Beware of Ascorbic Acid: Synthetic Vitamin C

by Sarah Healthy LivingComments: 191

isolated ascorbic acid is not in fruitDid you know that ascorbic acid is actually a synthetic form of vitamin C?

If you are learning this for the first time, it can be a rather shocking realization as almost all vitamin C supplements on the market use ascorbic acid.

Even more disturbing – ascorbic acid is frequently marketed as natural vitamin C. Truly natural forms of vitamin C and synthetic ascorbic acid seem to be used interchangeably.

How confusing for the consumer!

Nearly all juices and fruit products are loaded up with ascorbic acid, even many organic, healthfood store versions. It seems that if a product is labeled “high in Vitamin C”, consumers buy more of it.

A lot of folks are being fooled by these misleading semantics and there is a growing body of evidence that those consuming high doses of ascorbic acid should have reason to worry.

Three Studies Suggest Caution with High Dose Ascorbic Acid

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).

This information should give pause to anyone who is actively taking synthetic vitamin C supplements such as those Emergen-C packets that are available everywhere, from pharmacies and health food stores to even gas stations!.

Supplements like these are NOT boosting immunity and are NOT good for you! Synthetic vitamins such as ascorbic acid act more like drugs in the body rather than whole food nutrients with all the available cofactors. Taking any synthetic vitamin can cause imbalances in the body and should be avoided.

Another worrisome and popular trend is the recommendation of some alternative health professionals to do a “vitamin C flush” during illness. This therapy (if you can call it that) calls for large doses of ascorbic acid until the onset of diarrhea. This approach to regaining wellness has never made any sense to me and now, with more studies indicating the danger of high doses of vitamin C, my caution seems well founded.

What about High Dose, Intravenous Ascorbic Acid?

What about high dose, intravenous ascorbic acid for the very ill?

Perhaps in extreme circumstances, high dose ascorbic acid as therapy can be beneficial, but ascorbic acid shouldn’t be a regular feature in anyone’s diet or supplement regimen.

Whole Food Vitamin C is Naturally Low Dose

The best way to get vitamin C on a daily basis is from a whole foods source, which naturally provides this critical nutrient at a low dosage. For example, the vitamin C we use in our home for the kids is a chewable, acerola cherry vitamin C. Each tablet only contains 30mg of real vitamin C!

When you get the whole foods version of vitamin C, you don’t need much at all. A truly natural vitamin C supplement with no added ascorbic acid is naturally low-dose.

Don’t forget about raw milk – a great source of vitamin C. The vitamin C in raw milk is mostly destroyed by pasteurization, by the way (along with many other nutrients). Fresh and lacto-fermented fruits and vegetables (like traditionally made saurkraut) are other excellent sources of the whole vitamin C complex.

Perhaps folks feel the need to take large doses of synthetic vitamin C in the form of ascorbic acid because all the processed foods they are eating are so devoid of the nutrient in its whole form? Switching to whole foods and dumping those vitamin C supplements in the trash would be a much better approach to boosting immunity!

What to Look for in a True Vitamin C Product

To give you some idea of what to look for in a vitamin C supplement, here are the ingredients of the one I take. Notice that there is no isolated ascorbic acid or other ascorbates and no additives.  Just pure food Vitamin C sources. Please note that this is not the only Vitamin C supplement that qualifies as totally pure.  There are a few others.  This is just the one I take.

Pure Radiance C ingredients: camu camu berry extract, manioc root, acerola berry extract, amla berry extract, buckwheat berry sprouts, freeze-dried berry blend, blueberry, raspberry, cranberry, cherry, rose hips fruit, lemon peel, black pepper berry extract.

Ascorbic Acid is Usually from Genetically Modified Corn

What’s worse is that ascorbic acid is not just synthetic.  It is also usually derived from genetically modified corn! More on that travesty fooling millions of consumers every single day in this article.

Talk about adding insult to injury!

Want to know where to get some Real Vitamin C?  Click here for sources with several vetted brands to choose from.

Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist


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