Organic vitamin C refers to L-ascorbic acid derived or absorbed from naturally occurring sources rather than that produced from artificial chemical synthesis. This distinction includes dietary supplements produced from natural food extracts or foods rich in vitamin C such as fruits, vegetables, meat, and milk. Chemically the ascorbic acids in synthetic and organic vitamin C are identical; the most significant difference between the two is the absence of naturally occurring co-factors. These include various bioflavonoids which aid in the absorption of the ascorbic acid. Although this appears to indicate that organic sources of vitamin C are more effective, there are also several favorable points regarding synthetic varieties that should be considered.
Adequate vitamin C intake is an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet. It is a powerful defense mechanism against oxidative stress and a important component of eight critical enzymatic reactions in the human body. A deficiency of vitamin C can lead to several serious health problems including conditions such as scurvy. Vitamin C or ascorbic acid is generally encountered in two formats. The first is organic vitamin C which is found in most fruits, vegetables, meats, milk, and organic supplements and the second being chemically synthesized in laboratories.
Particularly rich sources of natural vitamin C include Camu Camu, Kakadu plum, rose hips, black currents, and most citrus fruits. Milk and animal products such as oysters, pork liver, chicken liver, and cod roe are also rich in ascorbic acid. Although the chemical structure of natural and synthetic ascorbic acid are identical, organic vitamin C has, however, one major benefit over laboratory produced variants. These are the various co-factors which accompany vitamin C absorbed from natural sources. The most important of these are bioflavonoids which have been proven to greatly improve the bioavailability or ease of absorption of the vitamin in the body.
One of the problems with organic Vitamin C found in natural, whole foods is the fact that concentrations differ considerably even in similar sources. One orange, for instance, may contain 60 mg of vitamin C and another less than 20 mg. The region the food comes from, its freshness, when it was harvested, and how it was stored or transported all play a role in its eventual ascorbic acid content. Organic vitamin C supplements can overcome this problem to a certain extent. These products maintain many of the natural co-factors and present the vitamin in known doses, thereby making it easier to control the amount of the vitamin absorbed.
Even though organic sources of vitamin C are clearly more effective, synthetic variants should not rejected out of hand. The ascorbic acid in these supplements are extremely pure and also presented in known doses. It should be remembered that these supplements are exactly that — supplements. If used in tandem with an adequate intake of natural, organic vitamin C, a person may benefit from the bioflavonoid component and be able to precisely tailor intake.