L-Ascorbic acid is essential for many physiologic functions in animals and humans, mostly biochemical reactions involving oxidation.
L-Ascorbic acid is approved for use as a dietary supplement and chemical preservative by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is on the FDA's list of substances generally recognized as safe.
L-Ascorbic acid may be used in soft drinks as an antioxidant for flavor ingredients, in meat and meat-containing products, for curing and pickling, in flour to improve baking quality, in beer as a stabilizer, in fats and oils as an antioxidant, and in a wide variety of foods for vitamin C enrichment. L-Ascorbic acid may also find use in stain removers, hair waving preparations; plastics manufacture, photography, and water treatment.
A carcinogenesis bioassay of L-ascorbic acid (>97% pure) was conducted by administering diets containing 25,000 or 50,000 ppm L-ascorbic acid to groups of 50 F344/N rats and 50 B6C3F1 mice of each sex for 103 weeks. Controls consisted of 50 untreated rats and untreated mice of each sex. Fifty-thousand ppm is the highest dose recommended for chronic studies.
Survival of dosed and control female rats and of dosed and control female mice were comparable. Survival of high-dose male rats was slightly greater than that of the controls (P=0.087). Survival of high-dose male mice was significantly greater (P=0.009) than that of the controls. Throughout most of the study, mean body weights of dosed female rats and dosed female mice were lower than those of the controls. Final body weights were comparable among groups, except for the high-dose female rats (<13%); marginal differences (<8%) were observed for low-dose female rats and for dosed female mice (8%-11%). Food consumption was equivalent among groups.
Most observational differences were confined to the female rat. The incidence of low-dose female rats with undifferentiated (mononuclear-cell) leukemias (control, 6/50, 12%; low-dose, 17/50, 34%; high-dose, 12/50, 24%) was significantly higher (P<0.02) than that in controls. These tumors were not considered to be related to administration of L-ascorbic acid because they did not occur in the female high-dose group at incidences significantly greater (P>0.07) than those in the controls, the trend test was not significant (P>0.07), and no increases were observed for male rats.
Under the conditions of this bioassay, L-ascorbic acid was not carcinogenic for male and female F344/N rats or male and female B6C3F1 mice.