Picture of Vitamin C or Ascorbic acid

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Vitamin C or Ascorbic acid structure
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Picture of Vitamin C or Ascorbic acid

Vitamins are substances that play an essential part in animal metabolic processes, but which the animals cannot synthesise. In their absence the animal develops certain deficiency diseases or other abnormal conditions. Vitamins are chemicals other than proteins, carbohydrates, fats and mineral salts that are essential constituents of the food of animals. Although certain animals can synthesise certain vitamins and all animals needing vitamin D can manufacture it from ergosterol in the presence of u.v. light, the precise mechanism of action of many vitamins is still poorly understood. Small amounts of vitamins are essential for the regulation of all bodily processes. With the exception of vitamin D, the human body cannot make its own vitamins, and some cannot be stored. Vitamins must therefore be obtained from a food on a daily basis. A person's diet must provide all the necessary vitamins.

Vitamin C or Ascorbic acid, is the enolic form of 3-oxo-L-gulofuranolactone. It can be prepared by synthesis from glucose, or extracted from plant sources such as rose hips, blackcurrants or citrus fruits. It is easily oxidised in air. It is essential for the formation of collagen and intercellular material, bone and teeth and for the healing of wounds. It helps maintain elasticity of the skin, aids the absorption of iron and improves resistance to infection. It is used in the treatment of scurvy. May prevent the occurrence and development of cancer.

Man is one of the few mammals unable to manufacture ascorbic acid in his liver.

Good sources of Vitamin C are Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, mangetout, green leafy vegetables, red peppers, chilies, watercress, parsley, blackcurrants, strawberries, kiwi fruit, guavas, citrus fruit.

Also used as a photographic developing agent in alkaline solution.

Update by Karl Harrison
(Molecule of the Month for February 1997 )