Debunking popular myths about vitamin C
06/03/2019 // Edsel Cook // Views

There are many myths about vitamin C that spread by word of mouth, text, and the internet. These mistaken notions blind people to the health benefits of ascorbic acid – which is another name for vitamin C – so they need to be busted.

The difference between natural and synthetic vitamin C

The first myth is that there is a difference between natural vitamin C and its synthetic equivalent. The concern is understandable – artificial versions of natural sweeteners can cause serious illnesses.

Natural vitamin C comes from food sources like citrus fruits. Synthetic vitamin C, on the other hand, is produced in a laboratory.

While the two methods of production are quite different, they result in the same end product. A comparison of the structure of naturally-extracted vitamin C molecules and their synthesized counterparts shows no difference between them.

Instead of worrying about nonexistent differences between natural and synthetical vitamin C, one must evaluate the purity of the vitamin itself. The process must produce a very high number of the intended molecule – say, ascorbic acid. At the same time, the process must minimize or eliminate traces of any other particle. (Related: Vitamin C levels modulate anxiety and anorexia – study.)

Synthetic vitamin C is restricted to D-form molecules

Vitamin C is a chiral molecule. It exists in two forms or "enantiomers" that are reflections of each other. They are made up of the same chemicals, but their 3D configurations are very different.

In specific scenarios, enantiomers achieve the same effect. However, other situations show that a molecule will trigger one effect while its mirror image self will lead to a very different result.


Think of it as how the left and right hands of a healthy person are effectively identical but configured in different ways. Furthermore, a left-handed person will not be good at performing tasks with his right hand and vice versa.

The L-form of vitamin C is the most active enantiomer in nature. Understandably, the molecules in citrus and other natural sources assume the L-form.

The myth here is that synthetic ascorbic acid is always the much less active D-form. But the synthetic approach can produce both the L-form and the D-form of vitamin C.

Vitamin C from GMO corn and the "vitamin C complex"

The third myth concerns the safety of vitamin C taken from genetically modified organism (GMO) crops. The toxicity of GMOs comes from their high concentrations of the chemical pesticide glyphosate. In particular, GMO corn is the most significant source of food-derived vitamin C.

Glyphosate and other toxins harm the body by causing oxidative stress that damages cells and tissues. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that stops the oxidation process and heals any damage caused by toxins.

Dr. Thomas E. Levy of the University of California, San Diego claims that purified vitamin C from GMO corn is powerful enough to counteract its origin. However, since it is better to be safe than sorry, get vitamin C from certified organic sources.

Last but certainly not least is the myth about the "vitamin C complex." Proponents claim that the natural form of the vitamin is a complex made up of many compounds. They go on to say that ascorbic acid is one of those compounds and is only able to achieve any health effects when it is part of the complex.

As mentioned earlier, vitamin C is a molecule, not a complex. And ascorbic acid is just another name for the vitamin. So is ascorbate, which is the second favorite target of vitamin C myths. So please spread these real facts about vitamin C.

Sources include:

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