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Chemistry of ascorbic acid and Properties

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Ascorbic acid is an organic compound originally known as hexuronic acid.It is a white solid,but impure samples can be pale yellow.It dissolves well in water,forming a slightly acidic solution.It is a mild reducing agent.Ascorbic acid exists in two enantiomeric (mirror image isomers) forms, usually denoted "L" ("left") and "D" ("right").The L isomer is the most commonly encountered one:it occurs naturally in many foods and is a form ("vitamer") of vitamin C, an essential nutrient for humans and many animals.A lack of vitamin C leads to scurvy, formerly a major disease of seafaring sailors.It is used as a food additive and dietary supplement due to its antioxidant properties.Form "D" can be produced by chemical synthesis, but has no important biological role.

Chemical properties


Ascorbic acid is a furan-based lactone that forms an ascorbate anion when one of its hydroxyl groups is deprotonated.This property is characteristic of reductones:enediols with a carbonyl adjacent to the enediol group, ie with the group -C(OH)=C(OH)-C(=O).The ascorbate anion is stabilized by electron delocalization generated by resonance between the two forms:For this reason,ascorbic acid is much more acidic than expected if the compound contains only isolated hydroxyl groups.


The ascorbate anion forms salts such as sodium ascorbate,calcium ascorbate and potassium ascorbate.


Ascorbic acid can also react as an alcohol with organic acids to form esters,such as ascorbyl palmitate and ascorbyl stearate.

Nucleophile attack:Nucleophilic attack of ascorbic acid on the proton leads to 1,3-diketone:


Ascorbate ion is the major species at typical biological pH.It is a mild reducing agent and antioxidant.It is oxidized, losing one electron to form a radical cation,and then losing a second electron to form dehydroascorbic acid.It usually reacts with active oxygen oxidizing agents such as hydroxyl radicals.Ascorbic acid is special because it can transfer a single electron, thanks to the resonance-stabilizing properties of its own radical ion, known as half-dehydroascorbate.The net response is:

RO• + C 6 hours 7O−6 → RO− + C6H7O•6 → ROH + C6H6O6

Upon exposure to oxygen,ascorbic acid undergoes further oxidative breakdown to various products, including diketogulonic acid, xylonic acid,threonic acid,and oxalic acid.Since reactive oxygen species may interact with nucleic acids, proteins, and lipids, they cause damage to plants and animals at the molecular level.Sometimes these free radicals start a chain reaction.Ascorbic acid can terminate these chain free radical reactions by electron transfer.The oxidized form of ascorbic acid is relatively inactive and does not cause cellular damage.However, as a good electron donor, excess ascorbic acid in the presence of free metal ions can not only promote but also initiate free radical reactions,thus making it a potentially dangerous pro-oxidative compound in certain metabolic settings.Ascorbic acid and its sodium, potassium and calcium salts are commonly used as antioxidant food additives.These compounds are water-soluble and therefore do not protect fats from oxidation:for this reason, fat-soluble esters of ascorbic acid with long-chain fatty acids (ascorbyl palmitate or ascorbyl stearate) are used as food antioxidants.

Other reactions

Volatile compounds are produced when mixed with glucose and amino acids at 90 °C.It is a cofactor for tyrosine oxidation.