Category Archives: Ascorbic acid

Researchers Claim RDA For Vitamin C is Flawed

The controversy over vitamin C and orthomolecular medicine began with the publication of Linus Pauling’s book, “Vitamin C and the Common Cold”. A quarter of a century later the controversy around vitamin C continues.

Steve Hickey, PhD and Hillary Roberts, Phd, pharmacology professors and graduates of the University of Manchester in Britain, are challenging the established Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin C, which is 75 and 90 milligrams for males and females respectively. In their book “Ascorbate, The Science of Vitamin C”, Hickey and Roberts point out some biological flaws to justify their attack on the RDA for vitamin C. The rapid elimination of vitamin C was demonstrated graphically; however, the Institute of Medicine (IM) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) did not account for the half-life of vitamin C. This flawed approach is one of the main contentions that Drs. Hickey and Roberts maintain.

Half Life of Vitamin C

The half life of any substance is the time it takes for half of the substance to be removed from the body. Vitamin C’s half life is quite short, about 30 minutes in blood plasma, a fact that the IM and NIH failed to recognize. NIH researchers established the RDA for vitamin C by conducting a test 12 hours or 24 half life’s after consumption. Due to the short half life of vitamin C, many studies make the conclusion that high-dose supplemental vitamin C is ineffective. Drs. Hickey and Roberts state that due to its rapid deterioration, a very high dose of vitamin C would not achieve the same concentration in the blood serum over time as several administered doses.

Drs. Hickey and Roberts decided to perform an experiment to measure the blood plasma levels of liposomal vitamin C, which was published in the Journal of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine. It was titled Pharmacokinetics of oral vitamin C. Their results indicate that, following oral intakes, high blood plasma levels can be achieved with liposomal vitamin C formulations. The results suggest that such levels (400microM/L or above) could be sustained indefinitely with repeated dosing at short intervals (say 5-grams every 4-hours).

RDA for Vitamin C

In the past, Drs. Hickey and Roberts have shaken the foundation and confidence of the IM and NIH for failing to investigate the use of high-dose vitamin C properly. They have repeatedly challenged the RDA for vitamin C on studies using only 15 healthy subjects and single dosages. They also contend that the RDA is intended to set a level of nutrient consumption that would prevent disease, specifically Scurvy, among the vast majority of the population. However their research shows that 35% of the population is in need of more than the RDA including:

  • Smokers ( 50 million)
  • Estrogen and Birth Control Pill Users (13 and 18 million)
  • Diabetics (16 million)
  • Pregnant females (4 million)
  • and even people taking aspirin

Contradictory Data

Drs. Hickey and Roberts confronted the IM and NIH with their own data however they claim the saturation point is reached at a certain concentration of ascorbic acid in blood plasma. They later published a paper in early 2004  showing they had achieved three times greater concentration of vitamin C in the blood circulation than previously thought possible using high-dose vitamin C [Annals Internal Medicine, April 6, 140: 533-37,2004]. A similar published German study also confirms vitamin C supplements can elevate vitamin C concentrations beyond what NIH scientists said was possible. [Archives Biochemistry Biophysics, March 423: 109-15, 2004]. NIH researchers continue to maintain that no more than 200 milligrams of oral vitamin C is required for human health and that a diet which includes the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables would provide adequate vitamin C. But only 9 percent of the US population consumes 5 servings of plant foods daily. The National Cancer Institute has abandoned their 5-a-day recommendation in favor of a 9-a-day servings of fruits and vegetables once they realized five servings did not provide the proper dietary intake of vitamin C and other essential vitamins in the prevention of cancer or heart disease.

Hickey has called for the IM and NIH to retract the current RDA or provide scientific justification for their recommendation.

What do you think? Is the RDA for vitamin C adequate?

For more on the RDA for vitamin C, check out our article about the RDA for Guinea Pigs.

