Ascorbic acid

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Abstract

The connection between the type of diet and incidence of scurvy was early recognized, but it was not before the notion of accessory food factors, or vitamins, had been clearly formulated in 1912 (G. Hopkins, C. Funk) and a good test object for the antiscorbutic factor had been found in the guinea pig that serious attempts to isolate this factor (vitamin C. Drummond 1920) could begin. Among the early workers in this field S. S. Zilva and J. Tillmans should be specially mentioned. The decisive step was taken by A. Szent-Györgyi (1928), however, who isolated a strongly reducing substance of the molecular formula C6H8O6 from adrenal cortex, from oranges and from cabbage. This “hexuronic acid” easily reduced indicators like 2,6-dichlorophenol-indophenol which had earlier been used by Zilva and by Tillmans for studying the reducing substances usually associated with the antiscorbutic factor of plant materials. That this association was not absolute had ealier been a serious obstacle for further progress, but now it soon became clear that the vitamin C could be reversibly oxidized without loss of the antiscorbutic activity (Tillmans), and that hexuronic acid was in fact identical with the reduced form of this factor. The new name “ascorbic acid” was then coined (Szent-Györgyi and Haworth 1933), and the following terminology adopted: $${\rm{Vitamin}}\;{\rm{C}} = {\rm{ascorbic}}\;{\rm{acid}} + {\rm{dehydroascorbic}}\;{\rm{acid}}.$$