Vitamin C: Natural Vs Synthetic

Many of us have been trained to think that natural is always better, and perhaps, generally speaking, this is a good rule of thumb to follow. Generally true, however, is not absolutely true. This fact becomes abundantly clear when looking at vitamins. In past posts we’ve compared the synthetic and natural variations of vitamins A and B, and this week we’ll take a look at vitamin C.

Believe it or not, all vitamins, whether they are delivered via a supplement or fortified in food–synthetic or natural– are made in a lab. A synthetic vitamin is one that has been wholly made in a lab, and among them there are two types – those that are molecularly identical to their natural counterpart, and those that are not. Natural vitamins, meanwhile are sourced from plants, fruits, animals, and minerals, and then refined and processed in a lab. To be worthy of the label “natural” a vitamin supplement need contain only 10% plant or fruit derived ingredients. The other 90% could very well be synthetic.

The question remains: which is better?

To answer that, we’ll need to look at 3 different ways to get vitamin C – via food, via a whole foods supplement, and via a wholly synthetic vitamin.

Vitamin C From Food vs Supplements

Most will not be surprised to hear that getting vitamins from our food – if possible – remains best. Yet a September 2013 study published in Nutrients journal had some surprising results on the topic when it comes to Vitamin C: experts gave 36 men 50 mg of Vitamin C either in the form of kiwi, or in supplements containing vitamin C. The result? There were no significant differences in the amounts of vitamin C measured in body fluids and tissues, regardless of the form of vitamin C they took. Two other studies also found no significant difference in absorption rates of supported that natural food sources of vitamin C were not better than synthetic sources.

The Difficulty With Food

Vitamin C is found in many foods, mostly fruits and veggies, such as:

green peppers
raw and cooked leafy greens (turnip greens, spinach)
winter squash

If you eat your 5-9 servings of fruits and veggies, you’re bound to get enough vitamin C, right? Maybe. The problem is that vitamin C is subject to change when exposed to light, air and heat. So, when our vitamin C-packed foods are cooked, they lose some (and sometimes more than some) of their vitamin C power. Further, a landmark study published in 2004 in the Journal of American College of Nutrition studied U.S. Department of Agriculture nutritional data from both 1950 and 1999 for 43 different vegetables and fruits, finding “reliable declines” in the amount of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2), and vitamin C over the past half century. Today’s fruits and veggies were found to contain 30% less vitamin C than your grandparents’ fruits and vegetables.

This is not to suggest one forego the fruits and vegetables. Even though many may be less nutrient dense than those from a generation ago, a bite of broccoli still contains not only vitamin C but also vitamin A, calcium, vitamin K, iron, and several other nutrients. Each fruit and vegetable is, in its own way, a multivitamin.

Natural vs. Synthetic Vitamin C: Supplements

Ascorbic acid is the chemical name for vitamin C and gets that name from the disease it treats – scurvy (a signifies no, and scorbutus is the latin word for scurvy). Many animals can produce their own vitamin C and so do not need to get it from food, but humans require it as part of our nutrition. It primarily comes in two forms – L-ascorbic acid and D-ascorbic acid. The L variety, which can come in both natural (found in fruits and vegetables, and also whole food vitamins) and synthetic forms (found in most other supplements), is synonymous with vitamin C and carries all its benefits, while the D carries identical antioxidant properties but not the vitamin C content of L and is not used in any form of vitamin supplement.* Between the natural and synthetic varieties of L-ascorbic acid there are no known differences in how they affect our bodies. The l-ascorbic acid found in an orange is the same l-ascorbic acid found in a whole food vitamin C tablet is the same as the l-ascorbic acid found in a gummy multivitamin you bought at Walgreens. Their vitamin C content is all chemically and molecularly identical. D-ascorbic acid, meanwhile, does not exist in nature and, though chemically identical to its counterparts, is molecularly different. It is this molecular difference that makes D-ascorbic acid impossible to be synthesized by your body and unusable in a vitamin supplement.

