When you think of feeling better or fighting off sickness, the first thing that might pop into your mind is, “I’ll take some vitamin C”. You drink some orange juice, maybe an Emergen-C packet, or even take a few tablets of bottled vitamin C in order to chase away the symptoms of an impending cold, flu, or feeling of general fatigue and malaise. Taking between 50-2000 mg during a few days leaves you believing that, “Wow, that vitamin C really helped kick that sick feeling to the curb!”
Vitamin C, whether taken in low or high doses, coupled with its reported health benefiting properties, has been quite controversial for the past several decades and according to the University of California Berkley, no other vitamin has been so extensively researched since 1932. And as of today, despite all the studies, vitamin C still remains a mystery with a divided consensus. The question remains, does it help?
Believe or not, there are two schools of thought regarding water soluble vitamin C also known as L-ascorbic acid or ascorbate. Humans require a regular intake of vitamin C (30-95 mg daily depending on age) because our bodies do not produce nor store this vitamin, however excrete it very quickly. Vitamin C is imperative for maintenance of all the body tissues, proper growth, and wound healing.
New data about the positive effects of vitamin C on the immune system have been introduced in the last several years. Immune cells contain active vitamin C transporter molecules within their membranes that actively pump the vitamin into the cells when more vitamin C is necessary, especially phagocytes and T-cells. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a vitamin C deficiency results in a reduced resistance against certain pathogens, while a higher supply enhances several immune system parameters.
On the other side, a Cochrane Collaboration review has concluded that vitamin C has shown no consistent effect on the duration or severity of helping the common cold symptoms after the initial onset. Although, evidence suggests that it could be justified in people exposed to brief periods of severe physical exercise or cold environments. Whereas, Dr. H.K. Bakhru states, “vitamin C helps prevent and cure the common cold and protects an individual against infections”. It is evident that one community believes it does not help much with the prevention and dissipation of cold and flu symptoms and an increase of immunological factors while the other faction believes it does.
A recent controlled trial study showed that vitamin C deficiency has been linked with frequency and duration of colds coupled with immune system defects, and that there are measurable health advantages associated with vitamin C supplementation. Taking into account that if vitamin C introduced into the body will increase immunity, the next question is which form of vitamin C should be taken?
Here is the secret: few people differentiate between the natural vitamin C which you find in fruits and vegetables (citrus, acerola cherries, greens), and synthetic ascorbic vitamin C present in most energizing drinks, vitamin packets, and vitamin C Bottles that you can buy at your local pharmacy or health food store. Because the two are usually marketed side by side as being one in the same, most people are led to believe that if the label says all natural vitamin C, it must be food based, therefore real and wholesome. However, there is a difference. As O. Hofmleker states,”in its natural form vitamin C has a different design than the synthetic vitamin. The natural vitamin C molecule never occurs in isolated form, but rather accompanied by complex nutrients which apparently are essential for vitamin C’s bioactivity. The synthetic ascorbate however, appears in an isolated form, often in overly high concentrations which the human body hasn’t evolved to properly utilize. Human biology has never evolved to accept synthetic vitamins”.
Synthetic vitamin C was introduced in the 1930’s into the market causing all the rage. However, with its inception it pushed the focus of natural wholesome vitamin C found in foods to the back shelf making it a thing of the past. Since then the new trend has been this synthetic ascorbic acid reportedly being linked to all sorts of health benefits.[–– ] It was also believed to be more readily available year round instead of its natural whole food counterpart. The interesting thing is after so many decades and numerous studies conducted, it has actually been shown that ascorbic acid causes potential damage to health. A recent study on vitamin C (Am J Clin Nutr; Jan 2008) showed adults taking the synthetic version had serious side effects and significant adverse effects on the antioxidant system. Dr. Victor Herbert, professor of medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York has said, “vitamin C in supplement forms mobilizes harmless ferric iron stored in the body and converts it to harmful ferrous iron, which induces damage to the heart and other organs. In addition, unlike the vitamin C naturally present in foods like orange juice, vitamin C as a supplement is not an antioxidant.”
So in order to take the most optimal vitamin C, you should kick the synthetic vitamin C (which is usually ascorbic acid derived from genetically modified corn) and start ingesting either real fruits and vegetables or food-based vitamin C supplements with the highest amount of real vitamin C and bio-available nutrients. Ideally, vitamin C should be ingested in its natural wholesome form in order to give its all encompassing health benefiting properties in the areas of cardiovascular and immunological health. According to NIH, those fruits are fresh, raw cantaloupes, citrus fruits, kiwis, mangos, papayas, pineapples, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, watermelon, and cranberries. In addition, peppers, kale, broccoli and peas are also great options.
Do yourself a favor and introduce natural vitamin C in the form of fruits and vegetables to your daily diet. It can be in the form of fresh squeezed juice, smoothies, or as fruit and vegetable snacks throughout the day. Your body will thank you. Not only will you be supplying yourself with a daily dose of natural vitamin C required for the proper running of your body and its systems, but you will be able to forgo the bottles, powder packets, and drinks filled with a synthetic vitamin that your body was not engineered to consume. The real vitamin C is in fruits and vegetables. Nothing else comes close to that nor can it mimic its intrinsic healing properties. Introduce the real vitamin C into your daily eating habits!