Many believe there is no difference between Vitamin C as found in plants, (citrus, berries, etc.), and synthetic Ascorbic Acid. But is that what science says? As mentioned in “What Is Vitamin C?“, ascorbic acid is just one of the nine parts that make up whole vitamin C. Ascorbic Acid made in a lab is not the same as Vitamin C that’s found in plants. “Ascorbic acid is not a complete vitamin, but really only the outer layer of the complete complex known as vitamin C.” 1 It is this (synthetic) ascorbic acid you should avoid, and here’s why:
Some sources state that ascorbic acid has some rather concerning side effects.
Negative Effects on Gut Flora
Perhaps one of the biggest concerns is the claim that synthetic Ascorbic Acid kills gut flora. While it kills bad bugs, it is believed by many that it also kills the good bacteria that we need to support the 70 plus percent of our immune system the gut makes up. In an article by Dr. Nick Wintz, this statement was made:
While the many benefits of vitamin C are well-documented, such as its ability to boost the immune system, there are less well known facts about the synthetic version of vitamin C, or ascorbic acid. Ascorbic acid, the synthesized version of vitamin C, has been proven to kill bacteria effectively, which makes it effective in killing parasites and infections. Unfortunately, it does not differentiate between the good and bad bacteria in the gut, and wipes out good bacteria in the gut which is mandatory for vibrant health.
Synthetic vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, kills beneficial probiotic bacteria in the gut and cannot confer vitamin activity in the body /Zach Calantini-Miller/ May 2, 2013, Dr. Nick Wirtz
Another statement to this effect was made in a study from the Department of Microbiology, Bhavan’s Vivekananda College of Science, Humanities and Commerce, Sainikpuri, Secunderabad-94, Telangana State, India, which follows: (cited by several sources)
It cannot be synthesized by humans hence needs to be supplemented through diet in the natural form only as synthetic ascorbic acid affects the bacterial growth not differentiating between beneficial gut flora and pathogens.Int. J. of Life Sciences, 2017, Vol. 5 (4): 667-671ISSN: 2320-7817| eISSN: 2320-964X© 2017|IJLSCI http://www.ijlsci.in667Comparative Studies on Ascorbic acid content in Various Fruits, Vegetables and Leafy Vegetables/ S. Chaitanya kumari and Dr. P. Naga Padma
Conclusion: Synthetic Ascorbic Acid kills gut flora and wipes out the microbiome. 2
Competes With Glucose and Increases Insulin Resistance
It is known by many sources that glucose competes with vitamin C but at the same time, the opposite is true; vitamin C competes with glucose. Unfortunately for vitamin C, glucose wins hindering the absorption of vitamin C. 3 4 However, because synthetic Ascorbic Acid is only one part of the whole complex, much more is required to come close to the same benefits. This synthetic form, especially in large doses, causes insulin resistance which eventually leaves the cells less able to accept either vitamin C or glucose. This in turn can leave one open to a number of conditions from heart disease to type II & III diabetes (Alzheimer’s) and more. 5
Competes with Copper
“Ascorbic acid is known to inhibit the absorption of copper.”Kies C., Harms J.M. (1989) Copper Absorption as Affected by Supplemental Calcium, Magnesium, Manganese, Selenium and Potassium. In: Kies C. (eds) Copper Bioavailability and Metabolism. Springer, Boston, MA. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4613-0537-8_4
Causes Thickening of the Arteries
A study presented to the American Heart Association showed a link between consumption of only 500mg of vitamin C [as Ascorbic Acid] per day and a greater propensity toward thickening of the arteries (Los Angeles Times, March 3, 2000).
Hinders Antioxidant Enzyme Function
Athletes taking 1000mg of vitamin C per day showed reduced endurance capacity from interference with antioxidant enzymes (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Jan 2008).
May Contribute to Cancer
A 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.”
May Damage DNA At High Doses
British researchers, chemical pathologists at the University of Leicester, found in a six-week study of 30 healthy men and women that a daily 500-milligram supplement of vitamin C had pro-oxidant as well as antioxidant effects on the genetic material DNA. The researchers found that at the 500-milligram level, vitamin C promoted genetic damage by free radicals to a part of the DNA, the adenine bases, that had not previously been measured in studies of the vitamin’s oxidative properties.
The finding, published in the current issue of the British journal Nature, corroborates warnings that have been issued for decades by an American physician, Dr. Victor Herbert, professor of medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. Dr. Herbert has shown, primarily through laboratory studies, that vitamin C supplements promote the generation of free radicals from iron in the body. 6
In general, avoiding synthetic vitamins is considered wise by some.
Truly health-conscious consumers choose to avoid artificial, unnatural and synthetic chemicals, but often — and unknowingly — consume these in dietary supplements. Misleading information on supplement labels is the most common reason for confusion about these ingredients. Consuming these potentially dangerous chemicals is much more serious than once thought.
“We should be concerned about taking synthetic vitamins and other unnatural nutrients because published research in the last few years concludes two important things: First, synthetic and other unnatural nutrients are mostly ineffective in preventing disease. Second, these chemicals may be dangerous to your health — some have been shown to increase the risk of death! Most of the studies show an increased incidence of cancer and heart disease, the reason for the increased risk.”Dr. Phil Maffetone 7
Although vitamin C is a natural compound, getting too much of it [as synthetic ascorbic acid] can cause uncomfortable and potentially serious consequences. Some sources even suggest that synthetic nutrients may be dangerous.Mary Jane Brown, PhD, RD (UK)
It would seem that while the more commonly accepted view of all vitamin C being the same and of no difference may need a much closer look as the science says otherwise. It is therefore advisable to take heed and avoid synthetic chemical vitamin C in the form of Ascorbic Acid.
As Dr. Robert Thompson, in speaking of synthetic ascorbic acid, states in his book The Calcium Lie 2, “Ascorbic Acid is just the wrapper, not the whole vitamin.”
We need the whole vitamin, not just the synthetic wrapper!
Written by Douglas K. Johnson – Life, Health and Wellness Coach, Herbalist, Nutritionist, and Author
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