Ascorbic acid is NOT Real Vitamin C
Whole Food Vitamin C is yet another nutrient that we are lied to about. 90% of the supplements you will see out there that have “vitamin C” on the label are really ascorbic acid which is just the shell of the vitamin C complex. In whole food C, ascorbic acid is just the outer part, and tyrosinase at the core is actually a copper-containing enzyme.
Why I say NO to Ascorbic Acid:
According to this article,
“The Winter 2009 edition of Wise Traditions cites 3 studies which give pause about large doses of vitamin C. The first study (from the Jun 15, 2001 issue of Science) showed that “synthetic vitamin C may contribute to the formation of genotoxins that can lead to cancer”.
A second study presented to the American Heart Association showed a link between consumption of only 500mg of vitamin C per day and a greater propensity toward thickening of the arteries (Los Angeles Times, March 3, 2000).
Even more recently, athletes taking 1000mg of vitamin C per day showed reduced endurance capacity from interference with antioxidant enzymes (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Jan 2008).”
From the first study quoted above, it was found that high doses of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) can actually have pro-oxidant effects. (source)
In nature, you won’t find any food source that has 1000mg of vitamin C per serving, so this is one of the main reasons why I am not all for high doses of vitamin C. Balance is key in all things, and even something as “simple” and common as vitamin C.
Also, Ascorbic acid actually can cause copper deficiency, while whole food vitamin C supports proper copper balance. Since I am so huge on balancing copper correctly, I prefer to not suggest things that would really mess up this balance.
Bioflavoniods are the key for vitamin C absorption and that is what you’ll likely be severely lacking when you choose an isolated ascorbic acid. Bioflavonoids used to be considered so important that they were actually a vitamin all on their own at one point (vitamin P). Vitamin C and the bioflavonoids work together as a complex- they are not meant to be isolated in any way!
Some experts that have studied vitamin C more closely as a complex have shown that 200mg a day is a more accurate goal than the RDA of 40mg (and it is much less than Linus Pauling’s recommendation of 4000mg of just ascorbic acid). The study that was done showed that white blood cells are saturated with vitamin C at only 100mg a day, and blood itself was saturated with 200mg a day. Using 1000mg a day lead to excessive amounts of oxalates in the urine, and kidney stones were common with some of these people.
Another study showed that only 500mg of ascorbic acid daily for 6 weeks was enough to induce oxidative stress and cell damage, even after the AA was excreted from the body. (source below)
What is Vitamin C needed for?
Vitamin C is a crucial nutrient for tissue repair, collagen formation, immune system health, plus is very important for joints, blood vessels (think varicose and spider veins!), teeth, bones, and skin. Vitamin C is also one of the most important nutrients for healing from adrenal fatigue. This nutrient is concentrated in the adrenal glands so when adrenals are stressed, it it common to become depleted. Vitamin C also plays a role in thyroid health because it stimulates T4 production.
Vitamin C complex also helps to protect the body against the negative effects of cadmium, mercury, excess copper, and other heavy metals. C also aids in the absorption of iron, so taking large amounts while dealing with iron overload might not be the best idea.
Vitamin C is water soluble and not stored in the body (except for the adrenals and a few other organs) so this is a nutrient we need to have daily. Luckily, there are many food sources that contain this amazing nutrient: citrus fruits, papaya, tomatoes, broccoli, bell peppers, rose hips, and stinging nettles are just some of the sources. You can find more food sources here.
There are MANY whole food vitamin C supplements on the market right now. Garden of life and Synergy are among the best quality out there. You can use a lot less whole food C as opposed to ascorbic acid so a typical dose is between 400 and 800 mg. I tend to recommend staying around 300-400mg a day as that is where many find the most benefit. There are some studies that show we only absorb 200mg of C at a time so it is best to split up the dosage through the day. Otherwise you are just wasting money. Too much of even whole food C can induce copper dumping.
Smokers are especially at a risk for vitamin C deficiency since it is burned through quite quickly.
Vitamin C is needed to regulate bioflavonoids, calcium and magnesium. It helps the metabolism of folic acid, tyrosine and phenylalanine. It also is needed for the absorption of iron and calcium.
Vitamin C deficiency signs include dry skin and nails, poor wound healing, easy bruising, and a tendency to catch colds easily.
How to Get more Vitamin C in your Diet
I’ve been trying to find a more economical way to get whole food C into our diets. Some of these Whole C supplements are quite expensive and don’t last very long.
I thought that it might be a good idea to try and make our own powders but I think that might not be as simple as I’d hoped. However I do want to share my research. These options would be great to add in addition to any C supplement that we are already taking.
So Lemon Peel Powder: 2 Teaspoons has about 25% DV of vitamin C. On Amazon you can get a pound of it for $27 and you get 113 servings out of it.
Amla Powder: 1 teaspoon contains 70% DV of Vitamin C. A 12 ounce bag is $13 and you get 68 servings out of it.
Acerola: This is one of my favorites! Each bag has 35 servings of 1 teaspoon, which comes out to about 320mg of vitamin C (800% DV!).
Going the Supplement route?
My Favorite C brands include:
- Synergy Pure Radiance C: Powder or Capsules
- Garden of Life Raw C (although GOL was bought out by Nestle so this isn’t going to be my first choice for anyone unless it’s the only one available)
- Alive! Whole C
- (I no longer recommend Mega Foods or Innate Response for whole food C or anything else- read why in my post about my favorite supplement companies)
Whole Food Nutrition by Vic Shayne, PHD (a great resource if you want to learn more about how whole food nutrition is completely different than typical nutrition)