Interaction between vitamins C and E
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pages 10-11 of Hemilä
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Vitamin C and vitamin E are both antioxidants and protect
reactive oxygen species. These substances are of parallel interest as
water-soluble vitamin C regenerates lipid soluble vitamin E in vitro (Packer et
Sharma & Buettner 1993;
Wijesunara & Berger 1994). There is much evidence indicating
vitamins C and E may also have a physiologically relevant interaction.
In guinea pigs, vitamin C deficiency led to reduced levels of vitamin E
in the liver, kidney, spleen, and lungs (Kanazawa et al. 1981; Hruba et
al. 1982; Bendich et al. 1984).
In inherently scorbutic rats, vitamin C deficiency led to reduced
vitamin E levels in the liver, kidney, and heart (Tanaka et al. 1997).
In guinea pigs administered oxidized frying oil, large doses of vitamin
C increased the level of vitamin E in liver, kidney, heart, lung, and
spleen (Liu & Lee 1997).
In normal rats, vitamin C supplementation increased plasma vitamin E
level (Chen et al. 1980). Nevertheless, in one study, vitamin C
deficiency did not affect the plasma vitamin E level in guinea pigs
(Hruba et al. 1982), and in another, excessive doses of vitamin C
reduced plasma vitamin E levels (Chen & Chang 1979).
In studies with human subjects, vitamin C supplementation increased
plasma lipid standardized α-tocopherol (Hamilton et al.
Vitamin C supplementation also led to a higher level of vitamin E in
plasma in participants who were administered 800 mg/day of vitamin E
than in participants administered vitamin E alone (Baker et al. 1996).
In normal rats and guinea pigs, vitamin E supplementation increased the
plasma vitamin C level (Chen et al. 1980; Bendich et al. 1984).
In inherently scorbutic rats, a deficiency of vitamin E led to lower
levels of vitamin C in the plasma, liver, kidney, and heart (Tanaka et
In rats, vitamin E deficiency did not affect the plasma vitamin C
level, but the muscle vitamin C level was significantly increased
(Gohil et al. 1986).
In a study with human subjects, vitamin E supplementation increased the
plasma level of vitamin C (Hamilton et al. 2000).
In smokers, but not in nonsmokers, vitamin E disappearance in plasma
was inversely related to vitamin C levels (Bruno et al. 2005)
A recent study found that a combined deficiency of vitamins C and E in
guinea pigs produced a clinical picture different from scurvy. Many of
these doubly deficient animals had paralysis of their limbs, and there
was evidence of oxidative damage in the central nervous system (Hill et
In endotoxin-treated guinea pigs, simultaneous supplementation of
vitamins C and E led to higher levels of vitamin E in the liver than
vitamin E supplementation alone (Cadenas et al. 1998).
Wahli et al. (1998) found an interaction between vitamins C and E in
their effects on the susceptibility to infection of rainbow trout (pp
Accordingly, there is experimental data indicating that vitamin C and
vitamin E have a physiological interaction, but its significance is
poorly understood both in experimental animals and human beings.
NOTE: All the links in the
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Baker H, DeAngelis B, Baker E, et al. (1996) Human plasma patterns
during 14 days ingestion of vitamin E, beta-carotene, ascorbic acid,
and their various combinations. J
Am Coll Nutr 15:159-63
Bendich A, D’Apolito P, Gabriel E, et al. (1984) Interaction
dietary vitamin C and vitamin E on guinea pig immune responses to
Bruno RS, Ramakrishnan R, Montine TJ, Bray TM, Traber MG (2005)
α-Tocopherol disappearance is faster in cigarette smokers and
inversely related to their ascorbic acid status. Am J Clin
Bruno RS, Leonard SW, Atkinson J, Montine, TJ,
R, Bray TM, Traber MG (2006) Faster plasma vitamin E disappearance in
smokers is normalized by vitamin C supplementation. Free
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Cadenas S, Rojas C, Barja G (1998) Endotoxin increases oxidative injury
to proteins in guinea pig liver: protection by dietary vitamin C.
Pharmacol Toxicol 82:11-8 PubMed
Chen LH, Lee MS, Hsing WF, et al. (1980) Effect of vitamin C on tissue
antioxidant status of vitamin E deficient rats. Int J Vitam Nutr Res
Chen LH, Chang HM (1979) Effects of high level of vitamin C on tissue
antioxidant status of guinea pigs. Int J Vitam Nutr Res 49:87-91
Gohil K, Packer L, Lumen B, et al. (1986) Vitamin E deficiency and
vitamin C supplements: exercise and mitochondrial oxidation. J
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Hamilton IMJ, Gilmore WS, Benzie IF, et al. (2000) Interactions between
vitamins C and E in human subjects. Br
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Hemilä H (2007) Conclusions about intervention effects should
not be based on surrogate end points [Letter]. Free
Radic Biol Med 42:578
[comment on: Bruno et al (2006) ]
Hill KE, Montine TJ, Motley AK, et al. (2003) Combined deficiency of
vitamins E and C causes paralysis and death in guinea pigs. Am
J Clin Nutr 77:1484-8
Hruba F, Novakova V, Ginter E (1982) The effect of chronic marginal
vitamin C deficiency on the alpha-tocopherol content of the organs and
plasma of guinea-pigs. Experientia
Kanazawa K, Takeuchi S, Hasegawa R, et al. (1981) Influence of ascorbic
acid deficiency on the level of non-protein SH compounds and vitamin E
in the blood and tissues of guinea pigs. Nihon Univ J Med 23:257-65
Liu JF, Lee YW (1998) Vitamin C supplementation restores the impaired
vitamin E status of guinea pigs fed oxidized frying oil. J
Packer JE, Slater TF, Wilson RL (1979) Direct observation of a free
radical interaction between vitamin E and vitamin C. Nature 278:737-8
Sharma MK, Buettner GR (1993) Interaction of vitamin C and vitamin E
during free radical stress in plasma: an ESR study. Free
Rad Biol Med 15:649-53 PubMed
Tanaka K, Hashimoto T, Tokumaru S, et al. (1997) Interactions between
vitamin C and vitamin E are observed in tissues of inherently scorbutic
Wahli T, Verlhac V, Gabaudan J, et al. (1998) Influence of combined
vitamins C and E on non-specific immunity and disease resistance of
rainbow trout. J
Fish Dis 21:127-37 does not work?
Wijesundara MBJ, Berger S (1994) The redox pair vitamin E and vitamin
C, a 13-C-NMR study. Liebigs Ann Chem 12:1239-41
© 2006-2009 Harri Hemilä. This text is an open-access
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Interaction between vitamins C and E by Harri
Hemilä is licensed under a Creative Commons
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Based on a work at www.mv.helsinki.fi/home/hemila/interaction.