Photos above and on the left: Albert von Szent-Györgyi

Vitamin C

Important information about vitamin C 1,2,3

Vitamin C was first discovered in 1928 by a Nobel Prize winner Albert von Szent-Györgyi. About 70% of vitamin C is found in plants as ascorbic acid.

Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for normal development and maintenance of approximately 15,000 vital functions, as it activates enzymes, stimulates the pituitary-adrenal axis, participates in the synthesis of cortisone and corticosteroids. It is also involved in the synthesis of collagen and in other important processes.

The minimum daily requirement for vitamin C is the largest of all the vitamins. It is about 1 mg/kg of body weight in an adult, and approximately 2 mg/kg of body weight in infants and children. The daily requirement for vitamin C increases in pregnant and breastfeeding women (to about 1.5 mg/kg of body weight) and in various medical conditions (arterial hypertension, diabetes mellitus, in patients on renal dialysis), as well as in smokers and in people who are under stress. It is also increased after strenuous, long-lasting physical activity, and in the case of vomiting, lack of appetite and abnormal bowel function.

Due to lack of enzyme L-gulonolactone oxidase, the human body is unable to produce vitamin C on its own and must get it from food and/or supplementation.


  • It stimulates oxidation and cellular respiration and plays an important role in the metabolism of sugars, fatty acids and amino acids.
  • It is essential, i.a., for keeping the capillaries healthy and for ensuring a normal function of the immune system.
  • It is indispensable for the formation and regeneration of: bones (affects bone density), teeth, tendons, joints, ligaments, fascia, blood vessels, skin and eyes.
  • It contributes to the production of energy in the body, facilitates iron absorption and enhances production of bile, blood, some hormones (especially anti-stress) and immune antibodies.

It is a very good antioxidant which effectively “sweeps away” free radicals generated by inflammatory cells. 1-7;14

  • It regenerates other antioxidants (e.g. vitamin E).
  • It protects DNA, lipids and proteins against oxidation.
  • To protect against germs, it activates virucidal and bactericidal substances.

The brain and the immune system require a lot of vitamin C. 3-13

Furthermore, increased physical activity, stress, infections, pregnancy, older age, cancer, chemo- and radiotherapy, as well as rheumatic diseases require an extra intake of vitamin C.

It demonstrates protective properties against many toxic substances, e.g. lead or carcinogenic effects of N-nitroso compounds.

It is directly involved in one of the main stages of fat burning, i.e. dehydrogenation of fatty acids, and it affects the speed of fat burning processes.

It also stimulates the synthesis of norepinephrine, L-carnitine and DHEA which help to maintain low level of fat tissue. Therefore, vitamin C may be helpful in regulating body weight.

A tremendous importance of this vitamin lies in its role in protecting against common cold and in preventing cardiovascular diseases. By helping the immune system function properly, vitamin C stimulates proliferation of T-cells. 15

Thanks to its antioxidant properties, vitamin C plays a crucial role in prevention of atherosclerosis, by inhibiting the oxidation of LDL-cholesterol and by reducing leukocyte adhesion to the vascular endothelium. 16, 5, 7

Studies conducted in the 1950s by a team of Canadian scientists under the supervision of G.C. Willys, MD, have shown that there is a direct correlation between vitamin C deficiency in the body and the atherosclerotic heart disease (“Nexus” No. 2/2006, “Chronic scurvy and heart disease,” Dr. Owen R. Fonorow).

You should know that unused vitamin C is eliminated from the body. Hence, it is difficult to maintain its normal concentration in the body for a long time. Therefore, it is important to take vitamin C regularly in order to maintain its adequate levels.

What are the symptoms of vitamin C deficiency? 2

  • scurvy,
  • general weakness,
  • increased susceptibility to infections,
  • decreased physical performance,
  • impaired wound healing,
  • impaired collagen formation,
  • gingival bleeding,
  • impairment of all other processes which require and involve vitamin C.

Additionally, long-term vitamin C deficiency may enhance development of neoplastic and atherosclerotic lesions, and may increase blood pressure.

