Healthy Q & A: Vitamin C

Q: I’ve always taken extra vitamin C in the winter months, but wanted to see if it was really necessary. Do you think supplements really make a difference?

A:  Vitamin C is an absolutely fantastic supplement to be taking; since it is involved in so many processes in the body- it’s also great for the immune system. Vitamin C is abundant in fresh produce, citrus fruits in particular, and is crucial for making sure the body runs right and is an integral part of the body being able to heal itself.  A vitamin C supplement is not a substitute for a healthy diet, but can be especially helpful to fill in gaps in a diet, for people who many not eat as well as they would like. There are also groups of people who are more likely to be deficient in vitamin C than others, like smokers (that includes second hand smoke), people with digestive disorders or malabsorption issues, and people who eat a limited variety of foods.

Not all vitamin C supplements are created equal, however. With vitamin C, and all supplements really, it’s all about absorption- some forms really are better than others and produce greater effects in the body. Most vitamin C supplements are in the form of ascorbic acid. Ascorbic acid is not at all bad, though there is a newer extract of vitamin C called Ester-C that has been shown in research to be more effective, lasting longer in the body and performing more activities in the body than the standard ascorbic acid form.

Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin, which means that it does not hang around in the body like fat soluble vitamins (A, D, and E for example) do; because of this, vitamin C needs to be ingested on a daily basis. Even with being taken every day, the amount of time that vitamin C is active in the body is significantly differs between the commonly taken ascorbic acid vitamin C and Ester-C. Research has found ascorbic acid to be in the body a maximum of eight hours after ingestion, whereas the Ester-C form was active in the body a full 24 hours after consumption. That’s a huge difference in the antioxidant power between the two vitamins.

Ester-C has also been shown in new research to significantly boost immune cell function. In the placebo controlled crossover study, 1000mg of Ester-C increased vitamin C levels for a full 25 hours in white blood cells known as leukocytes, which protect the body against infectious diseases and foreign invaders. Vitamin C, particularly the Ester-C form, helps the manufacture more of these immune boosting white blood cells, which work tirelessly to keep you healthy.

All of our Solgar Ester-C supplements are on sale for 25% off for the month of October. Another benefit of Ester-C is that it is gentle on the body and does not cause stomach irritation as the more common ascorbic acid form can in some individuals. Everyone would benefit from additional vitamin C, especially as we enter cold and flu season, and there is not a better form available than Ester-C.