Although numerous environmental factors are documented to influence serum ascorbic concentrations, little is known about the genetic versus environmental contributions to variation of this trait. The aim of this study was to estimate family correlation and, additive genetic heritability and household effects in a variance component analysis for serum ascorbic acid concentrations. In a sample of ninety French families, information was obtained regarding serum ascorbic acid concentrations, usual dietary intake, lifestyle, and other related covariates. Spouse, parent–offspring and offspring–offspring significant correlation coefficients for serum ascorbic acid concentrations, adjusted for age, cigarette consumption and oral contraceptive use, were 0·432, 0·298 and 0·485, respectively, and for adjusted values for additional diet covariates (vitamin C intake and fruit and vegetable consumption), were 0·362, 0·154 and 0·348, respectively. Variance component analysis for serum ascorbic concentrations showed no significant genetic contribution to variability of this trait. Conversely, household common environment accounted for 27·7 and 42·6 % in parents and offspring, respectively, after adjustment for age, cigarette consumption and oral contraceptive use. After adjustment for the two additional diet covariates (vitamin C intake and fruit and vegetable consumption) household common variance decreased to 13·6 and 30·5 % in parents and offspring, respectively. These results show that serum ascorbic acid concentrations aggregate within healthy families partly due to diet intake but without a significant genetic component.