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All ABOUT VITAMIN C

Vitamin C is getting a lot of press and attention lately. We have received hundreds of emails with questions about it over the last month, owing to what seems likely daily news and blog articles. So it seemed like the right time for a refresher on all things vitamin C. It’s a long article, but we tried to answer all of the questions we had been getting asked the most. After reading this if you have a question we missed, feel free to email us at info@joshboughton.com and we will do our best to get your questions answered.


The vitamin C gang says it's important to keep smiling because things will get better.


Vitamin C was discovered by Nobel prize-winning Hungarian Biochemist Dr. Albert Szent-Györgyi. He was an incredible scientist, but also served in World War 1 and was awarded the Silver Medal of Valour. (1)


He first isolated the vitamin from the adrenal glands of animals and called it hexuronic acid. He would later rename it ascorbic acid. (2)


For years he searched for a richer source of this anti-scorbutic (which means preventing or curing scurvy) compound in order to continue his experiments. Legend has it that to avoid eating the fresh paprikas that his wife had served as a side dish, Szent-Györgyi hurriedly left the dinner table and ran to his laboratory to test the paprikas for ascorbic acid content.



Unbeknownst to many people, later in life “He became a passionate advocate of government-sponsored cancer research after losing two close family members to the disease and spent much of his later professional life studying cancer at the cellular level at Woods Hole and for the National Foundation for Cancer Research. An outspoken opponent of military spending, nuclear weapons, and war in general, Szent-Györgyi was pessimistic about the state of modern life and expressed his sociopolitical views in his 1970 book, The Crazy Ape.” (3)


He was an incredible human being and if you study or practice in the field of nutrition, health, or medicine, he is definitely one of the giants whose shoulders you stand upon.

Dr. Albert Szent-Györgyi


Vitamin C, commonly known as ascorbic acid or ascorbate, is a water-soluble vitamin. Unlike many other mammals, human beings cannot make their own vitamin C and must obtain it from their diet. (4)


According to the NIH (5), this is how much vitamin C a person needs every day:

There are times when a person may need a higher dosage, but that is a topic for another day.


Vitamin C is a workhorse in the body. It is used in many different ways and performs a number of different functions. (6)

Here are just a few of them, there are many more though:

  • An Important Antioxidant

  • Collagen Formation

  • Wound and Burn Healing

  • Increases Absorption of Iron from Plant Foods

  • Immune System Support

  • This is a complicated topic because there is a lot of misinformation and misconceptions about vitamin C and the immune system. If you want to understand the way vitamin C affects and interacts with the immune system, check out this paper.

The vitamin C gang works hard for your immune system. Make them proud by eating lots of fruits and veggies.


We here at Rooted Nutrition feel that it is always best, whenever possible, to get your vitamins from real whole foods, so here is a chart that lists many of the foods that are rich in vitamin C:


Vitamin C rich foods contain more than just vitamin C. They contain a huge variety of other beneficial compounds such as flavonoids (sometimes called bioflavonoids). Dr. Szent Gyorgyi called these compounds “Vitamin P”. (7)


He found that these compounds supported and helped the body in ways that pure vitamin C (ascorbic acid) could not.


While flavonoids are not technically vitamins, they do provide a variety of health benefits that you cannot get from pure vitamin C. So make sure to eat those fruits and vegetables every day. Ideally, you should consume 7-10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. While they may seem like a lot, a serving is only half of a cup of cooked or 1 cup of raw. So a large salad could easily contain 4 or more servings. Make sure to get a variety of types and colors each day.

The vitamin C gang says that "No you may not count ketchup and french fries as fruits and vegetables." I would not upset them if I were you.


If you find that you are not eating enough fruits and vegetables we have a wonderful blog article written by the amazing Liz (Yeah, I'm biased she's my wife, but seriously she is incredible), with some easy ways to get more of them in your diet.


So the question we get asked most is "Do I need to take a vitamin C supplement?"


Well, the truth is that some people do and some people do not, just like with any supplement. For example, a Dietitian may recommend a vitamin C supplement for someone whose wounds are not healing properly, while a person that eats ten servings of fruits and vegetables a day probably does not need one.


So how do you choose which vitamin C supplement to use?


