Dual action of vitamin C in iron supplement therapeutics for iron deficiency anemia: prevention of liver damage induced by iron overload
Vitamin C, an excellent reducing agent, aids in increasing absorbable ferrous iron in iron deficiency anemia. As an efficient antioxidant, it is still unknown whether vitamin C exerts protective effects against liver damage caused by iron excess and whether mitochondria are the target effectors of the above effects. In this study, 48 mice were randomly divided into a control group, iron-overload group, TAU-treated + iron-overload group and vitamin C-treated + iron-overload group with 12 mice per group. The mice were fed 4 months on pellet diets supplemented with iron in the form of ferrocene. The iron ratio in the diet was maintained at 0.2% (w/w) for 90 days and then 0.4% (w/w) for the remaining 30 days. Furthermore, 2 g kg−1 vitamin C and 20 mg kg−1 TAU were administered daily by oral gavage prior to iron-overload administration at 6 weeks and throughout the course of the experiments. We investigated the protective effects of vitamin C against liver damage by assessing the liver weight to body weight ratio (LW/BW), serum aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT) activities, and histological changes. In addition, enzymatic and non-enzymatic antioxidants, reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation, mitochondrial swelling, and mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP) were evaluated to clarify the antioxidant effects of vitamin C. We found that vitamin C significantly attenuated impaired liver function in mice induced by iron overload via antioxidation, whereas no significant effect on iron uptake was observed. Vitamin C targeted the mitochondria, preventing mitochondrial swelling, MMP dissipation, and ROS burst, thus inhibiting hepatic apoptosis. Collectively, our results suggest that vitamin C acts as a “double agent” in iron supplementation therapy for iron deficiency anemia, boosting iron absorption for preventing iron deficiency and preventing liver damage due to excessive iron intake during treatment.