Vitamin C requirements in parenteral nutrition

Gastroenterology. 2009 Nov;137(5 Suppl):S70-8. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2009.08.012.


Some biochemical functions of vitamin C make it an essential component of parenteral nutrition (PN) and an important therapeutic supplement in other acute conditions. Ascorbic acid is a strong aqueous antioxidant and is a cofactor for several enzymes. The average body pool of vitamin C is 1.5 g, of which 3%-4% (40-60 mg) is used daily. Steady state is maintained with 60 mg/d in nonsmokers and 140 mg/d in smokers. Shocked surgical, trauma, and septic patients have a drastic reduction of circulating plasma ascorbate concentrations. These low concentrations require 3-g doses/d to restore normal plasma ascorbate concentrations, questioning the recommended PN dose of 100 mg/d. Determination of intravenous requirements is usually based on plasma concentrations, which are altered during the inflammatory response. There is no clear indicator of deficiency: serum or plasma ascorbate concentrations <0.3 mg/dL (20 micromol/L) indicates inadequate vitamin C status. On the basis of available pharmacokinetic data the 100 mg/d dose for patients receiving home PN and 200 mg/d for stable adult patients receiving PN are adequate, but requirements have been shown to be higher in perioperative, trauma, burn, and critically ill patients, paralleling oxidative stress. One recommendation cannot fit all categories of patients. Large vitamin C supplements may be considered in severe critical illness, major trauma, and burns because of increased requirements resulting from oxidative stress and wound healing. Future research should distinguish therapeutic use of high-dose ascorbic acid antioxidant therapy from nutritional PN requirements.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / administration & dosage*
  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Antioxidants / toxicity
  • Ascorbic Acid / administration & dosage*
  • Ascorbic Acid / metabolism
  • Ascorbic Acid / toxicity
  • Burns / drug therapy
  • Critical Illness / therapy
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Drug Interactions
  • Drug Stability
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Home Care Services
  • Humans
  • Nutritional Requirements
  • Parenteral Nutrition*
  • Patients / classification
  • Pediatrics / methods
  • Perioperative Care
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Wounds and Injuries / drug therapy


  • Antioxidants
  • Glucose
  • Ascorbic Acid