There is a large variety of delivery formats and types of vitamin C to choose from, which can get pretty confusing.


Let's start our journey with the different delivery options.


1. Gummies

a. Avoid these like the plague. “Gummy vitamins” are a really bad way to get any vitamin, but especially vitamin C. The acidity of vitamin C combined with the high sugar content of most “gummy vitamins”, makes a nightmare for your teeth.

b. I cannot stress this enough, there are NO good reasons to take “gummy vitamins” or supplements of any kind.


2. Chewables

a. While some vitamins are ok in chewable form, avoid vitamin C in chewable form for the same reasons you should avoid vitamin C in gummy form. The acidity of the vitamin C and the high levels of sugar in most chewable vitamin C products makes them a nightmare for your teeth.


3. Powder

a. Powdered vitamin C is a convenient option to add to foods or beverages.

b. Make sure to get one without added sugars or other unwanted additives.

c. It is best to get a buffered or natural form of the powder to make it easier on your teeth and stomach.

d. Make sure to avoid getting water or moisture in the container as it will cause it to clump up and result in the loss of some of the vitamin C in the product.


4. Liquid

a. Make sure to buy liquid vitamin C without sugar or other unnecessary additives such as artificial sweeteners or colors.

b. When buying liquid vitamin C make sure to buy it in glass, as the acidic nature of vitamin C may cause some of the compounds in the plastic to leach into it.


5. Capsules, Tablets, and Softgels

a. These are the most commonly found delivery forms.

b. Avoid those with added sugar or artificial sweeteners and colorings. You would be surprised at how many products have added sweeteners and colorings.


6. Packaging

a. Always buy vitamin C supplements in opaque plastic or dark glass as light is one of the factors that can cause a loss of potency.

b. Avoid storing vitamin C, as well as other supplements and medications, in areas with high levels of humidity like the bathroom.


The vitamin C gang says peel is the OG packaging. Who are we to argue with the experts?



The second part of our journey is the various types of vitamin C. This is where things can get really confusing, but we have the Vitamin C Gang to walk us through it. We've got this!


Keep in mind that each type of vitamin C has its fans and proponents, we are not going to get in the middle of that fight, but we do have our favorites. We just want you to have accurate information on all of them.


The first category of vitamin C product is pure ascorbic acid. It is the starter for material for nearly all vitamin C products. This type of product is generally made from some type of sugar or starch, such as corn, beet, or tapioca. It really does not matter which type of sugar it is made from as the final product contains nothing of the original sugar or plant source. While some companies may claim a version made from tapioca sugar or beet sugar is better, in the end, all that remains is pure ascorbic acid. So you can just ignore all of the marketing claims when it comes to pure ascorbic acid sources.


Nearly all of the pure ascorbic acid in the world is made in China using one of two processes. There is however one factory left in Scotland making pure ascorbic acid. All other ascorbic acid is now made in China because of an illegal price-fixing scheme perpetrated by the Chinese government and Chinese chemical companies. This caused nearly all of the other suppliers to go out of business. Ironically the companies were actually let off the hook and avoided any penalty for doing this because the Chinese government actually required companies to violate United states anti-trust laws.


This is an incredibly unfair practice that caused a number of businesses to go under and the loss of many jobs while increasing the price of vitamin C for consumers. This type of behavior should be illegal but is an all too common practice by the Chinese government in many industries.

We recommend when buying this form of vitamin C to make sure yours comes from the Scottish factory in order to avoid the ethical and environmental issues that surround materials and products that come from China.


This form can be a bit hard on the stomach so make sure to take it with a full glass of water and some food.


Keep in mind that at dosages of 500, 1,000, etc milligrams of vitamin C per pill, there are no natural or whole food options available. So no matter what the marketing claims or the packaging looks like these types of products are not natural or whole food.


It does not mean there is no use for this type of vitamin C, we just feel that it is wrong to advertise products in such a way that makes people think a product is something that it is not.


Here is a label example of a generic vitamin C 1,000 product. You can see in the supplement facts panel that it lists vitamin C (as ascorbic acid).



The second category of vitamin C product is what we like to call the ascorbic acid plus category. This product contains the same type of pure ascorbic acid as the first category, but usually has something added to it such as rose hips, bioflavonoids, or small amounts of other foods.


