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Looks at the role of vitamin C and the various supplements on the market giving readers a guide on what and how to choose. Also looks at the role of food versus supplements.

With Vitamins C’s vast array of medicinal benefits, it’s no wonder that it’s one of the most popular stand-alone supplements on the market. A report in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2002 showed that vitamin C supplements were the most commonly used supplements in the United States next to multivitamins. Vitamin C has a wide range of functions in the body, including immune boosting, skin health and antioxidant functions.

There are currently quite a few forms of vitamin C out there, which can make it difficult to choose.  Is the regular ascorbic acid form of the vitamin enough? Or should we be spending more money and investing in more “superior” vitamin C supplements. Here's a look at what’s out there to help you make a more informed decision as to how to get your daily vitamin C fix.

Ascorbic Acid

Ascorbic acid is the most common form of vitamin C found in supplements and is also the form that it is found in foods.  Natural and synthetic ascorbic acid appear to have similar bioavailability. Ascorbic acid has a high acidity levels and can be quite harsh on the stomach, especially if taken in high doses.

Mineral Ascorbates and Ester C

Mineral ascorbates are buffered forms of ascorbic acid and are therefore less acidic and gentler on the stomach than regular ascorbic acid. 

People who are prone to gastrointestinal upsets are advised to choose buffered mineral ascorbates over ascorbic acid.

However, according to studies, there is no substantial evidence that mineral ascorbates are gentler on the stomach. Mineral ascorbates come in many forms including calcium ascorbate, sodium ascorbate, potassium ascorbate, magnesium ascorbate and so on.

Ester C is a brand name for a special form on vitamin C that contains mostly calcium ascorbate but also small amounts of other vitamin C metabolites (like oxidized ascorbic acid and calcium threonate). The claim around ester C is not only that it is gentler on the stomach but also that the threonate in the product helps increase its absorption and bioavailability. However, there is no substantial evidence that Ester C is better absorbed than ascorbic acid.

Vitamin C Plus Bioflavonoids

In nature, vitamin C is present along with other substances, some of which we may not even know about yet, that help increase its absorption and bioavailability. Manufacturers of vitamin C with bioflavonoids have combined regular vitamin C in whatever form with these polyphenolic plant chemicals found in fruits and vegetables to help enhance the effectiveness of vitamin C. According to a review by The Linus Pauling Institute, a look at 1 separate studies showed no significant increase in vitamin C bioavailability when comparing regular ascorbic acid and ascorbic acid with bioflavonoids. The most popular bioflavonoid, called acerola, has shown some promise in enhancing vitamin C absorption through studies measuring urinary excretion of vitamin C. Acerola intake caused a reduction in ascorbic acid excretion, suggested more vitamin C retention.

Bioflavonoids do have additional antioxidant benefits and in any event there is at least no harm in adding them to your vitamin C regime.
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