What is it?

It’s not just in your orange juice! Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that is essential for human survival. The human body does not produce vitamin C, so it must be obtained from the food we eat. Dietary sources of vitamin C include various fruits and vegetables, particularly citrus fruits such as oranges. Red peppers actually have an even higher amount of vitamin C than oranges do gram per gram, and kiwis top them all with the highest density of vitamin C in a food item.

vitamin C supplements

Vitamin C is well-known for its effects on preventing scurvy. The link between vitamin C and scurvy was established in 1747 when James Lind studied several treatments for scurvy, and only lemons and oranges were helpful in preventing the disease. It wasn’t until 1933 that the exact chemical structure of vitamin C was discovered by Norman Howarth.(1)

How is it made?

Most vitamin C supplements are produced through the bacterial fermentation of sugar, called the Reichstein process.(2) Various sugar sources can be used, but the large majority of the source material of vitamin C is derived from corn (since it is a very inexpensive source of sugar), but there is no corn protein in the final products. Vitamin C is one of the ingredients that doesn’t differ too much in how it’s made from product to product, since the Reichstein process, or modifications of the process, are still the predominant method of production.

Many vitamin C products also include bioflavonoids from sources like rose hips or citrus fruits to replicate the variety of ingredients that are found in fruits and vegetables with naturally occuring vitamin C. While the large majority of the vitamin C on the market is chemically derived, rose hip extract and citrus fruit vitamin C can be suitable for patients who prefer non-synthetic vitamin C supplements.

In which forms is it available?

There are numerous kinds of vitamin C supplements on the market: tablets, powders, capsules, lozenges… you name it, there’s one available. As mentioned, most of the different forms of vitamin C still come from a similar source. The majority are derived from the Reichstein process, or a similar method to produce the vitamin C, so there is a lot of parity on the market when it comes to vitamin C.

Vitamin C is well-absorbed orally at lower doses, but absorption decreases as the single dose of vitamin C increases. Approximately 87% of a 30 mg oral dose is absorbed, 80% of a 100 mg dose is absorbed, 63% of a 500 mg dose is absorbed, and less than 50% of a 1250 mg dose is absorbed. This is due to the fact that vitamin C is transported from the intestines into the blood by a transporter that gets full quickly.(3) This is one of the reasons that vitamin C supplements are commonly recommended in divided doses, in sustained release/timed release forms, or in new liposomal preparations.

A newer form of vitamin C on the market is liposomal vitamin C. Rather than being just a powder, tablet or capsule that dissolves in water, liposomal vitamin C is suspended in a fatty cream or gel. In one recent study(4), liposomal vitamin C was able to raise vitamin C levels 50% higher than standard vitamin C at the same dose. Most liposomal vitamin C products are made with an ingredient called choline, which is also used to help liver and brain health.

Vitamin C supplements Fullscript

How does it work?

Vitamin C has an important role in skin health through collagen formation. Collagen is the protein-rich component of skin, hair, and nails to ensure they grow healthy and strong. Vitamin C’s function in the skin is twofold:

  • As a cofactor for the proper alignment of the amino acids that make collagen (Proline and Lysine),
  • As an antioxidant to prevent damage to surrounding cells from the sun’s radiation or any other noxious stimuli.

Vitamin C is so important to skin health that there are higher levels of vitamin C in your skin than there are in your blood!(5)

Vitamin C is also able to help your body better process neurotransmitters as well, including the neurohormones responsible for mood balance and overall brain function. Furthermore, vitamin C has a role in the metabolism of norepinephrine, but also helps to keep scavenge for free radicals in the brains, much in the same way it does in the skin.(6)

As an essential vitamin, vitamin C needs to be consumed in order for the body to be able to use it. The Reichstein process that was mentioned above is not a reaction that can happen in the body.

There are many other essential nutrients (some amino acids, all minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids are some others) that the body can’t make on its own, which is why they are often found as dietary supplements. Without a dietary plan that provides for all of the essential nutrients, some people may end up having low or even deficient levels of certain ingredients, which can lead to negative health outcomes.

How can Vitamin C help?

