Vitamin C deficiency: more than just a nutritional disorder
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- Delanghe, J.R., Langlois, M.R., De Buyzere, M.L. et al. Genes Nutr (2011) 6: 341. doi:10.1007/s12263-011-0237-7
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Although vitamin C deficiency and scurvy are generally considered as pure nutritional disorders, only a minority of the vitamin C concentration is determined by food intake. In the presence of transition metals (iron and copper), the antiscorbutic factor shifts from an antioxidant to a pro-oxidant function. Haptoglobin (Hp) is a plasma α-2 glycoprotein characterized by 3 common phenotypes (Hp 1–1, Hp 2–1 and Hp 2–2). Its free hemoglobin (Hb)-binding capacity prevents Hb-driven oxidative damage. When the antioxidant capacity of Hp is insufficient, its role is taken over by hemopexin (heme-binding protein) and by vitamin C (free radical scavenger). The Hp 2–2 phenotype has a lower capacity to inhibit oxidation and vitamin C depletion. In this article, two consequences of this major finding are tackled. The Hp polymorphism is an important non-nutritional modifying factor in the pathogenesis of vitamin C deficiency and scurvy, which may explain the success of long-range human migration by the natural selection of some populations characterized by high Hp 1 allele frequencies. Moreover, we propose tailoring the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) values of vitamin C, taking into consideration the Hp phenotype dependency.