Proponents of this form of vitamin C claim that adding these ingredients improves the absorption and bioavailability of the vitamin c. Many also claim that this is a more "natural" way of taking vitamin C.


The problem with these types of products is that usually, the amounts of these added ingredients are in too small of a quantity to actually do anything. In addition, they are often high heat spray-dried which can lead to a loss of nutritional value or treated with solvents like hexane and acetone which no one needs in their supplements.


Keep in mind that at dosages of 500, 1,000, etc milligrams of vitamin c per pill, there are no natural or whole food options available. So no matter what the marketing claims or the packaging looks like these types of products are not natural or whole food. Adding a pinch of food or bioflavonoids does not make a product natural or whole food.


It does not mean there is no use for this type of vitamin c, we just feel that it is wrong to advertise products in such a way that makes people think a product is something that it is not.


Here is an example of a vitamin C with rose hips added. You can see in the supplement facts panel that it lists vitamin C (as ascorbic acid) with 15 mg of rose hips.

While it may look nice on the label to add rose hips to the product, this is a classic example of an insider industry term called "fairy dusting". This is where an ingredient is added to a product to make the label look good, but not in an amount that actually does anything.


Here is an example of a vitamin C with bioflavonoids and other foods added. You can see in the supplement facts panel that it lists vitamin C (as ascorbic acid) with bioflavonoids and other foods added.

This is another classic example of "fairy dusting". While lemons, rose hips, and acerola cherries are all wonderful foods, 10 milligrams of each is not going to do anything.


This form can be a bit hard on the stomach so make sure to take it with a full glass of water and some food.


In the vast majority of cases, these types of ascorbic acid plus products cost more but do not really add any additional benefits. If you are choosing between a product like this and a pure vitamin C product, you would be better off saving the money and buying the pure ascorbic acid product.


We recommend when buying this form of vitamin C to make sure yours comes from the Scottish factory in order to avoid the ethical and environmental issues that surround materials and products that come from China.


The third category of vitamin C products is the buffered type. You will often see names like Ester-C, Calcium ascorbate, magnesium ascorbate, potassium ascorbate, or sodium ascorbate.


This is made by taking the pure ascorbic acid and reacting it with a mineral. For example, reacting magnesium carbonate with ascorbic acid forms magnesium ascorbate.


This process helps to buffer the ascorbic acid and make it easier on the stomach.


You will sometimes see it sold on its own or with added ingredients.


We recommend when buying this form of vitamin C to make sure yours comes from the Scottish factory in order to avoid the ethical and environmental issues that surround materials and products that come from China. Here is an example of one that comes from the Scottish factory.



The next category of products is called vitamin C fatty acid metabolites. You will often see names like Ascorbyl Palmitate, vitamin C Ester (not to be confused with ester-c, and Pureway-C.


This is made by taking the pure ascorbic acid and binding it to a fatty acid, such as palmitic acid.


This process changes the vitamin C from water-soluble to fat-soluble and makes it easier on the stomach.


You will sometimes see it sold on its own or without other ingredients added.

We recommend when buying this form of vitamin C to make sure yours comes from the Scottish factory in order to avoid the ethical and environmental issues that surround materials and products that come from China.



The sixth type of product is called liposomal vitamin C or as it sometimes called lypo-spheric.


This is made by attaching the pure ascorbic acid to a phospholipid such as lecithin.


This process makes it easier on the stomach.


You will sometimes see it sold on its own or without other ingredients added.

You will often see vitamin C listed as ascorbic acid or sodium ascorbate. In order to see if it is liposomal, you will often have to look at the nutrition facts panel and see if there is lecithin or phospholipids added.


Keep in mind that not all liposomal vitamin C products are fully liposomal. Often times companies will mix regular vitamin C with phospholipids instead of truly binding them.


Another issue with liposomal vitamin C is that much of it is packaged in plastic. It is not a good idea to buy an acidic liquid packaged in soft plastic, because some of the compounds in the plastic may leach into vitamin C. When buying liquid liposomal vitamin C, make sure to look for it to be packaged in dark glass.


