There are so many different forms and brands on the market that choosing the best one can cause a headache. At the end of the day, humans are not able to produce vitamin C as opposed to animals so getting vitamin C in any form is better than not having it at all. Nevertheless, let’s take a closer look on the most common forms of vitamin C and their bioavailability.
Vitamin C – there is much more than fighting common cold
Even though vitamin C can be associated with fighting a common cold and infections, its importance go far beyond that. Your adrenal glands need vitamin C, if you are stressed, you need more vitamin C. Your thyroid needs vitamin C. If you are an athlete, additional vitamin C will improve your recovery and neutralise free radicals. Vitamin C is also an essential cofactor for collagen production. Smoking and environmental pollution increases your daily Vitamin C requirements. As it’s a water soluble vitamin, it can’t be stored by the body.
The interesting fact about vitamin C is that in case of infection i.e, your vitamin C storage is used up rapidly. You would need higher doses for certain amount of time to bring your levels back to normal. 80mg which is daily recommended intake probably won’t be enough.
I could write a lot about benefits of vitamin C, however let’s focus what is the best form to get the most of it.
FOOD vs SUPPLEMENT
The more you can get from food the better. This is because vitamin C from food will provide you other phytonutrients and compounds that increases bioavailability of vitamin C. The problem is that vitamin C is very sensitive to heat and light. Cooked broccoli will probably provide less vitamin C than raw bell pepper. Other thing to be aware of is that the amount of vitamin C decreases significantly after harvest and the decrease continues during storage. Orange from your local supermarket, even organic, will have less vitamin C than orange freshly picked from the tree. It doesn’t mean that you have to swap real food for supplements, it’s just something to be aware of depending how much vitamin C you may need. As mentioned earlier, stress, activity level, exposure to toxins – they all affect your daily vitamin C requirement.
On the other hand, vitamin C from supplements provides usually just isolated ascorbic acid. The good thing is that more brands started to produce vitamin C with added bioflavonoids that are found in fruits and vegetables.
FORMS OF VITAMIN C IN SUPPLEMENTS
Ascorbic acid is the most common form of supplemental vitamin C. The problem with supplemental ascorbic acid is that it may upset your stomach and cause diarrhoea if its supplemented in excess. Vitamin C is one of the safest vitamins to supplement so any excess will be excreted, assuming you are healthy individual with no kidney problems.
Mineral salts of ascorbic acid (i.e sodium, potassium, calcium ascorbate) are less acidic, therefore called “buffered.” They are usually gentler on stomach and recommended for people with gastrointestinal problems. However, I would be careful with calcium ascorbate as excess supplemental calcium may cause more harm than benefits, including calcification of arteries and increasing risk of heart-related diseases. Anyone suffering from hypertension should probably avoid sodium ascorbate too.
Vitamin C with bioflavonoids
That’s one of my favourite forms of vitamin C as it’s the closest what you can get comparing to food. Bioflavonoids (or flavonoids) are polyphenolic compounds found in plants and they are made by plants in response to microbial infection. Flavonoids help to reduce harmful oxidative stress and they have shown to have anti-inflammatory activity, anti-cancer, neuroprotective, hepatoprotective and potential antiviral benefits. I usually use powdered version and simply mix it with water and drink it throughout the day. It can also be added to your smoothie or yogurt.
Liposomal vitamin C
That’s my another favourite form because of its high absorption comparing to regular ascorbic acid. A liposome is a tiny spherical vesicle, kind of bubble, made out of the same material as a our body cell membrane. The encapsulation of vitamin C within liposomes is a great strategy to improve its bioavailability and to ensure that most of the nutrients reach the cells. It protects vitamin C from from gastric juices, enzymes, change of pH, oxydation, etc. Liposomal vitamin C doesn’t upset stomach or cause diarrhea even at high doses. I usually would go for liposomal vitamin C when I really need proper vitamin C boost and for powdered vitamin C with bioflavonoids for daily use.
Time-release vitamin C
Time-release capsule aims to release vitamin C more slowly throughout the day. The idea behind is great, however I couldn’t find any evidence supporting it. There were few studies on time-release vitamin C capsules but they didn’t show any significant differences comparing to plain ascorbic acid.
Vitamin C has very short life which means smaller, more frequent doses will have greater impact than one high dose of vitamin C. You will probably absorb more of vitamin C if taken 200mg every few hours rather than 1000mg once a day. If I would like maximise benefits of vitamin C to treat particular infection etc, I still would go for regular capsules or powder in divided doses, rather than one time-release capsule.
Capsule vs powder & things to watch out for
In general, I prefer powders, as you don’t get all other fillers that come with the capsule. If it comes to capsules, my preference are pullulan capsules, they are vegan friendly and made without any chemicals. When I’m looking at supplements, I prefer to choose brands with the least amount of other fillers present in the capsule. In other words, the less ‘not-known’ substances on the top of the main active ingredient the better. With liposomal supplements the thing I don’t like is sugar or other sweetening substances that are often used, but as just mentioned it’s only my personal preference 🙂