Vitamin C (ascorbic acid): new roles, new requirements?

Nutr Rev. 1993 Nov;51(11):313-26. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.1993.tb03757.x.


There is an enormous amount of literature on vitamin C intake and health in animals, cell cultures, and humans. Beyond its function in collagen formation, ascorbic acid is known to increase absorption of inorganic iron, to have essential roles in the metabolism of folic acid and of some amino acids and hormones, and to act as an antioxidant. In recent years, research has increasingly focused on this latter function, stimulated by suggestions that "oxidative stress" may be a causal factor in the etiology of such diverse and important disorders of aging as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and cataract formation. The present evidence is strong enough to have convinced nutritionists that daily vitamin C intake should be many times higher than the amount needed to protect against scurvy, and this is reflected in the present Recommended Dietary Allowances. Suggestions that the recommended levels should be higher still are largely based on extrapolations from results of animal and tissue culture studies. How much ascorbic acid is necessary to achieve in humans the effects seen in animal studies is not clear. In general, the limited human studies have not been persuasive. The data are incomplete, and many of the studies have serious flaws. There are no toxicity studies of the type done for new compounds being considered for approval as therapy for major disease conditions. Intervention studies will be difficult, but are essential, and methods for tissue saturation measurement must be defined before new recommendations for the public are designed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ascorbic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Ascorbic Acid / physiology*
  • Ascorbic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Nutritional Requirements
  • Rabbits
  • Rats
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Ascorbic Acid