We’ve all heard of Vitamin C and how important it is to our health and some of you, like myself, may even be taking a daily Vitamin C supplement to help boost your immune system. But what if I told you that the particular type of Vitamin C you’re most likely taking could actually be causing more harm than good.
When I started researching Vitamin C for my health, I was stunned to learn how the very Vitamin C I’ve been taking for years could actually be harmful to me. I never realized that taking the wrong Vitamin C could have adverse effects on my health, which is obviously the opposite of what I have been trying to achieve. Let’s dive in a little bit more and talk about Vitamin C, the benefits, and the warnings.
What Exactly Is Vitamin C?
Vitamin C is a naturally occurring water soluble vitamin found abundantly in bright colored fruits and vegetables, like apples, citrus fruits, bell peppers, and dark greens. While most animals can produce Vitamin C through their livers, humans do not have the ability to create Vitamin C in their bodies.
Since the human body is unable to create Vitamin C naturally, we rely on getting it from our food, but because most of our modern Western diet consists of processed food and sugar, we end up having a low level deficiency of Vitamin C. Many manufacturers attempt to solve this problem by pumping out the Vitamin C supplements you see at the drugstore, but most of them are Ascorbic Acid, which is a synthetic form of Vitamin C. As with any synthetic supplement, the body can have a hard time absorbing it properly, which can actually be harmful to us.
The Benefits Of Vitamin C
In it’s most natural form, Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that our bodies use in a variety of ways including:
- Protect us against heart disease
- Aid the absorption of iron
- Decrease LDL, the “bad” cholesterol
- Cellular health and support
- Help protect against a variety of cancers
- Anti-aging effects from it’s powerful antioxidant
- Supports the immune system
- Helps wounds heal faster
- Keeps skin healthy
- Much, much more
Unfortunately, up to a third of people are deficient in Vitamin C, so it’s important to take a supplement, but it’s more important that we take the right supplement. Today, Vitamin C and Ascorbic Acid are considered one and the same, but they are vastly different. Let’s talk about the differences.
The Two Types Of Vitamin C
We’ve been led to believe that there is only one type of Vitamin C in the world, but there are actually two specific types. One is naturally occurring Vitamin C found in bright colored fruits and vegetables, and the other is a synthetic version known as Ascorbic Acid.
Unfortunately, most supplements on the market today use the synthetic Ascorbic Acid form, but manufacturers claim it’s “Natural Vitamin C”, which can be very confusing for consumers. I know it was for me. Ascorbic Acid in it’s isolated form has the potential to cause a host of problems, which may be the reason for the correlation between high Vitamin C consumption and disease.
This article explains more:
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 500 mg 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 1000 mg of vitamin C per day showed reduced endurance capacity from interference with antioxidant enzymes (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Jan 2008). (source)
But what about all the studies done on the benefits of Vitamin C, like lowing the risk of heart disease and supporting adrenal and immune health? It seems the difference in results lies in the difference between the natural and synthetic form of Vitamin C, explained here:
Synthetic vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is not found in nature. It does not grow naturally in plants or trees and cannot be grown on a farm. It can only be made in a lab. Contrary to popular belief, ascorbic acid and vitamin C are not the same thing. Ascorbic acid is not a complete vitamin, but really only the outer layer of the complete complex known as vitamin C. The complete complex of vitamin C as found in natural food sources is composed of these elements:
– Rutinbiofavonoids (vitamin P) factor K
– Factor Jfactor P Tyrosinase
– Ascorbinogen ascorbic acid
All of the above elements must be present in order for the body to absorb and benefit from the vitamin complex. Since synthetic ascorbic acid does not contain the full complex, your body must either gather the missing components from the body’s reservoir, or simply eliminate the ascorbic acid from the body through the urine without benefit to the body. (source)
Even though synthetic Ascorbic Acid has been shown kill bacteria, it can’t distinguish between the “good” and “bad” bacteria, which means it can be harmful to beneficial gut bacteria. Not to mention that Ascorbic Acid is synthesized from corn syrup meaning it’s likely genetically modified.
Sources Of Natural Vitamin C
The best way to consume Vitamin C, by far, is through organic fruits and vegetables. Supplements alone won’t make up for a poor diet, and they should never be used in place of real, whole foods.
Vitamin C is found the most abundant in bright colored fruits and vegetables especially in broccoli, bell peppers, citrus fruits, berries, dark leafy greens, and more. Unfortunately, most of the Vitamin C found in these foods is destroyed when heated, so unless you are eating them raw, a Vitamin C supplement derived from a natural source can be helpful.
Luckily, there are a few food sources that can be preserved naturally for their Vitamin C content including: Acerola, varies berries, and Camu Camu (one of the highest Vitamin C containing plants in the world). I use this Camu Camu powder in my green smoothies, which is a great way to get all the daily nutrients you need.
The Vitamin C Supplement I Personally Take…
I admit, I was under the impression that there was only one type of Vitamin C in the world, and it could not only be found in food, but in supplement form too. The supplements I had been taking for years that I purchased at my drugstore were – you guessed it – Ascorbic Acid.
After my research into the subject, I quickly searched for an all natural Vitamin C supplement, one that was derived from plant materials. I found one from Radiant Life called Pure Radiance C, a natural form of Vitamin C made from all types of berry extracts. You can also take Camu Camu powder, which I actually use in my green smoothies.
In addition to the all natural Vitamin C supplement, I try to ensure I eat enough bright colored fruits and vegetables throughout the day and since Vitamin C helps the absorption of iron, I always try to take a Vitamin C capsule with any meal I eat containing iron.
Do you take a daily Vitamin C supplement? What foods do you enjoy getting your daily dose from? Share Below!