Dehydroascorbic acid is an organic compound that occurs when ascorbic acid is oxidized. Oxidization is a process by which compounds are chemically changed after being exposed to air. In the case of dehydroascorbic acid, two hydrogen atoms are removed from the ascorbic acid compound when air is present. The new compound is dehydrogenized and is given the name dehydroscorbic acid, or DHA. Dehydroascorbic acid is a crucially significant compound to human health and development, and while it may not have significant vitamin properties itself, it is transported throughout the body and then converted back to ascorbic acid (through a process called reduction), which is another name for Vitamin C.
Ascorbic Acid (The Reduced Form)
When dehydroascorbic acid is chemically changed through reduction, a process which adds back the two hydrogen atoms previously removed, ascorbic acid is reformed. Ascorbic acid, or Vitamin C, is a fundamental vitamin compound found in all animal life forms. Vitamin C is intrinsic in the prevention of many diseases and illnesses.
The very name, in fact, reflects this purpose. Ascorbic acid comes from the Latin words “a” and “scorbus.” The translation of these words means “without scurvy.” Scurvy’s role as a devastating illness caused by deficient amounts of Vitamin C, especially in travel by ship, was described as early as 400 B.C. and was present even into World War I.
Ascorbic acid, or Vitamin C, is an essential vitamin that acts as an antioxidant in living creatures. The term antioxidant is given to molecules that are chemically able to prevent their own oxidation or the oxidation of molecules in their proximity. Oxidation is most clearly observed in common processes such as the rusting of a nail left outdoors or an apple turning brown when left on the counter.
The cells of the apple are oxidized by the surrounding air and are destroyed, thus turning the apple brown. Notice, however, that if an apple is covered in lemon or lime juice, the rate of browning is significantly slowed. This illustrates the antioxidation effects of ascorbic acid. While oxidation is a natural event in chemical life, excessive oxidation can produce an abundance of free radicals, chemicals that can begin dangerous chain reactions in cellular structures.
Animals & Humans
In humans, one of few living organisms not capable of producing ascorbic acid internally, a deficiency in Vitamin C may cause excessive oxidation, creating deadly levels of free radicals which will damage or destroy living cells. Animals cannot survive without ascorbic acid. Vitamin C also plays a significant role in enzyme production reactions, acting as a catalyst for at least eight of these reactions.
In animals, Vitamin C’s presence is critical in the formation process of collagen. The development of scurvy is inevitable if these collagen compounds are not efficiently formed. Collagen is needed for tasks such as the healing of wounds and blood clotting. Without Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, these natural life processes could not occur.
Deficient levels of ascorbic acid in the human body are always deadly. There are a variety of ways this deficiency can reveal itself. The most obvious, as mentioned before, is scurvy. In addition to the adverse effects of scurvy, other health risks can occur with a diet that is low in Vitamin C. Lifetime smokers whose diet does not include sufficient levels of ascorbic acid are at a greater risk for various forms of lung cancer.
In men, healthy levels of Vitamin C have been shown to correlate negatively with the presence of cancer cells: the more consistently high levels of Vitamin C, the lower the cancer risk. Low Vitamin C has also been shown to make one more susceptible to cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, and ischaemic heart disease. Additionally, Vitamin C combined with other antioxidant compounds drastically reduces the duration of wound healing.
The Oxidized Form (Dehydrogenization)
While dehydroascorbic acid does not have any vitamin-like properties itself, it, too, is a crucial compound that is directly related to Vitamin C production and absorption. Contrary to popularly held beliefs, Vitamin C is not transported from the blood directly to the human brain. Although the highest concentrations of Vitamin C are found in the brain, ascorbic acid cannot enter the brain through the bloodstream.
Dehydroascorbic acid is absorbed readily into the blood and dispersed throughout the human body, including large deposits into the human brain. This DHA is readily reduced, two hydrogen atoms are added to the compound, and ascorbic acid is formed. The transport of dehydroascorbic acid is much more efficient for the human body than transporting Vitamin C. Vitamin C is not as easily absorbed and requires more energy to mobilize. The body’s obsession with energy efficiency makes the transport of dehydroascorbic acid an acceptable alternative.
Location In The Body
Dehydroascorbic acid is transferred through human blood and concentrated around the mitochondria. A mitochondrion is an organelle responsible for the production of cellular energy throughout the entire body. These organelles are the “power houses” of the human body, supplying cells with the necessary energy required for normal function. The mitochondria are also gathering places for collections of cell-destroying free radicals.
