[Effects of vitamin C administration on cholesterol gallstone formation]

Rev Med Chil. 2014 Jan;142(1):20-6. doi: 10.4067/S0034-98872014000100004.
[Article in Spanish]


Background: Biliary cholesterol is transported by vesicles and micelles. Cholesterol microcrystals are derived from thermodynamically unstable vesicles. In experimental animals vitamin C deficiency leads to a super-saturation of biliary cholesterol and to the formation of gallstones.

Aim: To search for a possible relationship between serum levels of vitamin C and the formation of cholesterol gallstones in patients with cholelithiasis.

Material and methods: Thirteen patients with cholelithiasis and a programmed surgical intervention were treated with 2 g/day of vitamin C per os for two weeks before surgery. Forty nine patients subjected to a cholecystectomy not supplemented with vitamin C were studied as controls. Plasma concentrations of vitamin C and lipid profiles were measured. The cholesterol saturation index, crystallization time, cholesterol and phospholipid content in vesicles and micelles, separated by gel filtration chromatography, were studied in bile samples obtained from the gallbladder.

Results: Vitamin C supplementation did not change significantly plasma lipids and bile lipid concentrations. However, in supplemented patients, significant reductions in vesicular cholesterol content (6.5 ± 4.8% compared to 17.9 ± 14.0% in the control group; p < 0.05) and vesicular cholesterol/phospholipid ratio (0.71 ± 0.53 compared to 1.36 ± 1.15 in controls; p < 0.05), were observed.

Conclusions: Vitamin C administration may modify bile cholesterol crystallization process, the first step in cholesterol gallstone formation.

Publication types

  • English Abstract

MeSH terms

  • Ascorbic Acid / administration & dosage*
  • Ascorbic Acid / analysis
  • Bile Acids and Salts / chemistry
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cholelithiasis / chemistry
  • Cholelithiasis / etiology*
  • Cholesterol / analysis
  • Cholesterol / metabolism*
  • Crystallization
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Lipids / analysis*
  • Male
  • Micelles
  • Middle Aged


  • Bile Acids and Salts
  • Lipids
  • Micelles
  • Cholesterol
  • Ascorbic Acid