We're always told to take our vitamins and more often than not, the first vitamin that comes to mind is vitamin C. Many people, including myself, swallow down large doses of vitamin C because we have been told that it will fight infection and keep us healthy; so we grab at the jar of encapsulated ascorbic acid. But what is ascorbic acid? Well, in Latin it means anti-scurvy (a means "anti" and scorbutic means "scurvy").
But this is where things change because ascorbic acid isn't a vitamin at all and actually does nothing in the prevention or treatment of scurvy (scurvy is a disease caused by lack of vitamin C). The term "C complex" now has meaning and value. I'm hoping that this article will be the first in a series about common vitamins and uncommon knowledge.
Proper Use & Functions
Vitamin C is essential for the manufacture of collagen (a type of protein) and in the process of wound of healing. It helps make a healthy immune system and nervous system, aids in adrenal hormone production, and is an antioxidant. Vitamin C is absorbed in the intestine in limited amounts as the absorption method can become saturated leaving excess vitamin C to be excreted.
It is water soluble and only a small amount, about 4 grams, is stored in the body thus it should be taken every 3-4 hours. Marginal deficiencies play a role in the development of cancer, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, lowered immunity, diabetes, and cataracts. Severe deficiency leads to scurvy which has symptoms of bleeding gums, joint pain, easy bruising, dry skin, fluid retention, and depression. The negligible RDA for men is 60mg per day.
The controversy began in the 1930's when vitamin C was first discovered. If you ask the medical community they'll say vitamin C is nothing more than ascorbic acid, it being the isolated "vitamin". Doctor Royal Lee, considered the world's greatest nutritionist, was, as far back as the 1940's, providing evidence that the anti-infection vitamin C complex does not consist simply of ascorbic acid; it isn't even part of it.
Rather, ascorbic acid is what protects and preserves acting as the "shell" of the vitamin C complex. The discoverer of vitamin C, Dr. Albert Szent Gyorgi, stated that ascorbic acid was not the active anti-scurvy factor of the C complex. Dr. Gyorgi reported that with the isolated ascorbic acid he could not stop the various characteristics of scurvy which were reliably cured with the so-called "impure"vitamin C from food sources. Later a factor of the C complex was discovered and dubbed rutin.
This new compound fell under what would prove to be a large inventory of other natural compounds referred to as vitamin P. Doctor Royal Lee described vitamins as being "biological wheels within wheels" and used the term synergist to portray the functional interdependence of biologically related nutrient factors. In other words, vitamins do not function in a chemically isolated form. In the case of vitamin C, rutin would be a synergist of the ascorbic acid as well as the rest of the C complex.
According to Doctor Lee, the C complex consists of P factors, which enhance capillary and vessel wall strength, and J factors, which increase the oxygen carrying capacity of blood. As well, there is an enzyme in the center of the C complex called tyrosinase that is an organic copper enzyme. These factors, and many others, are protected by the ascorbic acid shell which acts as an antioxidant guard. This tells us that using just the ascorbic acid, "the preserver of the C complex," would be like preparing a meal and eating the plate. Ascorbic acid does not provide therapeutic benefits without its synergists.
In nature though, when found with the C complex, ascorbic acid acts as a deliverer of sorts by carrying, protecting, and dropping the vitamin C into the body. Naturally, all of this is conveniently overlooked by the commercial providers of vitamins since the idea of synergists is not advantageous to production and profit. What they do is reduce a natural vitamin, "full of healing potential," to an isolated chemical duplicate that is easily synthesized in a lab and mass produced to be sold as a pill or food additive.
Foods Of Commerce
Surely you've seen breakfast cereals with the word "enriched" or "fortified" on the box and then a long list of vitamins on the side. All of those vitamins are synthetic duplicates of their natural counterparts. According to The Center of Science in the Public Interest's newsletter Nutrition Action, the only difference between the cereals Wheaties and Total is that approximately 1.5 cents-worth of synthetic vitamins are sprayed onto Total which is then sold for 65 cents more than Wheaties.
This basic idea can be applied to all "fortified" or "enriched" foods from bread to juice. All of these marketing techniques would be impossible if companies had to keep all of the synergistic components in a vitamin intact. Vitamins, for the sole purpose of easy profit and production, are given solitary chemical names and solitary chemical structures.
What The Body Wants
Our body doesn't necessarily want the ascorbic acid but rather it wants the C complex that is protected by it. The C complex is so much more important than the ascorbic acid that Dr. Lee called it the armor of the lymphocytes. Lymphocytes without the C complex will inevitably be impotent, fail in function, and be unable to fight and destroy infectious organisms.
The potency of lymphocytes seems to be linked to copper, the trace mineral found at the core of the tyrosinase enzyme. Dr. Lee said that organic copper, functioning as the tyrosinase enzyme, is the most active factor of the C complex. Medical research shows that a relationship exists between ineffective lymphocytes and copper deficiency.
These lymphocytes that lack copper as well as the ability to kill pathogens may actually be lacking the entire C complex which contains copper. Such ideas are ignored because vitamin C is not detected in lymphocytes. Why isn't vitamin C recognized on the lymphocyte? Well, researchers recognize vitamin C as ascorbic acid which is shed in the body and not taken up by the lymphocyte with the rest of the C complex. Thus no ascorbic acid equates to no vitamin C; according to them.
The pH Factor
So why is it that there are so many reports of plain ascorbic acid aiding in the fight against colds and infection? The answer is pH balance. Ascorbic acid lowers the pH of the blood making it more acidic. Since most pathogenic bacteria flourish in an alkaline environment, specifically in a pH of 7.4 and above, it is safe to say that many would have a hard time existing in a medium altered by ascorbic acid.
But if you're taking ascorbic acid to raise the pH of the blood, a cheaper and more effective method is to simply swallow two ounces of apple cider vinegar every day. Have you ever found yourself drawn to acidic vegetation? This is no mistake. Acidic vegetables were spread in abundance by nature giving us protection from pathogenic microorganisms. (Note: having an acidic body is not considered healthy and can lead to such things as cancer. One thing about organic acids is that they combine with other substances, break them down and actually convert to a lower pH. All of that is, however, an article in itself.)
In Closing, Some Alternatives
It is oft times forgotten that vitamins are defined using the word organic. Don't wait for "new" research to prove what is already so obvious, what is already easily discernable in nature. Ascorbic acid is not a vitamin and I suspect that many other pills out there, full of synthetic duplicates of actual vitamins, are severely lacking as is the case in replacing the vitamin C complex with ascorbic acid.
If you do decide to get vitamin C from somewhere other than a whole food source, be sure that what you buy is the entire vitamin C complex. Also, I have seen pulverized and dehydrated Acerola available on some websites. This would provide a very concentrated source of completely natural vitamin C with of its synergists intact.
Here Are Some Of The Best Food Sources Of The C Complex:
- 1 Large Red Bell Pepper: 283mg
- 1 cup of Blackcurrants: 202mg
- 1 Guava: 165mg
- 1 large Kiwifruit: 89mg
- 1 cup Broccoli: 58mg
- 1 cup of Kale: 53mg