We recommend when buying this form of vitamin C to make sure yours comes from the Scottish factory in order to avoid the ethical and environmental issues that surround materials and products that come from China. Here is an example of one such product.



Next up are the fake whole food vitamin C products.


These are made by mixing ascorbic acid with a small of food and using terms on the label such as food-based or whole food. Often times they will cover the label with lots of different vitamin C rich foods. Other examples include feeding the ascorbic acid to yeast, which creates some type of Frankenstein's monster of a product, or putting on the label that the vitamin C is entirely from a specific food when they are spiking it with pure ascorbic acid.


There are a huge number of these fake whole food products.


Misleading the public with fancy packaging and confusing labeling is all too common and is a huge problem in the supplement industry.


These are much more expensive than traditional vitamin C supplements with no added benefits.


You can read more about these types of fake whole food vitamins here.


Example number one:

On the front of the label, this product claims to be raw and whole food. From looking at the supplement facts panel it says vitamin C (from culture of Saccharomyces cerevisiae). Saccharomyces cerevisiae is actually nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast does not contain vitamin C. What the company is actually doing is feeding the pure ascorbic acid to yeast. There is nothing raw or whole food about doing that. Not surprisingly this product is made by a company owned by Nestle (Garden of Life).


Check out this product:

The label is covered with oranges, it says farm fresh ingredients and made with farm fresh ingredients. A person shopping at a health food store would certainly not be crazy to think this vitamin C was made from oranges.


Well, this product actually contains only a very small amount of orange, and the vitamin C is just pure ascorbic acid. No whole food vitamin C here.


We recommend against buying any vitamin C in this category as there is no additional benefit for the extra cost and we should all do as much as possible to boycott products that have misleading marketing, especially when it comes to our health.

These fake food products are definitely not vitamin C gang approved.



Last, but certainly not least, is our favorite category of vitamin C products, true whole food ones.


A true whole food vitamin C product is very simple. Foods that are rich in vitamin C are low temperature dried or concentrated, then milled into a fine powder and packaged.

Sometimes they are made from a single food and other times they are mixed with other foods. That's it, nothing is added or taken away.


True whole food vitamin C products contain all the naturally occurring compounds present in the foods, in their original state.


It is important that these foods are low temperature dried in order to ensure that there is not a loss of nutritional value or a damaging of other beneficial compounds.


With whole food vitamin C products, it is important that the foods are sustainably grown or responsibly wild harvested. In addition, the people farming or harvesting these foods should be paid a fair price and be well taken care of.


Here is an example of a true whole food vitamin C product:




You can view our favorite whole food vitamin C products here.


True whole food vitamin C is what carries on the legacy of an incredible man, Dr. Albert Szent-Györgyi. He believed that there was far more to vitamin C than just ascorbic acid.


As he said in his Nobel Prize Speech:


“At the time that I had just detected the rich vitamin content of the paprika, I was asked by a colleague of mine for pure vitamin C. This colleague himself suffered from a serious haemorrhagic diathesis. Since I still did not have enough of this crystalline substance at my disposal then, I sent him paprikas. My colleague was cured. But later we tried in vain to obtain the same therapeutic effect with pure vitamin C.”


Dr. Szent-Györgyi was right, that a pure crystalline substance will never have the benefit of real whole foods with all of their complexity. No matter how badly modern corporations want to distill food down its simplest parts and tell us it is just as good as the real thing, they will never succeed.


Nutrition can only come from real, whole foods. A freshly picked raspberry from your garden is more than a list of chemical compounds and will always be more than just the sum of its parts.


Rooted Nutrition is proud to support the legacy of Dr. Szent-Györgyi and hopefully, bring awareness to a man who is rarely given credit for his incredible work.

The worlds foremost experts on vitamin C, the Vitamin C Gang!


References:

  1. https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/medicine/1937/szent-gyorgyi/biographical/

  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23183299/

  3. https://www.sciencehistory.org/historical-profile/albert-szent-gyorgyi

  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3145266/

  5. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-HealthProfessional/#en8

  6. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-Consumer/#:~:text=Vitamin%20C%2C%20also%20known%20as,food%20we%20eat%20into%20energy

  7. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/1159335





































































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