Vitamin C: newer insights into its biochemical functions

Nutr Rev. 1991 Mar;49(3):65-70. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.1991.tb07407.x.


Ever since the discovery of vitamin C (ascorbic acid), scientists have been intrigued as to how ascorbic acid deficiency can lead to the diverse symptoms exhibited in scurvy. Only in recent years has it been appreciated that ascorbic acid has important functions in many cellular reactions and processes in addition to its role in collagen synthesis. The few such reactions that are understood at the molecular level make it apparent that ascorbic acid does not directly participate in enzyme-catalyzed conversion of substrate to product. Instead, the vitamin regenerates prosthetic metal ions in these enzymes in their required reduced forms. This is in agreement with other antioxidant functions of vitamin C, e.g., scavenging of free radicals. Ascorbate and other antioxidant nutrients are presumed to play a pivotal role in minimizing the damage from oxidative products, including free radicals. This protective function is twofold: the already-oxidized groups in prosthetic centers of enzymes are reduced and the oxidants and free radicals are removed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ascorbic Acid / physiology*
  • Collagen / biosynthesis
  • Free Radicals
  • Hormones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Norepinephrine / biosynthesis
  • Oxidation-Reduction


  • Free Radicals
  • Hormones
  • Collagen
  • Ascorbic Acid
  • Norepinephrine