Ascorbic acid, the reduced form of vitamin C, may protect against gastric cancer. Accordingly, this study assessed the variability of ascorbic acid and vitamin C in the gastric juice of 77 patients with dyspepsia. There was a vitamin C concentration gradient from gastric juice down to plasma in subjects with normal gastric mucosa, but not in those with chronic gastritis. Patients with chronic gastritis had significantly lower gastric concentrations of vitamin C and ascorbic acid, and ascorbic acid concentrations were especially low in subjects with hypochlorhydria. The presence of the concentration gradient suggests that a mechanism for the secretion of vitamin C into the stomach exists. This is compromised by chronic gastritis. The very low ascorbic acid concentrations in hypochlorhydria may be a consequence of oxidation by bacterial nitrite. Those patients who by the Correa model are at greatest risk for gastric cancer have the lowest gastric levels of ascorbic acid.