Published On: Thu, Mar 21st, 2013

Synthetic Vitamin C : Is It Damaging Your Health?

SyntheticSynthetic Vitamin C :

Is It Damaging Your Health?

by Rob Lamberton, B.Sc.

As a product formulator of nutritional and nutraceutical products for Health Care Professionals, I have a very different philosophy from over 95 % of nutritional supplement companies (both in the retail and professional markets) – as well as most formulators.

The big difference is I am adamant – in almost all cases about NOT using synthetic vitamins and minerals in my formulations (which is typical in approximately 95% of nutritional products available in both the retail and professional markets).

There is a growing body of research that suggests that consuming these synthetic compounds (which work in a similar manner to drugs), can cause long term negative health consequences.

Most people do not realize that when you consume these synthetic compounds you are consuming vitamins which (for the most part) are manufactured from coal tar distillates (coal tar is a known carcinogen!) and with minerals, they are in essence little pieces of rocks that you are introducing into your body.

I am sure that just conceptually this must resonate with you that this cannot be healthy!

Vitamin C is a good example.  I think it is safe to assume that many people consume Vitamin C: we have come to learn that it can provide many health benefits.

Here are some of the benefits of Vitamin C:
  • Immune System Function (and specifically the common cold)
  • Antioxidant Properties
  • Blood Vessel Health and prevention of Hypertension
  • Prevention of Cataracts
  • Heavy Metal Toxicity (especially lead)
  • Stress
  • Prevention of strokes

If you are consuming natural Vitamin C, you can get many of these benefits: however if you are consuming the typical synthetic Vitamin C you would purchase from a health food store, pharmacy or grocery store, it can actually cause negative health issues.

The following is a summary of key issues related to synthetic Vitamin C consumption:

  • More than 90% of ascorbic acid in this country (the U.S.) is manufactured in Nutley, New Jersey, by Hoffman-LaRoche, one of the world’s largest drug manufacturers. Most U.S. vitamin companies buy bulk ascorbic acid from this one company. Each vitamin company then makes its own labels and each usually claims to have a superior form of Vitamin C, even though it all came from the same plant and what’s more, it’s not really Vitamin C in the first place
  • As you may or may not be aware, wildly popular substances Vitamin C are usually extracted from corn – one of the leading GMO crops in the U.S. It is from this that the question immediately comes into focus: could supplement makers be using GMO corn to create vitamin C supplements?
  • A study presented to the American Heart Association showed a link between consumption of only 500mg of vitamin C per day and a greater propensity toward thickening of the arteries (Los Angeles Times, March 3, 2000) (1)
  • Athletes taking 1000mg of vitamin C per day showed reduced endurance capacity from interference with antioxidant enzymes (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Jan 2008)(2)
  • Synthetic vitamins such as ascorbic acid act more like drugs in the body rather than whole food nutrients with all the available cofactors. Taking any synthetic vitamin can cause imbalances in the body and should be avoided
  • The vitamin C in supplements mobilizes harmless ferric iron stored in the body and converts it to harmful ferrous iron, which induces damage to the heart and other organs,” Dr. Herbert said in an interview. “Unlike the vitamin C naturally present in foods like orange juice, vitamin C as a supplement is not an antioxidant,” Dr. Herbert said. “It’s a redox agent — an antioxidant in some circumstances and a pro-oxidant in others”(3)
  • Here is some further documentation on the many differences between synthetic and natural vitamin C, as discussed by Dr. Timothy O’Shea M.D. author ofConventional Medicine Vs. Holistic: A World of Difference”, points out:

“In addition, mineral co-factors must be available in the proper amounts. If any of these parts are missing, there is no vitamin C, no vitamin activity

  • “The ascorbic acid you buy at the grocery store every few weeks, thinking you are buying Vitamin C, is just a chemical copy of naturally occurring ascorbic acid, which itself is still only a fraction of the actual Vitamin C. Real vitamin C is part of something living, and as such, can impart life. Your synthetic, fractionated chemical ascorbic acid never grew in the ground, never saw the light of day, never was alive or part of anything alive. It’s a chemical, a cornstarch derivative, a sulfuric acid by-product. In your body it’s just another drug. Synthetic vitamins have toxic effects from mega-doses and actually can increase the white blood cell count. Vitamins are only necessary in minute quantities on a daily basis. Whole food vitamins, by contrast, are not toxic since the vitamin is complexed in its integral working form, and requires nothing from the body, and triggers no immune response(4)
  • Manufacturers also provide misleading and confusing information which may lead the average consumer to believe that high dosages of a synthetic vitamin and/or mineral supplement may provide additional benefits for your health:

Here is a good explanation of this issue, as discussed by Brian Clement in an article titled: “The Synthetic Vitamin Milligram Game:

