British Journal of Nutrition

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British Journal of Nutrition (2010), 103:1251-1259 Cambridge University Press
Copyright © The Authors 2009

Review Article

Is vitamin C supplementation beneficial? Lessons learned from randomised controlled trials

Jens Lykkesfeldta1 c1 and Henrik E. Poulsena2

a1 Department of Disease Biology, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
a2 Laboratory of Clinical Pharmacology Q7642, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, Department of Clinical Pharmacology, Bispebjerg Hospital, Copenhagen, and Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Article author query
lykkesfeldt j [PubMed]  [Google Scholar]
poulsen he [PubMed]  [Google Scholar]


In contrast to the promised ‘antioxidant miracle’ of the 1980s, several randomised controlled trials have shown no effect of antioxidant supplements on hard endpoints such as morbidity and mortality. The former over-optimistic attitude has clearly called for a more realistic assessment of the benefit:harm ratio of antioxidant supplements. We have examined the literature on vitamin C intervention with the intention of drawing a conclusion on its possible beneficial or deleterious effect on health and the result is discouraging. One of several important issues is that vitamin C uptake is tightly controlled, resulting in a wide-ranging bioavailability depending on the current vitamin C status. Lack of proper selection criteria dominates the currently available literature. Thus, while supplementation with vitamin C is likely to be without effect for the majority of the Western population due to saturation through their normal diet, there could be a large subpopulation with a potential health problem that remains uninvestigated. The present review discusses the relevance of the available literature on vitamin C supplementation and proposes guidelines for future randomised intervention trials.

(Received April 02 2009)

(Revised August 19 2009)

(Accepted October 28 2009)

(Online publication December 15 2009)

Key Words:Vitamin C; Supplementation; Randomised controlled trials


c1 Corresponding author: Dr Jens Lykkesfeldt, fax +45 35 35 35 14, email