Wellness Articles

The Vitamin C Lie

The Lie: Ascorbic Acid is Vitamin C.

Let’s set this record straight - ascorbic acid is NOT a synonym for Vitamin C.

But I’ll bet you hadn’t heard that Vitamin C is a complex that ascorbic acid is just a small part of. Because I hadn’t either. Even the Nutrition 101 textbooks sell us the Vitamin C lie by telling us the ascorbic acid story.  

The ascorbic acid story goes a little something like this:
Scurvy was a problem in sailors when they were on ships for long stretches without fresh fruits.  Someone noticed that eating citrus fruits prevented this illness, so scientists studied the citrus with the intention of isolating the compound that prevented scurvy.  They found ascorbic acid and called it Vitamin C.

(And reductionist nutrition was born)

What they did was like you going to look for how chickens are made and coming across an egg.  Since the egg shell is the only part of the egg you can see, you logically conclude that chickens must come from the egg shell.  But as we know, the egg shell is just the outer layer that protects the actually important egg. Ascorbic acid is the same - it is simply the antioxidant “eggshell” that protects the more valuable vitamin C complex of bioflavonoids, rutin and tyrosinase.  But since only ascorbic acid was documented as the preventer of scurvy, only ascorbic acid made the cut to be an essential nutrient for which we have a Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA).  This is why you only ever see “Ascorbic Acid” or “Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)” on the labels of supplements.  Your supplements only contain the eggshell.

This is a problem because you are missing nutrients from the Vitamin C complex that are good for you.  But the bigger problem comes from our body’s innate desire to make things whole.  When we take in so many eggshells without the white or yolk, the body actually gives up its stores of those whites and yolks to make the egg whole. 

This means taking mega doses of ascorbic acid is not just not helping you, it is actively depleting you of the real vitamin C. 

The Real Vitamin C

  • Rutin – used to be called Vitamin P, but it didn’t make the cut to be considered a necessary vitamin.  Important for collagen formation and vascular integrity and highly recommended to those that bruise easily, have crêpe like skin, or bleeding gums

  • Bioflavinoids – antioxidants our body actually uses (compared to ascorbic acid that is better used as an antioxidant to keep the rest of these nutrients fresh).  Important for inflammation and the immune system

  • Tyrosinase – a copper containing enzyme that acts as an adrenal activator.  Important for adrenal health

 The injustice in this all is that high dose ascorbic acid is being heavily marketed to the adrenal depleted and immune challenged population – the teachers, flight attendants, college students, etc.  The exact population that can absolutely not afford to be losing a key adrenal activator! 

Pick a Winner

  • Get your Vitamin C complex from real food, or at least supplements that have real food in their ingredients.  There should be some sort of fruit, usually acerola berry, or other food like buckwheat or alfalfa.  If you want to get real Wise Traditions with this, adrenal glands are actually the best source, but those aren’t usually in the ingredients of grocery store supplements

  • Beware of any supplement, even one with real ingredients, that boasts above 100% RDA of ascorbic acid.  Since ascorbic acid is just the egg shell, it exists in comparatively smaller quantities than the rest of the complex.  So if you see unnaturally high levels of ascorbic acid, odds are it is unnatural. Even quality companies that start with real ingredients are tempted to add in synthetic ascorbic acid to up their RDA % numbers to compete with the rest of the synthetic market

So, my savvy consumers of health food and information, please keep a discerning eye out for those products that boast the immune boosting properties of mega doses of “Vitamin C,” because now you know the truth about the real Vitamin C and the dangers of the ascorbic acid eggshell.

In health,

PS - I did a facebook live about this a while back if you prefer listening to reading ;)
Watch it here >