyperglycaemia may be a complication.