Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that has antioxidant functions, is a cofactor for several enzymes, and plays an important role in the synthesis of collagen. A severe deficiency in vitamin C results in scurvy, which is associated with malaise, lethargy, easy bruising, and spontaneous bleeding. One of the effects of scurvy is a change in collagen structure to a thinner consistency. Normal consistency is achieved with administration of vitamin C.
In the mid-20th century, a study hypothesized that cancer may be related to changes in connective tissue, which may be a consequence of vitamin C deficiency. A review of evidence published in 1974 suggested that high-dose ascorbic acid may increase host resistance and be a potential cancer therapy.
Vitamin C is synthesized from D-glucose or D-galactose by many plants and animals. However, humans lack the enzyme L-gulonolactone oxidase required for ascorbic acid synthesis and must obtain vitamin C through food or supplements.References
- Naidu KA: Vitamin C in human health and disease is still a mystery? An overview. Nutr J 2: 7, 2003. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Padayatty S, Espey MG, Levine M: Vitamin C. In: Coates PM, Betz JM, Blackman MR, et al., eds.: Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Informa Healthcare, 2010, pp 821-31.
- McCORMICK WJ: Cancer: a collagen disease, secondary to a nutritional deficiency. Arch Pediatr 76 (4): 166-71, 1959. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Cameron E, Pauling L: The orthomolecular treatment of cancer. I. The role of ascorbic acid in host resistance. Chem Biol Interact 9 (4): 273-83, 1974. [PUBMED Abstract]