To prevent the free radicals from critically damaging the power-supplying mitochondria, dehydroascorbic acid is pulled from the bloodstream into the mitochondria using glucose transporters. The dehydroascorbic acid is then reduced into ascorbic acid, which protects the membrane of the mitochondria from the damaging free radicals. Without the transport of dehydroascorbic acid into the body’s organelles, mitochondria would be destroyed and rendered useless.
Intake of Dehydrascorbic Acid
Every living creature requires ascorbic acid, or Vitamin C, for survival. Most living organisms are able to make ascorbic acid within their own bodies. Reptiles and some birds are able to produce ascorbic acid in a chemical process that occurs within their kidneys. Most mammals produce the compound within their livers. Primates (including humans), however, are not equipped with this natural Vitamin C production process.
The presence of ascorbic acid in their bloodstream is derived from the diet of these animals. A diet that is rich in Vitamin C is required for healthy living. There is some debate regarding the advised daily intake of ascorbic acid. Most health organizations, however, agree that the average adult should consume between 50 and 100 milligrams of Vitamin C daily.
There is a greater consensus regarding the upper bounds of Vitamin C consumption. Adults should not consume more than two thousand milligrams of the Vitamin daily. Doing so may result in the onset of diarrhea, the body’s natural attempt to flush the unused acid out of its system.
While supplements can be consumed to ensure the proper intake of Vitamin C, there are many common foods that contain sufficient levels of ascorbic acid to promote general health. Plants and animals that efficiently produce their own levels of Vitamin C are the best sources of ascorbic acid. Of course, citrus fruits contain high levels of ascorbic acid; surprisingly, however, there are several vegetables whose Vitamin C content greatly surpasses that of most fruits.
Red bell peppers, parsley, brussels sprouts and broccoli have some of the highest natural ascorbic acid concentrations among edible plants. If vegetables are the bane of a particular picky eater’s existence and a fruit is preferred, the best fruit for ascorbic acid intake is the kiwi. The kiwifruit has one of the highest concentrations of Vitamin C when compared to other fruits.
Vitamin C can also be ingested through animal products. In mammals, the Vitamin C production occurs within the liver. Therefore, eating calf, beef, pork or lamb livers can be an excellent source of Vitamin C. Other animal sources of ascorbic acid include fish roe (eggs), chicken livers, lamb brains, and animal milk. For infants, the best source of ascorbic acid is human breast milk. This nutrient-rich liquid provides the most adequate concentration of ascorbic acid.
Most Vitamin C supplements are listed as only containing ascorbic acid. This is generally not a problem, as the oxidation and reduction of this compound enables it to quickly change forms, becoming dehydroascorbic acid for easy transport and returning to ascorbic acid for mitochondrial protection. However, there have been studies which suggest that ingesting dehydroascorbic acid specifically can speed up the beneficial health effects of this vitamin because DHA is able to be quickly transported to the brain and mitochondria via glucose transporters.
Ascorbic acid cannot be transported in this way. Additionally, it has been suggested that dehydroascorbic acid can be useful following strokes or other neurological disorders. Dehydroascorbic acid can directly enter the brain from the blood, unlike ascorbic acid, and so can deliver healing antioxidant properties to the damaged brain cells, preventing further adverse affects or even death.
While dehydroascorbic acid is, in fact, a decomposition product of ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), it poses no intrinisic health hazards and offers positive vitamin activity as it can be transformed easily into ascorbic acid by reduction. There are, however, some small risks associated with consuming too much Vitamin C in a daily diet. Adults who regularly consume more than two thousand milligrams of Vitamin C may experience diarrhea and, in some cases, headaches, nausea or dizziness.
There are a few rare disorders caused by or influenced by high levels of Vitamin C. Because ascorbic acid assists the human body in iron absorption, there is a slight risk for iron poisoning in humans with iron absorption and processing abnormalities. It is widely considered an urban legend that Vitamin C in excess can cause kidney stones. After extensive research, the correlation has been determined to be coincidental. Some physicians advise careful monitoring of ascorbic acid intake during the first trimester of a pregnancy.
It is possible that excessive amounts of Vitamin C may prevent the placenta from successfully attaching to the uterine wall. These findings have not been verified, and pregnant women should consult their physician for proper dietary recommendations. Generally, the risk of overdosing on Vitamin C is very low. To avoid any risk whatsoever, adults should simply consume Vitamin C-rich foods or supplements to ensure that they are getting between 50 and 100 milligrams daily, a healthy amount.