Ascorbic Acid Vitamin C: What’s the Real Story?

by Andrew W. Saul, Editor

(OMNS Dec 6, 2013) Heard anything bad lately about ascorbic acid vitamin C? If you haven’t, you may have been away visiting Neptune for too long. For nearly four decades, I have seen that, like all other fashions, vitamin-bashing goes “in” and “out” of style. Lately it has (again) been open season on vitamin C, especially if taken as cheap ascorbic acid. Linus Pauling, the world’s most qualified advocate of vitamin C, urged people to take pure ascorbic acid powder or crystals.

Without having met Dr. Pauling, they are also what Great-grandma used when she home-canned peaches. Vitamin C powder remains cheap and readily available on the internet. One-quarter teaspoon is just over 1,000 mg. If you encounter a powder that is substantially less potent than that, it may contain fillers. Choose accordingly.

I have told my students for a long time, “If they didn’t listen to Linus Pauling, don’t be too surprised that they don’t line up to hear what you have to say.” But Pauling’s two unshared Nobel prizes (he is the only person in history with that distinction) are no protection from critics who slam ascorbic acid C without first considering some basic biochemistry.

Atomically Correct

Vitamin C is ascorbic acid, C6H8O6, and that’s pretty much all there is to it. If you really want to impress your friends, ascorbic acid can also be called (5R)-5-[(1S)-1,2-Dihydroxyethyl]-3,4-dihydroxy-2(5H)-furanone. As I liked to tell my university students, now there is something for you to answer when your parents ask what you learned in school today.

Even if this molecule comes from GMOs, which I disapprove of, it is still molecularly OK. You cannot genetically modify carbon, hydrogen, or oxygen atoms.

There are two ways the atoms can arrange themselves to make C6H8O6. One is ascorbic acid. The other is erythorbic acid, also known as isoascorbic acid or D-araboascorbic acid. It is a commercial antioxidant, but cannot be utilized by the body as an essential nutrient.


That word “acid” gets us going, but in fact ascorbic acid is a weak acid. If you can eat three oranges, if you can drink a carbonated cola, or if you can add vinegar on your fish fry or on your salad, there is little to worry about. In fact, your normal stomach acid is over 50 times stronger than vitamin C. The stomach is designed to handle strong acid, and nutrients are not destroyed by this strong stomach acid. If they were, all mammals would be dead. Have you ever noticed when you throw up you can feel the burn in your throat? That’s stomach acid. A little gross, but we need it to live. People who have a lot of problems with hiatal hernias or reflux can actually regurgitate enough acid over a period of months where they damage and scar the throat.

Vitamin C could not do that on a bet. It’s impossible. You couldn’t start your car if you put vinegar in your automobile’s battery. It requires sulfuric acid, which is a very strong acid. The hydrochloric acid in the stomach is only slightly weaker than car-battery acid. Vitamin C is almost as weak as lemonade. That’s a huge difference.


If you eat yogurt or take probiotic capsules, they end up in your stomach. There they are subjected to this strong stomach acid, and survive it easily. Acidophilus bacteria, such as are found in yogurt, are literally so named because they are “acid-loving.” Many studies show that eating yogurt and taking other probiotic supplements is a good idea and that it works. If a strong acid does not kill them, then neither will a weak acid.

Furthermore, your body secretes a highly alkaline substance right where your small intestine starts, just past the stomach. This neutralizes stomach acid and automatically keeps the rest of your gut from being acidic. If the body can neutralize a strong acid, ascorbic acid is virtually irrelevant.


Ascorbic acid can be buffered, and if you have a sensitive stomach, should be. There are a variety of non-acidic forms. I do not sell vitamins or any other health products, and do not make brand recommendations.

Don’t be bluffed or blustered about ascorbic acid. It is cheap and it works. Aside from intravenous sodium ascorbate, the vast majority of research showing that vitamin C is effective in prevention and treatment of disease has used plain ascorbic acid. Yes, the cheap stuff.

