Iron and ascorbic acid (vitamin C) are essential nutrients for the normal growth and development of humans, and their deficiency can result in serious diseases. Their interaction is of nutritional, physiological, pharmacological and toxicological interest, with major implications in health and disease. Millions of people are using pharmaceutical and nutraceutical preparations of these two nutrients, including ferrous ascorbate for the treatment of iron deficiency anaemia and ascorbate combination with deferoxamine for increasing iron excretion in iron overload. The main function and use of vitamin C is its antioxidant activity against reactive oxygen species, which are implicated in many diseases of free radical pathology, including biomolecular-, cellular- and tissue damage-related diseases, as well as cancer and ageing. Ascorbic acid and its metabolites, including the ascorbate anion and oxalate, have metal binding capacity and bind iron, copper and other metals. The biological roles of ascorbate as a vitamin are affected by metal complexation, in particular following binding with iron and copper. Ascorbate forms a complex with Fe3+
followed by reduction to Fe2+
, which may potentiate free radical production. The biological and clinical activities of iron, ascorbate and the ascorbate–iron complex can also be affected by many nutrients and pharmaceutical preparations. Optimal therapeutic strategies of improved efficacy and lower toxicity could be designed for the use of ascorbate, iron and the iron–ascorbate complex in different clinical conditions based on their absorption, distribution, metabolism, excretion, toxicity (ADMET), pharmacokinetic, redox and other properties. Similar strategies could also be designed in relation to their interactions with food components and pharmaceuticals, as well as in relation to other aspects concerning personalized medicine.
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