Ascorbic acid, also named vitamin C, has important antioxidant and metabolic functions in both plants and animals. But humans and a few other animal species have lost the capacity to synthesise it. Plant-derived ascorbic acid is thus the major source of vitamin C in the human diet. Although the importance of ascorbic acid’s uses in human health has been realised for three centuries, the final identification of this essential nutrient molecule came in the twentieth century after continuous efforts in medicine and chemistry.
The water-soluble B vitamin folate is also referred to as vitamin B9 or folacin. It occurs naturally in a wide range of foods, including cereals, dairy products, meats, eggs, fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts and beans. The bioavailable amount of folate in food is, however, only about 50%. The metabolism of numerous amino acids, including folate, and methylation reactions depend on folate. Our bodies use folic acid to create and sustain new cells, as well as to guard against DNA alterations that can cause cancer.
What Is Folic Acid Used for?
Folic acid helps our bodies create new cells. We all require folic acid. Yet it’s crucial for women who can become pregnant! Before becoming pregnant, folic acid levels in a woman’s body can aid in preventing serious birth abnormalities of the baby’s spine and brain. There is no substantive evidence to suggest that folic acid fortification is associated with multiple births resulting from natural conception. However, high intakes of folic acid may increase the likelihood of twin births in women undergoing multiple embryo transplant fertility treatment.
There are concerns that folic acid may reduce the efficacy of antifolate drugs, such as methotrexate, which is widely used in chemotherapy regimens and for the treatment of autoimmune diseases. It has been proposed that folic acid uses in pregnancy could increase the survival of embryos with genotypes that are associated with deleterious effects. There is no substantive evidence from countries where supplementation is advised, or mandatory fortification has been introduced to support this.
Chemical Nature of Ascorbic Acid
An organic substance having antioxidant qualities is ascorbic acid. Ascorbic acid has the chemical formula C6H8O6 and a 176.13 molecular weight. Although impure samples may appear yellowish, it is a white solid. Water readily dissolves it, resulting in moderately acidic solutions. Alcohol can mildly dissolve ascorbic acid; however, diethyl ether, chloroform, benzene, petroleum ether or lipids cannot.
Ascorbic acid can be easily oxidised, acting as a strong reducer. It is oxidised and degraded when heated or in solution and is more unstable under an alkalinity condition. Ascorbic acid breaks down in the air when used as a reducing agent, turning oxygen into the water. The presence of metal ions and light speeds up the redox process. It can be double oxidised to the stable form known as dehydroascorbate or oxidised by one electron to a radical state.
The name ascorbic acid comes from the word scorbutus (meaning “scurvy”), a disease caused by a deficiency of vitamin C. Because ascorbic acid is derived from glucose, many animals are able to produce it, but humans require it as part of their nutrition. Other vertebrates lacking the ability to produce ascorbic acid include primates, guinea pigs, teleost fishes, bats and birds, all of which require it as a dietary micronutrient.