Beware of Ascorbic Acid: Synthetic 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 and added to organic foods as a natural preservative. 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. 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 co-factors. 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. Now, with more studies indicating the danger of high doses of vitamin C, caution seems well founded.
Fan of Linus Pauling? Consider This ….
If you are a fan of Linus Pauling who popularized the notion of huge doses of Vitamin C for the common cold in the 1970’s, consider this. GMO Vitamin C did not exist when Pauling was conducting his studies. GMO derived Vitamin C is what most people are unwittingly taking today!
What’s more, the studies indicating the danger of high doses of vitamin C over long periods of time had not been done yet. They were conducted long after Pauling died in 1994.
What about High Dose, Intravenous Ascorbic Acid?
What about high dose, intravenous ascorbic acid for the very ill? Note that the vitamin C for IV use is almost always derived from GMO corn as well as being extremely high dose and synthetic ascorbic acid only.
Under certain circumstances and for the very ill, high dose GMO ascorbic acid therapy can be beneficial. For example, my husband used IV ascorbic acid therapy immediately after each amalgam removal. This prevented any released mercury from getting stored in the tissues. Not doing this risks the development of autoimmune disease.
However, synthetic vitamin C especially when genetically modified 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 whole foods sources. This will provide you this critical nutrient at a low dosage that will do no harm over the long term. 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 with no additives or fillers.
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 and yet highly effective.
Don’t forget about the benefits of raw milk – a great source of vitamin C. The vitamin C in raw milk is mostly destroyed by pasteurization, along with many other nutrients. Fresh and lacto-fermented fruits and vegetables (such as traditional sauerkraut) are other excellent sources of the whole vitamin C complex.
Perhaps folks feel the need to take large doses of synthetic vitamin C 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!
Ascorbic Acid is Usually from Genetically Modified Corn
What’s worse is that ascorbic acid is not just synthetic. Remember that it is also usually derived from genetically modified corn! More on that GMO vitamin C travesty fooling millions of consumers every single day in the linked article.
Another vitamin scam harming consumers concerns synthetic folate commercially known as folic acid.
The pushing of beta carotene as true vitamin A by food manufacturers and supplement companies is another nutritional falsehood scamming millions of consumers and worse, seriously harming their health.
Talk about adding insult to injury!
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 sprouts, freeze-dried berry blend, blueberry, raspberry, cranberry, cherry, rose hips fruit, lemon peel, black pepper berry extract.
Want to know where to find a complete line of whole food Vitamin C supplements from a variety of whole food plant sources?
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
Sarah Pope has been a Health and Nutrition Educator since 2002. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Weston A. Price Foundation.
Sarah was awarded Activist of the Year at the International Wise Traditions Conference in 2010.
Sarah earned a Bachelor of Arts (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) in Economics from Furman University and a Master’s degree in Government (Financial Management) from the University of Pennsylvania.
Mother to three healthy children, blogger, and best-selling author, she writes about the practical application of Traditional Diet and evidence-based wellness within the modern household. Her work has been featured by USA Today, The New York Times, National Review, ABC, NBC, and many others.