Remember what Ward Cleaver, TV father on “Leave it to Beaver,” said to his young son: “A lot of people go through life trying to prove that the things that are good for them are wrong.”

(Andrew W. Saul, OMNS Editor, has taught health science, addiction recovery, clinical nutrition and chemistry. He is the coauthor, with Dr. Steve Hickey, of “Vitamin C: The Real Story.”)

To learn more:

Vitamin C as an antiviral

Flu, viruses, and vitamin C megadoses

Are tropical fish getting kidney stones from vitamin C? They make so much more than the RDA

What really causes kidney stones (and why vitamin C does not)

Vitamin C: Which form is best?

The complete text of Irwin Stone’s vitamin C book “The Healing Factor” is posted for free reading at

How to reach saturation (bowel tolerance) with oral doses of vitamin C, by Robert F. Cathcat

About Frederick Robert Klenner, M.D.

Dr. Klenner’s dosage table

Why the government thinks Guinea pigs are more important than people

Levy, TE. Curing the Incurable. Vitamin C, Infectious Diseases, and Toxins. Henderson, NV: MedFox Publishing, 2004. Reviewed at

Pauling L. How to Live Longer and Feel Better. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University Press, 2006. Reviewed at . Linus Pauling’s complete vitamin and nutrition bibliography is posted at


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Editorial Review Board:

Ian Brighthope, M.D. (Australia)
Ralph K. Campbell, M.D. (USA)
Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D. (USA)
Damien Downing, M.D. (United Kingdom)
Dean Elledge, D.D.S., M.S. (USA)
Michael Ellis, M.D. (Australia)
Martin P. Gallagher, M.D., D.C. (USA)
Michael Gonzalez, D.Sc., Ph.D. (Puerto Rico)
William B. Grant, Ph.D. (USA)
Steve Hickey, Ph.D. (United Kingdom)
Michael Janson, M.D. (USA)
Robert E. Jenkins, D.C. (USA)
Bo H. Jonsson, M.D., Ph.D. (Sweden)
Peter H. Lauda, M.D. (Austria)
Thomas Levy, M.D., J.D. (USA)
Stuart Lindsey, Pharm.D. (USA)
Jorge R. Miranda-Massari, Pharm.D. (Puerto Rico)
Karin Munsterhjelm-Ahumada, M.D. (Finland)
Erik Paterson, M.D. (Canada)
W. Todd Penberthy, Ph.D. (USA)
Gert E. Schuitemaker, Ph.D. (Netherlands)
Robert G. Smith, Ph.D. (USA)
Jagan Nathan Vamanan, M.D. (India)
Atsuo Yanagisawa, M.D., Ph.D. (Japan)

Andrew W. Saul, Ph.D. (USA), Editor and contact person. Email: This is a comments-only address; OMNS is unable to respond to individual reader emails. However, readers are encouraged to write in with their viewpoints. Reader comments become the property of OMNS and may or may not be used for publication.

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Vitamin C Production in Goats vs Humans

goat produces its own vitamin cNo wonder this goat is so happy. A typical 155 pound goat is capable of producing over 13,000 milligrams of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) daily. As a comparison, the recommended dietary allowance for humans of vitamin C proposed and used by nutritionists, is 90 milligrams.

If goats are capable of producing their own ascorbic acid, why don’t humans? To see an infographic of the evolution of vitamin C synthesis, scroll to the bottom.

The requirement of ascorbic acid is a common property among living organisms. It has long been considered that all animals with the exceptions of guinea pigs, monkeys, and humans can produce their own vitamin C. Scientist have extensively studied the human genome and identified the defective gene for the synthesis of the active enzyme protein, L-gulonolactone oxidase or GLO (Stone 1979). This mutation is said to have occurred some 60 million years ago. The absence of GLO in the human liver blocks the conversion of glucose into ascorbic acid leading to an illness known as Scurvy (Inborn error of carbohydrate metabolism).

