Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is essential to human health. While most mammals can make their own vitamin C humans cannot & risk the ravages of scurvy if it is missing from their diet. Fortunately, this ailment is rare now due to better diets that include fresh fruits & vegetables.
Vitamin C & Scurvy
Scurvy is a deficiency disease affecting the synthesis of collagen needed for healthy connective tissues. The Latin term for scurvy is scorbutus, which is the root work for ascorbic as in ascorbic acid.
Since Vitamin C is water-soluble, we cannot store it in our tissues to the same degree as the fat-soluble vitamins. Fortunately, our bodies conserve it effectively and scurvy doesn’t appear for months even after tests can’t show traces of vitamin C in our blood.
Bleeding gums are only the most obvious manifestation of scurvy. Ascorbic acid is needed for the production of collagen, a protein necessary for the structural integrity of skin, tendons, ligaments, cartilage & blood vessels. While collagen is best known as a cosmetic fix for facial lines due to aging & sun damage this use understates its biological importance.
What Are the Best Sources for Vitamin C?
Most of us would think that popular fruits such as apples & oranges are high in Vitamin C & make the best choices but these are surprisingly low compared to other sources. All figures given are per 100g.
- Apple: 6mg
- Orange: 53mg
- Brocolli: 90mg
- Brussel sprouts: 80mg
- Cabbage: 30mg
You can see the full list on Wikipedia VItamin C.
Some sources suggest high levels of vitamin C can prevent or alleviate colds but the evidence for this is weak. Similarly, its role in collagen production might indicate it can limit acne scars but again this is speculative.
Can I Measure Vitamin C?
As it turns out, Vitamin C is relatively easy to measure in fruits & vegetables. Click on Vitamin C test strips for more information. These strips can detect ascorbic acid in urine but all that really tells you is how much excess you’ve been ingesting, not how much is in your blood. Still, that can be an interesting experiment in itself if you compare your regular diet without & with vitamin C supplements.
Vitamin C is very sensitive to oxygen & you can have fun designing experiments to test this. Click on the following link for testing the effects of oxygen on vitamin C. It’s an abstract for a longer article but it can give you some ideas. Ascorbic acid has wide use as a food additive to limit or prevent oxidation as evidenced by the browning of sliced potatoes, apples, etc.
Build a Vitamin C/Ascorbic Acid Molecular Model
You can make your own Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) molecular model using our 3D Molecular Model Builder (it recognizes both terms).