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What is ascorbic acid?

Ascorbic acid is the chemical name for vitamin C, as found in many fruits and vegetables as well as supplements. 

What is ascorbic acid used for?

Ascorbic acid is frequently added to foods as a way to fortify them with additional vitamin C. Many fruit products like juices, dried fruit, and fruit-flavored candies are fortified with ascorbic acid as a way of replenishing what’s lost in the cooking and preparation process. 

Ascorbic acid is also used as a preservative, and separate from it’s vitamin C benefits is often added to foods to prevent spoilage. It may be listed on the label as ascorbic acid, or as another form like calcium ascorbate or sodium ascorbate.  

Is ascorbic acid bad for you?

In normal quantities, ascorbic acid is perfectly safe and should be considered a regular part of a healthy diet. However, when taken in large quantities, it can cause some side effects. These include cramps, headaches, nausea, and heartburn. Any intake higher than 2000 mcg per day is considered unsafe. If you’ve had or have kidney stones, ingesting more than 1000 mcg per day of ascorbic acid is not recommended, as it can trigger the development of new kidney stones. 

What does the presence of ascorbic acid in urine indicate?

It’s not uncommon for people to excrete excess ascorbic acid in their urine, especially if they’re taking an oral vitamin C supplement. While this is normal, it can interfere with certain urinalysis laboratory tests and may obfuscate your results. If you take a vitamin C supplement regularly, it’s worth telling your doctor to ensure that any tests they order can be read correctly.

Related Terms

Plant Sterols

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Photo of Kristin Ricklefs-Johnson

Medically reviewed by:

Kristin Ricklefs-Johnson, Ph.D., RD

Kristin is an RDN who also earned her Ph.D. in Nutrition from Arizona State University with an emphasis on insulin resistance, lipid metabolism disorders, and obesity. She completed her post-doctoral fellowship at Mayo Clinic where she focused on nutrition-related proteomic and metabolic research. Her interests include understanding the exact mechanism of action of various genetic variations underlying individual predispositions to nutrition-related health outcomes. Her goal is to help all individuals prevent chronic diseases and achieve long, healthy lives through eating well.

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