Vitamins- Ascorbic Acid

Ascorbic acid is a sugar acid with antioxidant properties. Its appearance is white to light-yellow crystals or powder, and it is water-soluble. One form of ascorbic acid is commonly known as vitamin C. The name is derived from a- (meaning “no”) and scorbutus (scurvy), the disease caused by a deficiency of vitamin C. In 1937 the Nobel Prize for chemistry was awarded to Walter Haworth for his work in determining the structure of ascorbic acid (shared with Paul Karrer, who received his award for work on vitamins), and the prize for Physiology or Medicine that year went to Albert Szent-Györgyi for his studies of the biological functions of L-ascorbic acid. At the time of its discovery in the 1920s, it was called hexuronic acid by some researchers.

Ascorbic acid is easily oxidized and so is used as a reductant in photographic developer solutions (among others) and as a preservative.

Exposure to oxygen, metals, light, or heat destroys ascorbic acid, so it must be stored in a dark, cold, and non-metallic container.

The L-enantiomer of ascorbic acid is also known as vitamin C. The name “ascorbic” comes from its property of preventing and curing scurvy. Primates, including humans, and a few other species in all divisions of the animal kingdom, notably the guinea pig, have lost the ability to synthesize ascorbic acid, and must obtain it in their food.

Ascorbic acid and its sodium, potassium, and calcium salts are commonly used as antioxidant food additives. These compounds are water-soluble and thus cannot protect fats from oxidation: For this purpose, the fat-soluble esters of ascorbic acid with long-chain fatty acids (ascorbyl palmitate or ascorbyl stearate) can be used as food antioxidants. Eighty percent of the world’s supply of ascorbic acid is produced in China.
The relevant European food additive E numbers are

1. E300 ascorbic acid,
2. E301 sodium ascorbate,
3. E302 calcium ascorbate,
4. E303 potassium ascorbate,
5. E304 fatty acid esters of ascorbic acid (i) ascorbyl palmitate (ii) ascorbyl stearate.

In plastic manufacturing, ascorbic acid can be used to assemble molecular chains more quickly and with less waste than traditional synthesis methods.

Antioxidant Mechanism:

Ascorbate acts as an antioxidant by being available for energetically favourable oxidation. Many oxidants (typically, reactive oxygen species) such as the hydroxyl radical (formed from hydrogen peroxide), contain an unpaired electron, and, thus, are highly reactive and damaging to humans and plants at the molecular level. This is due to their interaction with nucleic acid, proteins, and lipids. Reactive oxygen species oxidize (take electrons from) ascorbate first to monodehydroascorbate and then dehydroascorbate. The reactive oxygen species are reduced to water, while the oxidized forms of ascorbate are relatively stable and unreactive, and do not cause cellular damage.


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