VITAMIN C: what do you need to know about this molecule?

If there is a single molecule of Vitamin C (symbolized: L-(+)-ascorbic acid or L-ascorbic acid for convenience), its origin may be multiple. Thus, we can find:

Natural vitamin C

True natural vitamin C is found in some fresh fruits and vegetables in the form of L-ascorbic acid. For example, everyone knows that oranges and kiwis have a high content of vitamin C, but as a food supplement, the best known and most concentrated fruit is Acerola.

To offer natural vitamin C in capsules, tablets or powder, manufacturers make an extract that concentrates the active ingredient. For example, the acerolas on the market are made from an extract titrated at 17% of vitamin C. Thus, 1 gram of acerola (1000 mg of Acerola) provides 170 mg of natural ascorbic acid.

The Vitamin C called bio-identical or identical to natural

It is a synthetic vitamin C that is identical to the natural form: L-ascorbic acid. This synthetic acid is made from the fermentation of cereals (mostly corn). It has a natural origin, but we cannot say that it is a natural ascorbic acid since it is the result of various bio-chemical transformations.

There are different qualities of L-ascorbic acid on the market. More than 95% of the world’s production comes from China, with the rest coming from Scotland or the USA.

The quality criteria are as follows:

  • Purity: the manufacturing process must result in a 100% ascorbic acid product, i.e. 100% pure.
  • It must be L-ascorbic acid Dextrogyre, the only form that is in plants and which has a vitamin power. The levorotatory form is not identical.
  • Traces of solvents: the solvents used in its manufacture must be undetectable.
  • Traces of toxicants: pesticides and heavy metals from maize cultivation must also be undetectable in the analyses.

Synthetic L-ascorbic acid is of great interest. Indeed, it has the same effect as natural vitamin C extracted from fruits. This was confirmed by a 2013 study (A Randomised Cross-Over Pharmacokinetic Bioavailability Study of Synthetic versus Kiwifruit-Derived Vitamin C).

So ascorbic acid: Vitamin C or not?

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, playing an important role in the metabolism of humans and many other mammals. Chemically speaking, it is L-ascorbic acid (Dextrogyra), one of the two forms of ascorbic acid.

The second form of ascorbic acid is D-ascorbic acid (Levogyre), which does not exist in fruits, and is not a vitamin.

Ascorbic acid exists in the two forms below:

  • (5R)-5-[(1S)-1,2-dihydroxyethyl]-3,4-dihydroxyfuran-2-one or L-(+)-ascorbic acid, a natural form known as vitamin C (D-ascorbic acid molecule)
  • (5S)-5-[(1R)-1,2-dihydroxyethyl]-3,4-dihydroxyfuran-2-one or D-(-)-ascorbic acid, (levorotatory molecule)

The answer becomes obvious: Vitamin C is always ascorbic acid, but ascorbic acid is not always vitamin C.

Vitamin C is present in different forms in food supplements. It is sometimes difficult to find a way to consume the product that suits us best, especially since the claims on the packaging are sometimes difficult to decipher.

Thus, for example: Based on Vitamin C, 100% ascorbic acid does not mean that the product contains 100% Vitamin C.

A careful selection of ingredients is required, right from the formulation and the marketing brief.

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