Vitamin C is essential to prevent scurvy in humans and is implicated in the primary prevention of common and complex diseases such as coronary heart disease, stroke, and cancer. This chapter reviews the latest knowledge about dietary vitamin C in human health with an emphasis on studies of the molecular mechanisms of vitamin C maintenance as well as gene-nutrient interactions modifying these relationships. Epidemiological evidence indicates 5% prevalence for vitamin C deficiency and 13% prevalence for suboptimal status even in industrialized countries. The daily intake (dose) and the corresponding systemic concentrations (response) are related in a saturable relationship, and low systemic vitamin C concentrations in observational studies are associated with negative health outcomes. However, there is no evidence that vitamin C supplementation impacts the risks for all-cause mortality, impaired cognitive performance, reduced quality of life, the development of eye diseases, infections, cardiovascular disease, and cancers. This might be related to the fact that prevention would not be realized by supplementation in populations already adequately supplied through dietary sources. Recent genetic association studies indicate that the dietary intake might not be the sole determinant of systemic concentrations, since variations in genes participating in redox homeostasis and vitamin C transport had been associated with lowered plasma concentrations. However, impact sizes are generally low and these phenomena might only affect individual of suboptimal dietary supply.
Keywords: Ascorbic acid status; Complex diseases; Genetic variation; Supplementation.
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