Evolution and the synthesis of Ascorbic Acid

Scientists believe that the ability to synthesize ascorbic acid began in the kidney of amphibians and was transferred to the liver of mammals like the goat. This biological trait disappeared from the guinea pig, flying mammals, the monkey, and man (Chatterjee et all 1975). Other notable animals that do not synthesize vitamin C are insects, invertebrates, and fishes. Some question whether ascorbic acid is an essential requirement for these species. The need for ascorbic acid may be very small for these species therefore they may supplement via their diet to maintain the proper levels of ascorbic acid. Although they can produce some vitamin C, domestic dogs and cats make much less than wild animals. This may explain why pets eventually suffer from the same diseases as humans.

Goat vitamin C production and stress related factors

The ability to synthesize vitamin C was somehow linked through evolutionary development. The step from the aquatic to the terrestial mode of life was a profound change involving a tremendous range of adaptations under strong selection pressure (Chatterjee et all 1975). This would explain why under stress goats were able to produce a higher level of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) than when unstressed (Stone 1979). As a biological defense mechanism, during times of stress ascorbic acid would be created in massive amounts. The beneficial effect of ascorbic acid in stress is now a well-established fact. When facing significant health stresses, C-making animals can dramatically increase ascorbic acid production by as much as 13 times normal levels. This could explain why wild animals tend to remain vibrantly healthy until they succumb to old age. (Levy 2011)

In spite of all this evidence, the recommended dietary allowance remains extremely low. This highlights the need for humans to supplement vitamin C. Is it possible that nature knows something the U.S. Government doesn’t?

Consider the facts:

  • Most animals synthesize their own vitamin C
  • Although defective, humans carry the gene that would provide the ability to synthesize vitamin C
  • C-synthesizing animals produce vastly more vitamin C than the 90 mg government RDA
  • C-producing animals radically increase production when faced with severe health challenges
  • Non-C-producing animals are much more susceptible to disease than animals in the wild

vitamin c animal production

Works Cited

Chatterjee, I. B., A. K. Majumder, B. K. Nandi, and N. Subramanian. “Synthesis And Some Major Functions Of Vitamin C In Animals.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 258.1 Second Confer (1975): 24-47. Print.

Stone, Irwin. “Homo Sapiens Ascorbicus, A Biochemically Corrected Robust Human Mutant.” Medical Hypotheses 5.6 (1979): 711-721. Print.

Levy, Thomas E. “Primal Panacea.” Medfox Publishing. (2011). 53-54. Print



5 Reasons Athletes Should Take Vitamin C

Not surprisingly, most athletes are unaware how important vitamin C intake is to performance. Some can get away with poor diets and supplementation for awhile (see NBA Super Star Derrick Rose’s weird eating habits). Lucky for Chicago Bulls fans, he has hired a personal trainer, chef, and is taking that next step to remain a superstar into his late 30’s. A simple search online for athletes’ dietary habits brings up a love for Big Macs, Skittles, Swedish Fish, and beer. Many of the top athletes who consume regular supplements, including vitamin C, and maintain healthy eating patterns, perform at a high level far past their primes. Below are a few examples of athletes who train just as hard in the kitchen as they do on the field or court.

  • Steve Nash – NBA SuperStar
  • Kobe Bryant – NBA SuperStar
  • Joe Namath – NFL Hall of Famer
  • Tony Gonzales – NFL Tight End
  • Billie Jean King – Tennis Player
  • Robert Parish – NBA Hall of Famer

How valuable is proper vitamin C supplementation to athletes?

Here are five reasons you should include high dose vitamin C in your regular supplementation schedule.

