While generally, unprocessed foods are healthier than manufactured ones, science is often successful at manufacturing exact replicas of micronutrients (like vitamin C). Synthesization in a lab, rather than through natural biological processes in God’s nature, does not automatically make something unhealthy or inferior. Manufactured versions of naturally occurring micronutrients can still be considered “natural” when they integrate seamlessly with natural biological processes. The evidence suggests that such is the case with vitamin C.
Every so often people tell me that synthesized vitamin C is not as effective as naturally occurring vitamin C or vitamin C “complexes.” All current studies, however, indicate that synthesized vitamin C and naturally occurring vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) are identical; they have no difference in molecular structure or bioavailability.
It’s true that vitamin C occurs in plants as part of a nutrient “complex” and that the nutrients in that complex may provide additional benefits, but the ascorbic acid component in the complex is the same as synthesized ascorbic acid. Moreover, most mammals (other than humans) are capable of producing vitamin C internally, and when they do, it’s as pure L-ascorbic acid, not a complex of any other nutrients. The L-ascorbic acid that these mammals produce is effective at carrying out all the important functions of vitamin C, like collagen and carnitine synthesis.
That being said, it’s clear that vitamin C isn’t the only health promoting factor in vitamin C rich foods. Vitamin C in whole foods works synergistically with a number of other nutrients for increased health benefits. For example, a study that compared vitamin C supplementation to consumption of orange juice with an equal amount of Vitamin C found that orange juice provided superior anti-oxidant protection. Whole foods like oranges contain hundreds of healthy phytonutrients that researchers are only just starting to understand. There’s no debate that a diet rich in whole foods offers tremendous benefits over a diet of processed foods that depends heavily on micronutrient supplementation. Yet, in and of itself, synthesized vitamin C is exactly the same as natural occurring vitamin C and functions the same in the body.
Synthesized ascorbic acid can have a valid place in a nature-based diet. Vitamin C supplementation is an affordable and easy way to ensure that the body is getting enough of one of the most important nutrients for optimum health. In addition to being a powerful anti-oxidant, Vitamin C is essential for a healthy cardiovascular system, normal metabolic function, and collagen production (one of the most abundant proteins in the body). When applied topically, synthesized vitamin C is also affective at reducing UV ray induced skin damage. The benefits of supplemental vitamin C, specifically, are also supported by an ever growing number of studies. Thus, when it comes to my personal health, I’ll keep eating a nature-based diet, high in natural sources of vitamin C, as well as supplementing with at least 500 mg of vitamin C daily.
Originally posted 2013-03-13 23:00:47.