Distribution of vitamin C is tissue specific with early saturation of the brain and adrenal glands following differential oral dose regimens in guinea pigs

Br J Nutr. 2015 May 28;113(10):1539-49. doi: 10.1017/S0007114515000690. Epub 2015 Apr 13.


Vitamin C (VitC) deficiency is surprisingly common in humans even in developed parts of the world. The micronutrient has several established functions in the brain; however, the consequences of its deficiency are not well characterised. To elucidate the effects of VitC deficiency on the brain, increased knowledge about the distribution of VitC to the brain and within different brain regions after varying dietary concentrations is needed. In the present study, guinea pigs (like humans lacking the ability to synthesise VitC) were randomly divided into six groups (n 10) that received different concentrations of VitC ranging from 100 to 1500 mg/kg feed for 8 weeks, after which VitC concentrations in biological fluids and tissues were measured using HPLC. The distribution of VitC was found to be dynamic and dependent on dietary availability. Brain saturation was region specific, occurred at low dietary doses, and the dose-concentration relationship could be approximated with a three-parameter Hill equation. The correlation between plasma and brain concentrations of VitC was moderate compared with other organs, and during non-scorbutic VitC deficiency, the brain was able to maintain concentrations from about one-quarter to half of sufficient levels depending on the region, whereas concentrations in other tissues decreased to one-sixth or less. The adrenal glands have similar characteristics to the brain. The observed distribution kinetics with a low dietary dose needed for saturation and exceptional retention ability suggest that the brain and adrenal glands are high priority tissues with regard to the distribution of VitC.

Keywords: Deficiency; Distribution; Guinea pigs; Vitamin C.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Glands / growth & development
  • Adrenal Glands / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Animals, Outbred Strains
  • Ascorbic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Ascorbic Acid / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Ascorbic Acid / metabolism*
  • Ascorbic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Ascorbic Acid Deficiency / blood
  • Ascorbic Acid Deficiency / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Ascorbic Acid Deficiency / metabolism
  • Ascorbic Acid Deficiency / prevention & control*
  • Brain / growth & development
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Cerebellum / growth & development
  • Cerebellum / metabolism
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / growth & development
  • Frontal Lobe / metabolism
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Hippocampus / growth & development
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Kidney / growth & development
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Kinetics
  • Liver / growth & development
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Organ Specificity
  • Phosphorylation
  • Random Allocation
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Ascorbic Acid