Another Synthetic Item to Avoid: Ascorbic Acid

are what you eat

Welcome to Food-for-Thought Wednesday! Today we are going to consider ascorbic acid, a synthetic chemical you don’t want to be made of! Most sources equate vitamin C with ascorbic acid, as though they were the same thing. I was surprised to learn they’re not. As reference [1] explains, ascorbic acid is a manmade, synthetic chemical; it is an isolate, a fraction, a distillate of the natural vitamin C that is present in fruits, vegetables and herbs. In addition to ascorbic acid, real vitamin C must include rutin, bioflavonoids, Factor K, Factor J, Factor P, tyrosinase, ascorbinogen, and other components. In addition, mineral co-factors must be available in proper amounts. If any of these parts are missing, there is no vitamin C, no vitamin activity. As reference [2] explains, vitamin-C complex is an essential vitamin complex that humans cannot manufacture in our bodies. Without it we age prematurely, because it is necessary for the formation of collagen, which is why it is so important for creating healthy, beautiful skin. It is also extremely important in wound healing and blood vessel health (arteries, veins and capillaries). It is also a powerful antioxidant that scavenges disease-causing free radicals, and is famous as a powerful immune booster for treating colds and influenza.

Interestingly, over 90% of ascorbic acid in this country is manufactured at a facility in Nutley, New Jersey, owned by Hoffman-LaRoche, one of the world’s biggest drug manufacturers [1]. Here ascorbic acid is made from a process involving cornstarch and volatile acids. Most U.S. vitamin companies then buy the bulk ascorbic acid from this single facility. After that, marketing takes over. Each company makes its own labels, its own claims, and its own formulations, each one claiming to have the superior form of vitamin C, even though it all came from the same place, and it’s really not vitamin C at all. The net is that FRACTIONATED = SYNTHETIC = CRYSTALLINE = FAKE. Remember, the word synthetic means two things:  manmade and occurs nowhere in nature.

What to do?

First, read the labels for the foods, drinks and vitamins that you buy. Just because you are in Whole Foods does not mean you will automatically avoid ascorbic acid. For example, I saw ascorbic acid listed as an ingredient in Evolution Defense Up juice there, which is pricey and marketed as cold-pressed, nutritious and delicious. Yikes.

The best vitamins are called whole food vitamins, such as by New Chapter. Whole food vitamins are obtained by taking a vitamin-rich plant, removing the water and the fiber in a cold vacuum process, free of chemicals, and then packaging for stability. The entire vitamin complex in this way can be captured intact, retaining its “functional and nutritional integrity.” Upon ingestion, the body is not required to draw on its own reserves in order to complete any missing elements from the vitamin complex. There are about 110 companies who sell vitamins in the US and less than 5 of them use whole food vitamins. The reason is simple: whole food vitamins are expensive to make. A few of the largest pharmaceutical firms in the world mass produce synthetic vitamins for the vast majority of these 110 “vitamin” companies, who then put their own label on them, and every company claims theirs is the best! It’s ridiculous!

Synthetic food, synthetic vitamins…they’re all bad!

In closing, I once again refer to Michael Pollan’s Eater’s Manifesto from In Defense of Food:

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

No mention of synthetic crap. Sounds like outstanding advice.

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6 thoughts on “Another Synthetic Item to Avoid: Ascorbic Acid

  1. Food based vitamins are not only more expensive to manufacture they also require you to take more capsules or pills. This is another reason manufacturers (even those who are professional grade that sell only to clinicians) all use many synthetics. If you eat a diet rich in organic brightly colored vegetables and fruits you’ll be getting ample natural vitamin C with all the needed co-factors. I have never been a big advocate of multivitamins for this reason.

  2. Mike says:

    Extraction and isolation of any “nutrient” is not nutrition, whether synthetic or not. Eat food. Vitamin supplements of any kind are not food.

  3. Dr David Hird says:

    I agree wholeheartedly that the nutrients,(the chemistry for our bodies) should be derived from a balanced diet of whole foods, free of chemicals & pesticides and grown in bio-dynamically healthy soil. As holistic Physicians though, when we need to treat serious illnesses without recourse to drugs & harmful medicines we need high doses to get results & this is the only practical alternative we are given.

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