Ascorbic Acid – History, Preparation, Health Effects & FDA Regulation

What is Ascorbic Acid?

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid and L-ascorbic acid, is a vitamin found in food and used as a dietary supplement. Vitamin C is fat soluble vitamin occurs as white or slight yellow crystals with slight acidic taste.  The disease scurvy is prevented and treated with vitamin C-containing foods or dietary supplements. It may be taken by mouth or by injection. Vitamin C is an essential nutrientinvolved in the repair of tissue and the enzymatic production of certain neurotransmitters.

Ascorbic acid is used as an adjunct in food preparations as anti-oxidants to protect the food from deterioration. It is required for the functioning of several enzymes and is important for immune system function.

Ascorbic acid is added to foodstuffs during processing or before packaging as it protects colour, aroma and nutrient content. While processing meat, ascorbic acid reduces the amount of added nitrite and the residual nitrite content in the product and preserves the colour of the meat product.The addition of ascorbic acid to fresh wheat flour improves its baking qualities.

Ascorbic acid is soluble in water, sparingly soluble in alcohol and insoluble in chloroform, ether.

Molecular formula:C6H8O6

Molecular weight:176.13 g/mol

History & Origin of Ascorbic Acid:

From the middle of the 18th century, lemon and lime juice help prevent sailors from getting scurvy. In 1928, Szent-Györgyi isolated an organic reducing agent, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), present in oranges, lemons and cabbage and are consumed to prevent and treat scurvy. Vitamin C was discovered in 1912, isolated in 1928, and in 1933 was the first vitamin to be chemically produced.

Source: Vitamin C is obtained from natural source of fruits and vegetables. Foods containing vitamin C include citrus fruits, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, raw bell peppers, and strawberries.

Preparation:  Ascorbic acid is prepared using glucose at industrial scale.

Uses of Ascorbic Acid:

  • Ascorbic acid is used as an anti-oxidant in food products.
  • Ascorbic acid prevents brown coloration of fruits, and acts as a suitable anti-darkening agent.
  • It is used in fruit juices, drinks.
  • It is used in food industry for fortification of food and beverages.
  • It retards oxidative rancidity of fats and oils.
  • It acts as curing agent in meat processing to inhibit nitrosamine formation.
  • Improvement of wheat-flour and dough quality for bread baking.
  • It increases clarity of wine and beer.
  • It is used as an additive in flavoured candies, cured milk and frozen fruits.
  • It is used in prevention and treatment of scurvy.
  • Consuming high Vitamin C in diet reduces the risk of having cancer.
  • It is used as an additive in food preparation as an anti-oxidant, nutrition fortifier.
  • It is used as a stabilizer and preservative.
  • It is used for meat products, dairy products, canned products etc.
  • It maintains healthy skin, teeth and gums.

What are Health Effects of Ascorbic Acid?

Advantages of Ascorbic Acid

  • Ascorbic acid is used in food preparations because of its property of anti-oxidation, thus it has been as an anti-oxidant, which keeps the skin young and rejuvenating.
  • It is used as an Acidity regulator, thus patients having gastric problems can take ascorbic acid for the betterment of their health.
  • It prevents and treats deficiency of Vitamin C in body.
  • It eliminates chronic and acute infection.
  • It is also considered as an anti-cancer agent.
  • It helps in the formation of collagen fibres and healing of wounds.

Disadvantages of Ascorbic Acid:

  • Large doses may cause gastrointestinal discomfort, headache, and trouble sleeping, and flushing of the skin.
  • Prolonged storage or cooking may reduce vitamin C content in foods.

Side Effects of Ascorbic Acid:

  • Vitamin C deficiency compromises collagen synthesis, contributing to the more severe symptoms of scurvy.
  • High Vitamin C intake causes excess absorption of Iron.
  • Vitamin C increases risk of kidney stones.
  • Diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, heatburn may occur.
  • Smoking can make ascorbic acid less effective.
  • Weight loss.
  • Increase urge to urination.

FDA Approval:It is approved by FDA to use it as a food additive.

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