Vitamin C – Chemistry, Functions, Food Sources, Deficiency

Chemistry and Characteristics

Vitamin C is a white crystalline compound of relatively simple structure and closely related to monosaccharide sugars. It can be prepared synthetically at low cost from glucose. Of all the vitamins, Vitamin C is the most easily destroyed. It is highly soluble in water. It is very unstable when it comes in contact with heat, light, alkalies, oxidative enzymes and trace elements.


  1. It is required for the formation and maintenance of collagen, a protein widely distributed in the body. Collagen is the cementing material that holds the cell of the body together.
  2. Vitamin C is necessary for production of tissues and for quick post-operative healing.
  3. It plays an important role in the normal metabolism of amino acids.
  4. It helps in easy absorption of iron from gastrointestinal tract by the reduction of ferric ion to ferrous ion.

Food Sources

Fruits and vegetables are the main sources of this vitamin. Citrus fruits (orange, grapefruit, lemon and lime), berries, melons, pineapples, guava, pears, banana, leafy vegetables, green pepper, amla, tomatoes are good sources of ascorbic acid. Dry legumes contain negligible amount which increase approximately seven times during germination. Eggs, meat and poultry do not have any Vitamin C. Human milk contains four to six times as much ascorbic acid as cow’s milk that protects the infant from its deficiency.


Deficiency of ascorbic acid results in defective formation of the intercellular cementing substance collagen. Fleeting joints pain, irritability, retardation of growth in infants and children, anaemia, shortness of breath, poor healing of wounds and increased susceptibility to infections are some of the signs of deficiency.

Gross deficiency of ascorbic acid results in Scurvy. Scurvy is a disease characterized by swelling and bleeding of gums, multiple haemorrhages, anaemia and weakness. Today frank scurvy is uncommon but partial deficiency of ascorbic acid maybe frequent.

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