Epidemiological evidence suggests that high dietary ascorbic acid reduces gastric cancer risk. It may do this by either reducing N-nitroso compound formation in gastric juice, or by scavenging reactive oxygen species in gastric mucosa. The aim of this study was to discover if potential ascorbic acid protection might be increased by supplementation. Thirty two patients were supplemented with ascorbic acid, 500 mg twice daily for two weeks. Gastric juice, plasma, and upper gastrointestinal biopsy ascorbate concentrations were measured and compared with values in 48 unsupplemented patients. It was found that ascorbic acid and total vitamin C concentrations were considerably higher in biopsy specimens from oesophagus, body, antrum, duodenum, and rectum, compared with values in plasma or gastric juice. Plasma and mucosal concentrations were unaffected by the presence of chronic gastritis but gastric juice concentrations were substantially lower in patients with chronic gastritis than in patients with normal histological assessment (p < 0.01). Patients receiving ascorbic acid supplements had higher ascorbic acid concentrations in plasma (p < 0.001), gastric juice (p < 0.001), and at all biopsy sites in the upper gastrointestinal tract (p < 0.05). Gastric juice ascorbic acid and total vitamin C concentrations in gastritic patients, however, were still less after supplementation than in normal subjects (p < 0.01). These data suggest that high ascorbic acid intake could reduce gastric cancer risk, but its protective effect might be greater if gastritis is treated (for example, by Helicobacter pylori eradication).
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