Jonathan U.C. Husky XII
Lab Section 29
Topic: What is Vitamin C and why is it important?

           First isolated in the early 1930s, vitamin C or Ascorbic Acid, is a water soluble vitamin essential for maintaining healthy bones, cartilage, and teeth (Higdon 2006; Starr 2006). It is also essential for the metabolism of carbohydrates and for the synthesis of the brain neurotransmitter Norepinephrine (Higdon 2006). Vitamin C also plays a role in fighting the effects of aging by detoxifying free oxygen radicals (Starr 2006).

           Unlike most animals, plants, and canine mascots, humans and other primates cannot synthesize their own vitamin C and must obtain it in their diets. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits, berries, and cantaloupe as well as in vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, and green peppers, among others (Starr 2006). Boiling fruit juices destroys the vitamin C (Wikipedia 2007).

            Several drugs are known to decrease vitamin C levels in the body, primarily through the excretion of excess vitamin C in urine. In particular, aspirin and estrogen-containing contraceptives (the pill) can lower vitamin C levels. A deficiency of vitamin C in one's diet can cause a condition known as Scurvy (symptoms include fatigue, joint pain, hair and tooth loss as well as poor wound healing). Vitamin C deficiency may also impair ones' ability to fight infectious diseases by weakening the body's immune system. In contrast, too much vitamin C can cause digestive problems such as diarrhea (Starr 2006).

           In addition to being an essential vitamin, vitamin C has also figured prominently in the history of scientific investigation. In 1774, James Lind, a surgeon for the British Royal Navy conducted an experiment where he fed some sailors oranges and lemons, while others had a diet lacking in these fruits (and thus lacking in vitamin C). The sailors denied citrus fruits developed scurvy, while those fed oranges and lemons in their diets did not, proving that citrus fruits prevented the disease. This is considered the first occurrence in the history of science of a controlled experiment where a researcher compared two groups treated exactly the same in all respects except for one factor applied to one group and not the other (i.e., the first single factor experiment in scientific history) (Wikipedia 2007).


Starr, C. 2006. Biology: Concepts and Applications . Sixth Edition. Thomson Brooks/Cole Publishers, Belmont CA, USA. Pp. 624-625.

Higdon, J. 2006. Vitamin C . Published online by the Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University.   (Webpage last modified January 31, 2006). Retrieved August 16, 2007 from:

Wikipedia contributors. Vitamin C [Internet].  Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia;  2010 Sep 20, 16:44 UTC [cited 2010 Sep 20].  Available from: <;oldid=385937295 > .