Ascorbic acid supplements may cause an upset stomach in a few people. For these, “mineral ascorbate” forms of ascorbic acid may be recommended. These alternate forms are buffered, less acidic, and potentially easier on the stomach. Research, however, is inconclusive as to whether or not these alternate forms of vitamin C upset the stomach any less than ascorbic acid for those who are sensitive (if ascorbic acid is causing difficulty for you, your healthcare practitioner can help you find the right solution).

Vitamin C and Your Health

It is relatively rare to be outright deficient in vitamin C, and the problem seems to be getting better — according to the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), covering the period 1988 to 1994, 13% of the US population was found to be vitamin C deficient. According to the CDC’s analysis of the fourth NHANES report covering the period up to 2004, vitamin C status improved, and the prevalence of vitamin C deficiency was significantly lower. According to the authors, recent vitamin C supplement use and improved diet contributed to the better numbers. Vitamin C insufficiency, however, is more prevalent.

Vitamin C remains crucial to:

growth and repair of tissues*
making skin, tendons and blood vessels*
helping wounds heal faster*
keeping bones and teeth healthy*
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and does not carry the same risks of overdose toxicity that fat-soluble vitamins (like vitamin A) carry, so doubling down through a multivitamin and through diet may not be a bad idea. Also vital is the quality of whatever you ingest–in vitamin OR food form. When considering supplements, look for the “NSF Good Manufacturing Processes (GMP) certification.” NSF is a not-profit company who administers the GMP certification to those facilities that meet only the highest standards for supplement manufacturing. Also, make sure to check with your healthcare practitioner to see if adding supplements to your diet is right for you.

by Diane Dean



13 Surprising Benefits Of Cumin

The health benefits of cumin include its ability to aid in digestion, improve immunity and treat piles, insomnia, respiratory disorders, asthma, bronchitis, common cold, lactation, anemia, skin disorders, boils and cancer. cumin benefits










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Alcohol Vs. Liver

The liver is our largest internal organ and it has 500 different roles, including the breakdown of food into energy and helping the body get rid of waste products and fight infections – particularly in the bowel. And yet, when your liver is damaged, you generally won’t know about it – until things get serious.

Drinking alcohol can increase your risk of developing liver disease and cause irreparable damage to this very important part of your body. In fact, alcohol is a major cause of the 25% increase in deaths from liver disease in England over the last decade (from 9,231 in 2001 to 11,575 in 2009).

Overall, alcohol-related liver disease accounts for well over a third (37%) of liver disease deaths. And figures show victims of liver disease are getting younger – more than one in 10 of deaths of people in their 40s are from liver disease, most of them from alcochol-related liver disease.
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Perfect Watermelon

Nothing is as refreshing as the sweet, juicy taste of a watermelon on a summer day. However, a watermelon can only be as good as the one you choose from the market. You may think that choosing a great watermelon is up to chance, but there are actually several ways to spot the perfect watermelon.

1. Field Spot

When viewing watermelons, the first thing that sticks out are those weird white spots. However, these spots (called field spots)are quite natural. The field spot is the area where the watermelon rested on the ground. While every watermelon has a field spot, the best watermelons have creamy-yellow or even orange-yellow spots. Go for the gold.

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2. Webbing

The webbing of a watermelon indicates the amount of times that bees touched the flower. The more pollination, the sweeter the watermelon is.

3. Boy or Girl?

You may have not known this, but watermelons have genders. The ‘boy’ watermelons, are taller and more elongated, while the “girl” watermelons are more round and stout. The boy watermelons are more watery, while the girl watermelons are sweeter.

4. Size

Our common sense tells us that bigger is better. So we may think that we should get our money’s worth and get the biggest watermelon we can haul onto our carts, but in reality, the best watermelons are average-sized. Don’t go for too small or too big, but just right. Size matters.

5. Tail

The tail of a watermelon indicates its ripeness. A green tail indicates that it was picked too soon and will not taste as good. Go for the watermelons that have dried tails for the best taste.

You can’t judge a book by its cover, but you can judge a watermelon by its shell.

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Most of us tend to be more acidic than alkaline. One of the first steps toward better health is a body that’s more alkaline. As the acid-alkaline balance is essential, with so many bodily functions occurring only at a certain level of acidity or alkalinity, the body is constantly striving to achieve a state of equilibrium. Just a small change in pH can have a profound effect on body functioning. Continue reading

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