Types of Vitamin C: Pros and Cons

Jan 12, 2021 | Vitamin C, Vitamins and Nutrients

When you think of all the Vitamin C variations by all possible supplemental forms, the types of Vitamin C possibilities seem infinite. Vitamin C, also known by the chemical name ascorbic acid, is one of the most popular supplemented vitamins. Find out the pros and cons of each type of Vitamin C. 

Mineral salts

While all Vitamin C is ascorbic acid, some types of Vitamin C supplements contain mineral salts of ascorbic acid. Ascorbic acid can be rough on the stomach, so its less acidic mineral salts are often preferred as supplements. The minerals “buffer” the Vitamin C to reduce digestive irritation. 

Sodium ascorbate is utilized in mega-dose IV Vitamin C treatments in clinics and hospitals. It’s also common in dietary supplements, including Lypo-Spheric® Vitamin C. Calcium, magnesium, zinc, potassium, manganese, zinc, and molybdenum are less frequently supplemented ascorbates. Calcium ascorbate has also been shown to be better tolerated by people who have difficulty with acidic foods, though it has no effect on bioavailability in humans.

Pros: Easier on the stomach.

Cons: Higher in the other minerals. For example, people wishing to limit calcium intake may find that more difficult with these supplements.

Synthetic vs. Natural Vitamin C

Synthetic ascorbic acid and the ascorbic acid in rose hip or acerola cherry powder all have the identical chemical composition.  No studies conducted on humans have shown any differences in the bioavailability between natural and synthetic Vitamin C. Researchers are so confident this conclusion is infinitely repeatable that back in 2013 they recommended any additional studies on this topic are a waste of time. 

They pointed out in their conclusions that the reason whole food consumption is preferable to relying on supplements is merely due to the concurrent benefits of consuming all the other nutrients in the fruit or vegetable.

Pros (natural): Allowing you to maintain the fantasy that somehow a pill, powder, or capsule is in any way natural, or that natural is always superior.

Cons (natural): More expensive than synthetic.

Vitamin C with bioflavonoids 

Bioflavanoids are compounds found in plants that often have beneficial antioxidant capabilities. They are often added to Vitamin C supplements, possibly in a futuristic effort to recreate plants in pill form. This is fine, if you’re a futurist, but it’s not the most effective way to absorb Vitamin C. Research has shown that bioflavonoids not only fail to enhance absorption, they may inhibit Vitamin C absorption in cells. The percentage of Vitamin C you absorb from traditional oral supplements significantly decreases in doses above 200 mg. Fruits and vegetables do not contain massive doses of Vitamin C like supplements do, thus it is more beneficial just to get your bioflavonoids from a whole orange, kiwi, or bell pepper instead of a flavorless pill.

Pros: Makes you feel like 1970s sci-fi movie predictions were accurate and flying cars can be next.

Cons: More expensive than regular ascorbic acid. Less tasty than a strawberry. Contains the substances used to make the capsules, which are definitely not found in broccoli. 

Ascorbyl Palmitate

Ascorbic acid is water-soluble, which means that it does its work in water-based tissues in the body. Other antioxidants like Vitamins A and E are fat-soluble, fighting free radicals in fat-based tissue. While your body can accumulate fat-soluble nutrients, it cannot store water-soluble nutrients. That’s a major reason why Vitamin C absorption is such a heavily researched topic and why there are so many types of Vitamin C supplements: any excess, unabsorbed Vitamin C leaves your body as waste.

Ascorbyl palmitate is a fat-soluble form of Vitamin C. In test tubes, it incorporates into cell membranes. In oral supplements, that is less likely as research suggests that the digestive system breaks the compound into palmitate and ascorbic acid, thereby shedding the fat-solubility. 

Pros: Increases shelf life of potato chips.

Cons: More expensive than ascorbic acid.

Gummies

Vitamin gummies are popular because some brilliant marketers figured out a way to make candy appear healthy. And vitamin gummies are just that: candy. Since sugar compromises Vitamin C absorption, a sugar-packed gummy is not an efficient means of absorbing Vitamin c.

Pros: Taste like candy.

Cons: Loaded with sugar, which interferes with Vitamin C absorption.

Drinks

A soda or hard seltzer that contains Vitamin C is still a soda or a hard seltzer. As mentioned in the gummies section, sugar interferes with Vitamin C absorption, making a sugary beverage a strange choice for Vitamin C delivery. Excess sugar and alcohol are also major sources of free radicals, which deplete antioxidants like Vitamin C

Pros: Feel less guilty about making unhealthy decisions.

Cons: Paying extra for added vitamins that are difficult to absorb.

Pills

The classic capsules and tablets are usually nearly pure ascorbic acid with a material (like cellulose) to bind them in pill form. These products are more efficient than the sugar-packed vitamin treats and are often inexpensive. As your body has a lot of trouble absorbing doses over 200 mg, it is often recommended to stagger Vitamin C pill supplements throughout the day. 

Pros: Cheap. Few extra ingredients.

Cons: Often in too high doses for your body to absorb, which can lead to gastric distress and fewer benefits. Often hard to swallow, especially for older adults. Often are not gluten-free. 

Powders

Unflavored vitamin C powder is just about as pure ascorbic acid as you can get. This type of Vitamin C offers a more efficient way to supplement as you can control the dose. 

Flavored powders, conversely, are much the same as Vitamin C drinks and gummies.

Pros: Unflavored powders are cheap and contain few excess ingredients. Flavored powders are quite tasty.

Cons: Flavored powders are loaded with sugar, sometimes containing 7X more sugar than Vitamin C. Doses of Vitamin C are often too high to absorb, particularly with the added sugar, and may cause gastric distress.

Liposomal Vitamin C

Liposomal Vitamin C provides a better way to absorb Vitamin C. Liposomes are nutrient-dense microscopic spheres that transport the Vitamin C from the digestive system into the bloodstream, bypassing the restrictions that make Vitamin C difficult to absorb from oral supplements. The liposomes can assimilate into the cells, dropping off the Vitamin C for absorption where it is needed. This breakthrough technology allows you to absorb more from Vitamin C supplements, negating the aforementioned 200 mg rule.

The liposomes themselves are a good source of choline, a nutrient that supports your brain and fortifies your cells. When the liposomes drop off the Vitamin C, the choline absorbs into the membrane, keeping your cells healthy and strong.

Pros: Superior absorption. No gastric distress. Peace of mind knowing you’re getting your money’s worth. Easy to swallow. 

Cons: Often difficult to discern what is a true liposomal product. High-quality liposomal supplements do not have the best taste. Pricier than pills, powders, and gummies.

IV Vitamin C

Trained medical professionals administer Vitamin C injections in clinical settings, and sometimes Vegas hotel rooms. The type of Vitamin C treatment is effective as it bypasses digestive barriers by delivering mega-dose Vitamin C directly into the bloodstream. While LivOn Labs founder Les Nachman credits IV vitamin C with helping him to avoid a heart transplant, he started the company because these treatments are often inaccessible. IV vitamin C is mostly confined to med spas, medical offices, and hospitals, and treatment is costly. 

Pros: Effective, extremely high-dose Vitamin C. 

Cons: Expensive. Only available in specific locations. 

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