Are Ascorbic Acid and Vitamin C Identical?

Mad ScientistDespite popular belief, they are not structurally identical. Ascorbic acid does not grow on trees or plants. It cannot be grown on a farm. It is produced in a laboratory and is an artificial reduced form of the natural Vitamin C. One analogy to help you understand this is if you compare Vitamin C to an egg, ascorbic acid would be just the egg shell with nothing inside.

The Food & Drug Administration has permitted ascorbic acid to be identified as Vitamin C. This is why beverages, foods, and supplements which are fortified with ascorbic acid can say they contain this vitamin. Technically they do contain it, since according to the FDA, they’re allowed to call it that.

How is ascorbic acid made?

Well it starts with corn syrup (that clear syrup that is nothing but refined pure corn sugar). Then follow these chemical steps:

  • Steps 1 thru 9 (Starch Hydrolysis): Corn starch is broken down into simple sugar (D-Glucose) by the action of heat and enzymes.
  • Step 10 (Hydrogenation): D-Glucose is converted into D-Sorbitol.
  • Step 11 (Fermentation): D-Sorbitol is converted into L-Sorbose.
  • Step 12 (Acetonation): Yes that’s right, they use acetone! L-Sorbose is combined with an acid at low temperatures.
  • Step 13 (Oxidation): The product is then oxidized with a catalyst, acidified, washed and dried forming L-Gluconic Acid.
  • Step 14 (Hydrolysis): L-Gluconic Acid is treated with hydrochloric acid forming crude ascorbic acid.
  • Step 15 (Recrystallization): The crude ascorbic acid is filtered, purified and milled into a fine crystalline powder.

This finished product is not Vitamin C, but legally can be called so. Is this not very misleading to consumers? It is missing 80% of what makes up food grade Vitamin C!

Why is ascorbic acid used instead of natural Vitamin C?

The C vitamin is a naturally occurring nutrient found in countless fruits and vegetables. However the problem is that when it is heated, the vitamin breaks down and becomes useless. So if you heat up your food, it’s gone. This really poses a problem when it comes to liquids like orange juice. Pasteurization (boiling to kill off bacteria) is required for virtually every beverage sold today in the United States.

Ascorbic acid was invented as a synthetic version to replace the natural form which is destroyed by heat. So when you drink that glass of orange juice in the morning, you aren’t actually consuming natural Vitamin C. Rather, you are consuming synthetic ascorbic acid which was added to replace the original.

The Nobel Prize winner Dr. Albert Szent-Georgi

Dr. Albert, who discovered Vitamin C, reportedly said that “ascorbic acid simply cannot confer vitamin activity.” Unfortunately, almost every supplement sold today only contain these fractional reproductions and not the whole food, natural form. Fortunately, Real C is available as a healthy alternative.