Test Catalog

Test ID: VITC    
Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Plasma

Useful For Suggests clinical disorders or settings where the test may be helpful

Diagnosing vitamin C deficiency


As an aid to deter excessive intake

Clinical Information Discusses physiology, pathophysiology, and general clinical aspects, as they relate to a laboratory test

Vitamin C, also known as L-ascorbic acid or simply ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in some foods, added to others, and available as a dietary supplement. Humans, unlike most animals, are unable to synthesize vitamin C endogenously, so it is an essential dietary component. Vitamin C is required for the enzymatic amidation of neuropeptides, production of adrenal cortical steroid hormones, promotion of the conversion of tropocollagen to collagen, and metabolism of tyrosine and folate. It also plays a role in lipid and vitamin metabolism and is a powerful reducing agent or antioxidant. Specific actions include: activation of detoxifying enzymes in the liver, antioxidation, interception and destruction of free radicals, preservation and restoration of the antioxidant potential of vitamin E, and blockage of the formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines. In addition, vitamin C appears to function in a variety of other metabolic processes in which its role has not been well characterized.


Prolonged deficiency of vitamin C leads to the development of scurvy, a disease characterized by an inability to form adequate intercellular substance in connective tissues. This results in the formation of swollen, ulcerative lesions in the gums, mouth, and other tissues that are structurally weakened. Early symptoms may include weakness, easy fatigue and listlessness, as well as shortness of breath, and aching joints, bones, and muscles.


The need for vitamin C can be increased by the use of aspirin, oral contraceptives, tetracycline, and a variety of other medications. Psychological stress and advancing age also tend to increase the need for vitamin C. Among the elderly, lack of fresh fruit and vegetables often adds vitamin C depletion to the inherently increased need, with development of near-scurvy status

Reference Values Describes reference intervals and additional information for interpretation of test results. May include intervals based on age and sex when appropriate. Intervals are Mayo-derived, unless otherwise designated. If an interpretive report is provided, the reference value field will state this.

0.4-2.0 mg/dL

Interpretation Provides information to assist in interpretation of the test results

Values below 0.2 mg/dL indicate significant deficiency.


Values greater than or equal to 0.2 mg/dL and less than 0.4 mg/dL are consistent with a moderate risk of deficiency due to inadequate tissue stores.


Values of 0.4 to 2.0 mg/dL indicate adequate supply.


The actual level at which vitamin C is excessive has not been defined. Values above 3.0 mg/dL are suggestive of excess intake. Whether vitamin C in excess is indeed toxic continues to be uncertain. However, limited observations suggest that this condition may induce uricosuria and, in individuals with glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency, may induce increased red blood cell fragility.

Cautions Discusses conditions that may cause diagnostic confusion, including improper specimen collection and handling, inappropriate test selection, and interfering substances

Testing of nonfasting specimens or the use of vitamin supplementation can result in elevated plasma vitamin concentrations. Reference values were established in patients who were fasting.


After consuming vitamin C, plasma values rapidly rise within 1 to 2 hours and reach peak concentration within 3 to 6 hours after ingestion.

Clinical Reference Recommendations for in-depth reading of a clinical nature

1. Anonymous: Vitamin C toxicity. Nutr Rev 1976;34:236-237

2. Moser U, Bendich A: Vitamin C. In Handbook of Vitamins. Second edition. Edited by LJ Machlin. New York, Marcel Dekker, 1991, pp 195-232

3. Ball GFM: Vitamins: Their Role in the Human Body. London, Blackwell Publishing LTD, 2004, pp 393-420

4. Zlatuse DC, Frank EL: Development and implementation of an HPLC-ECD method for analysis of vitamin C in plasma using single column and automatic alternating dual column regeneration. Prac Lab Med 2016 Dec 1;6:25-37