Vitamin C (ASC) is well known as an outstanding antioxidant in animal tissues. This concept is reviewed from a chemical standpoint, starting from a chemical view of radical reactions in the cell. ASC, vitamin E, and lipid hydroperoxide were selected as key molecules involved in radical reactions in the cell, and their efficiencies as an index of oxidative stress were evaluated. At first, methods for specific and sensitive determination of ASC and lipid hydroperoxide were developed. Based on comparisons of these indices during oxidative stress in typical pathological conditions, such as diabetes and liver damage by toxicants, ASC concentration was found to be the most sensitive index in animal tissues. Antioxidative effect of food factors in vivo can be evaluated on the basis of these indices. Analysis of oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) revealed that degradation and cross-link of apolipoprotein B-100 (apoB) are extremely facile processes. Fragmented and conjugated apoB proteins are present in normal human serum, and tend to increase with age based on immunoblot analysis. Estimation of these products allows us a mechanism-based diagnosis of atherosclerosis. A significant relationship between plasma ASC level and the sum of these apoB products was found. In conclusion, specifically determined ASC concentration sensitively reflects oxidative stress in tissues.
Keywords: ascorbic acid, atherosclerosis, dehydroascorbic acid, diabetes, hydroperoxide, oxidative stress, radical