As one of the most well researched and well-used nutrients on the market, there is a myriad of uses for vitamin C. Most notably, vitamin C is used for preventing and treating scurvy, as well as preventing vitamin C deficiency in people with gastrointestinal diseases and those on chronic total parenteral nutrition, or chronic hemodialysis. Vitamin C is also used for increasing iron absorption from the gastrointestinal tract, as well as reducing the healing rate of wounds, burns, fractures, ulcers, pressure sores, and sunburn.

Vitamin C is even effective when applied to the skin in skin conditions, protecting against free radicals and pollutants, and for improving photo-aged skin.(7) Its effect on free radicals is present because vitamin C is an antioxidant. It has a particular affinity for the brain, skin, and eyes, and is often found in combination products meant to protect these organs and tissues.

As mentioned above, the chemical name of vitamin C is ascorbic acid. As an acid, this is part of the reason that vitamin C helps iron absorption. By making the stomach more acidic, the iron from food and supplements is more readily absorbed into the bloodstream.

What are the side effects?

Since vitamin C is an acid, it can wear away at the surface of your tooth enamel. Vitamin C often comes in the form of a chewable tablet and it’s this form of vitamin C that’s most commonly linked to enamel erosion due to the contact time in your mouth.

The other adverse effects of vitamin C are dose-related. The most common adverse effects include gastrointestinal effects like nausea, vomiting, heartburn, abdominal cramps, gastrointestinal obstruction or diarrhea, as well as fatigue, flushing, headache, insomnia, and sleepiness. In some patients, vitamin C may also cause kidney stones.

Most Recommended on Fullscript

Vitamin C w/Bioflavonoids 500 mg by Vital Nutrients

Vitamin C w/Bioflavonoids 500 mg by Vital Nutrients

Vitamin C with Bioflavonoids combines two powerful synergistic nutrients to enhance immune function and antioxidant activity. This formula contains a 55-60% Citrus Bioflavonoid Complex. It supports healthy vein function and strength of capillaries.

Optimal Liposomal Vitamin C Seeking Health

Optimal Liposomal Vitamin C Seeking Health

Optimal Liposomal Vitamin C by Seeking Health provides 1000 mg of vitamin C (as sodium ascorbate and ascorbic acid) in a great-tasting liposomal liquid form. Vitamin C is needed by the body to support the immune system, connective tissue and skin, and to recycle glutathione. In the body, as an antioxidant, Vitamin C may help to protect cells from damage caused by free radicals.

Buffered Vitamin C 1000 mg by Integrative Therapeutics

An excellent source of antioxidant support, Buffered Vitamin C uses pure crystalline ascorbic acid to supply 1 gram of vitamin C in each capsule. This well-tolerated vitamin C formula supports a healthy immune system response and helps maintain healthy skin, collagen, and connective tissues

  1. Carpenter, Kenneth J. “The Discovery of Vitamin C.” Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism, vol. 61, no. 3, Nov. 2012, pp. 259–64.
  2. Hancock RD, Viola R. “Biotechnological approaches for L-ascorbic acid production.” Trends Biotechnol. 2002 Jul;20(7):299-305.
  3. Jacob, Robert A., and Gity Sotoudeh. “Vitamin C Function and Status in Chronic Disease.” Nutrition in Clinical Care: An Official Publication of Tufts University, vol. 5, no. 2, Mar. 2002, pp. 66–74.
  4. Davis, Janelle L., et al. “Liposomal-Encapsulated Ascorbic Acid: Influence on Vitamin C Bioavailability and Capacity to Protect Against Ischemia-Reperfusion Injury.” Nutrition and Metabolic Insights, vol. 9, June 2016, pp. 25–30.
  5. Pullar, Juliet M., et al. “The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health.” Nutrients, vol. 9, no. 8, Aug. 2017, doi:10.3390/nu9080866.
  6. Harrison, Fiona E., and James M. May. “Vitamin C Function in the Brain: Vital Role of the Ascorbate Transporter SVCT2.” Free Radical Biology & Medicine, vol. 46, no. 6, Mar. 2009, pp. 719–30.
  7. Office of Dietary Supplements – Vitamin C. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-HealthProfessional/. Accessed 6 Mar. 2018.