  1. Vitamin C is an antioxidant, protecting muscle cells from free radical damage, thus enhancing recovery and growth.
  2. Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid) is also involved with amino acid metabolism, especially the formation of Collagen. Collagen is the primary constituent of connective tissue, the stuff that holds your bones and muscles together. This may not seem important, but as you lift heavier weights, the stress you put on your structure becomes tremendous and risk of injury dramatically increases.
  3. Vitamin C helps in the absorption of Iron. Iron is necessary to help Oxygen bind to hemoglobin in blood. Without adequate oxygen transportation in blood, muscles are robbed of precious oxygen and performance is greatly reduced.
  4. Ascorbic acid also assists in the formation and release of steroid hormones, including the anabolic hormone testosterone.
  5. Vitamin C is perhaps the most water soluble vitamin there is. In other words, it diffuses very rapidly in water. Since a muscle cell is mostly water, the more muscular an athlete becomes, the more vitamin C disperses and the lower the concentration of this critical substance becomes in body tissues. So vitamin C requirements are greatly increased for athletes.

Natural Vitamin C vs. Synthetic Vitamin C -What’s the Difference?

Most commonly, vitamin C is ingested as ascorbic acid or sodium ascorbate; however, the active agent in ALL forms of vitamin C is ascorbate anion. This is important to note since virtually all of the clinical and laboratory outcomes of vitamin C reported over the last century come from ascorbic acid or sodium ascorbate.

As new research becomes available more people are beginning to realize the enormous utility of vitamin C and are looking for ways to supplement it on a regular basis. Of course this attracts businesses that have become increasingly negligent of the claims they are making regarding vitamin c products.

Deceptive Marketing

Common deceitful vitamin C labels are “natural vitamin C” and “vitamin C complex.” Labels such as these confuse consumers and lead to misinformation that affects everyone. Let’s clear these misconceptions up now. Many of these companies that produce vitamin C products have even asserted that ascorbic acid is not really vitamin C! This isn’t even the worst part; people actually believe these claims. Dr. Albert Szent-Gyorgyi discovered vitamin C and asserted that what he had in fact discovered was ascorbic acid and nothing more.

Instead, supplement makers are using deceptive practices by claiming that vitamin C is of little use if it is not ingested in a “natural” form. Additionally, they attempt to discredit many pure vitamin C supplements as being synthetic; therefore’ inferior vitamin C products. Renowned vitamin C expert, Dr. Thomas E. Levy said that

“Vitamin C, or ascorbate, can be synthesized or it can be isolated from natural sources. As long as the purification processes are not flawed, the final products are absolutely identical. However, the fears that many people have today (often justifiably) about impure products of all varieties are played upon by these companies in their attempt to sell their “natural, vitamin C complex” product in the place of pure vitamin C supplements. –

Marketing is extremely powerful; it even has the ability to determine presidential elections. Many of these supplement companies are using sophisticated marketing strategies to take advantage of a growing segment of health conscious consumers. By muddying the waters they are able to grab a piece of the pie.

What about “vitamin C complex”

Vitamin C complex supplements often contain a number of antioxidants, think multivitamin. These products are absolutely fine and do provide a valuable service however they are needlessly expensive when marketed in the “complex” form. Traditional vitamin C is relatively cheap therefore the premium you are paying, is for their marketing budget rather than their research and development.

A Better Alternative

Although vitamin C complex and traditional vitamin C have their place in the ascorbic acid market, a better alternative to paying a premium for vitamin C complex would be to purchase liposomal supplements. Vitamin C expert Dr. Thomas E. Levy describes Liposomal vitamin C as:

“Tiny particles of vitamin C coated with phospholipids create molecules of vitamin C coated with a substance similar to the cell membranes. Thus those coated vitamin C molecules can slip into the cells easily. The encapsulation also avoids diarrhea thresholds of normal oral C.”

Liposomal supplements are a more efficient delivery mechanism. Mainly because liposomes are smart enough and strong enough to bypass the bodies normal digestive system to enter directly into the bloodstream ensuring a higher quality product. You can purchase Liposomal Vitamin C directly from LivOn Labs or you can purchase it through one of their many online retailers.

Resource: “The Marketing Myth of “Vitamin C Complex” by Dr. Thomas E. Levy written for (August 22, 2013)