Older people, alcoholics, smokers and people on certain medication (e.g. aspirin, sulfonamides, barbiturates) are at risk of vitamin C deficiency.

Increased demand for vitamin C is observed 5, 17, 18

  • in pregnant and breastfeeding women,
  • under stress,
  • in smokers, people who abuse alcohol,
  • when using contraceptive pills, tetracyclines, barbiturates, corticosteroids,
  • in city dwellers (due to omnipresent pollutants and toxins),
  • during febrile states, infectious diseases, peptic ulcer disease,
  • with regular intake of acetylsalicylic acid or other salicylates,
  • in the elderly, surgical patients, people with tissue injuries,
  • in people leading very intensive lifestyle.


  1. K. Maćkowiak, L. Torliński; „Współczesne poglądy na rolę witaminy C w fizjologii i patologii człowieka”; Nowiny Lekarskie 2007, 76, 4, 349-356.
  2. K. Janda, M. Kasprzak, J. Wolska; „Witamina C - budowa, właściwości, funkcje i występowanie”; Pom J Life Sci 2015, 61,4, 419-425.
  4. Hacisevki A.; ,,An overview of ascorbic acid biochemistry”; J.Fac. Pharm, 2009, 38, 3, 233-255.
  5. Naidu K.; “ Vitamin C in human health and disease is still a mystery? An overview”; Nutrition Journal, 2003, 2,7, 1-10.
  6. Sorice A. i wsp.; “Ascorbic Acid: Its Role in Immune System and Chronic Inflammation Diseases”; Mini-Reviews in Medicinal Chemistry 2014, 14, 5, 1-9.
  7. Iqbal K. i wsp.; ,,Biological significance of Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) in human health – A review”; Pakistan Journal of Nutrition, 2004, 3, 1, 5-13.
  8. Aghajanian P. i wsp.: ,,The roles and mechanisms of actions of vitamin C in bone: new developments”; J Bone Miner Res, 2015, 30 (11), 1944-1955.
  9. Desai Ch. i wsp.;”The Role of Vitamin Supplementation in the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease Events”; Clin. Cardiol. 2014, 37, 9, 576–581.
  10. Grosso G. i wsp.; ,,Effects of Vitamin C on health: a review of evidence”; Front Biosci, 2013, Jun 1;18:1017-29.
  11. May J. i wsp.; ,,Ascorbic Acid Efficiently Enhances Neuronal Synthesis of Norepinephrine from Dopamine”; Brain Res Bull. 2013, 90, 35–42.
  12. Szymańska-Pasternak J. i wsp.; ,,Witamina C jako oręż w walce z rakiem”; Onkologia w Praktyce Klinicznej 2011, 7,1, 9–23.
  13. Ellulu M. i wsp.; ,,Effect of vitamin C on inflammation and metabolic markers in hypertensive and/or diabetic obese adults: a randomized controlled trial”; Drug Design, Development and Therapy 2015:9 3405–3412.
  14. Kulbacka J., Saczko J., Chwiłkowska A.; „Stres oksydacyjny w procesach uszkodzenia komórek”; Pol. Merk. Lek., 2009, XXVII, 157, 44.
  15. Chambial Sh., Dwivedi Sh.; “Vitamin C in Disease Prevention and Cure: An Overview”; Indian J Clin. Biochem. (Oct-Dec 2013); 28(4):314–328.
  16. Kim S. i wsp.: ‘’Consumption of high-dose vitamin C (1250 mg per day) enhances functional and structural properties of serum lipoprotein to improve anti-oxidant, anti-atherosclerotic, and anti-aging effects via regulation of anti-inflammatory microRNA”. Food Funct, 2015, 6, 3604–3612.
  17. Miktus M.; „Witaminy cz. II:Ogólna charakterystyka witaminy C”; Nutrition &Health , Rocznik 3, Nr 1(12), styczeń 2000.
  18. Dawson E., Evans D., Harris W.; “The Effect of Ascorbic Acid Supplementation on the Blood Lead Levels of Smokers”; Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Vol. 18, No. 2, 166–170 (1999).

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