Generally speaking, evaluating the proper milligrams of a synthetic vitamin supplement, as related to the potency of a vitamin, is a confusing and misleading proposition. This is because synthetic vitamins are refined, high potency chemicals, and therefore can be accurately measured in milligrams, just like drugs. Measuring synthetic vitamin compounds in milligrams has nothing to do with real vitamin activity or nutrition. The vitamin activity and real potency of the vitamin is dependent upon its authenticity as a whole, naturally-occurring vitamin, not its synthetic chemical fractionated potency or weight.(5)

  • Also important is to consider how the body perceives and reacts to these synthetic compounds:

As Dr. Judith DeCava points out in “The Real Truth about Vitamins and Antioxidants”, “This is what occurs with all synthetic vitamins: the body treats them as toxins, leading to the “expensive urine” of excess vitamin intake referred to frequently, since the human system via the urinary tract attempts to rid itself of the major quantity of such foreign chemicals.“(6)

  • Synthetic vitamin C comes from acid blends that irritate the lining of your digestive tract: It’s just a chemical copy of naturally occurring ascorbic acid. This kind of fractionated, chemical acid never grew in the ground or received sunlight, but rather it’s a sulfuric acid by-product.(7)
  • Synthetic vitamin C may contribute to the formation of genotoxins that can lead to cancer(8)
Natural Sources of Vitamin C

So where can we get good sources of natural Vitamin C? Well certainly we should start with fruits and vegetables (preferably organic) however due to limited consumption by most people as well as depleted soils (which have resulted in a significant decrease in most nutrients due to intensive agricultural practices, use of fertilizers and erosion of topsoil) almost all government surveys suggest that most individuals are not getting enough Vitamin C on a daily basis.

The best natural sources of natural Vitamin C which are used in natural, whole food Vitamin C supplements include:

  • Camu Camu (a plant that grows in the Amazon Rain Forest: and typically provides over 50 times the amount of Vitamin C vs. an orange)
  • Acerola berries (from a shrub that grows in the Caribbean and Amazon Rain Forest
  • Indian Gooseberry (Amla) – a revered Ayurvedic Medicine compound with adaptogenic* properties
  • And to a lesser extent, Rose Hips and many other fruit and vegetable extracts

*Definition of an Adaptogen (from Google)

  • a substance that invigorates or strengthens the system (also called a tonic).
  • Increases the body’s ability to adapt to internal or external stress.
  • is a term that applies to herbs that maintain health by increasing the body’s ability to adapt to environmental and internal stress. Adaptogens generally work by strengthening the immune system, nervous system and/or glandular systems.
  • A substance that modifies the metabolism of the body to combat particular forms of environmental stress.
  • herbs that act in a nonspecific way to strengthen the body and increase resistance to disease and stress.

And all of these plants provide additional health benefits: Indian Gooseberry is a good example.

Indian Gooseberry has been documented to provide the following health benefits:

  • natural antioxidant which is more potent than Acai, Pomegranate and most other antioxidant fruits
  • chelates (removes) iron and copper from the body
  • can help reduce the negative health effects of blood sugar problems
  • reduces cardiovascular risk factors (such as cholesterol, inflammation and blood stickiness)
  • proven to be as effective as popular cholesterol prescription drugs and prescription drugs to prevent blood clots
  • Excellent source of Vitamin C
  • Fortifies the liver
  • Nourishes the brain and mental functioning
  • Supports the heart
  • Strengthens the lungs
  • Helps the urinary system
  • Good for the skin
  • Promotes healthier hair
  • Acts as a body coolant
  • Flushes out toxins
  • Increases vitality
  • Strengthens the eyes
  • Improves muscle tone
  • Enhances immunity

Our company supplies a natural Vitamin C powder product to Health Care Professionals which they dispense to their patients which includes ingredients such as those listed above with an added berry mix, Vitamin C co-factors such as Rutin, Hesperidin and Bioflavonoids (with a little Stevia for some added sweetness).

People love it: in fact it tastes so great that most people just eat it by the spoonful without even mixing it with water or juice.

So in summary, it is ALWAYS preferable to obtain your vitamins and minerals from foods and whole food supplements.

Remember knowledge is power! 

By educating yourself about these issues and sharing this knowledge with others, we can provide individuals with the knowledge and expertise to make intelligent (health enhancing) choices.


  1. Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist. 2010 February 5 Retrieved from
  2. Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist. 2010 February 5 Retrieved from
  3. Chase Hayden, D.C. Ascorbic Acid (Synthetic Vitamin C) May Damage DNA. (n.d.) Retrieved from
  4. Brian Clement.2007 January 25. Retrieved from
  5. Synthetic Vitamins and Minerals (n.d.) Retrieved from:
  6. Synthetic Vitamins and Minerals (n.d.) Retrieved from:
  7. S.D. Wells. 2012 August 1. Retrieved from:
  8. Vitamin C-Induced Decomposition of Lipid Hydroperoxides to Endogenous Genotoxins Seon Hwa Lee, Tomoyuki Oe, and Ian A. Blair Science 15 June 2001: 2083-2086.



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