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So you’ve decided you could do with some extra vitamin C. But how do you know which is the best vitamin C supplement for you? With so many different types it can be a real challenge to choose. Don’t worry, help is at hand! Here’s a useful overview on the different types of vitamin C, to help you make the decision that’s right for you.

Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for many aspects of health including your immune system

Your body uses extra vitamin C during times of increased need such as illness or infection so unless extra care is taken to increase your dietary intake during these times, daily supplies may fall short. This is when vitamin C supplements may be a useful addition to your diet.

Ascorbic acid is the type of vitamin C found naturally in food. It has good bioavailability but some people find it too acidic on their gut and can’t tolerate higher doses.

Bioflavonoids are beneficial plant compounds often added to vitamin C supplements. They deliver additional immune benefits and may help to increase bioavailability.

Mineral ascorbates such as calcium and magnesium ascorbate are often called ‘buffered’ vitamin C. Many people find these to be gentler forms of vitamin C that are better tolerated by the gut. It is important however to consider the accompanying dose of mineral (calcium, magnesium etc.) when taking higher levels.

Time-release vitamin C is often the preferred choice since vitamin C has better bioavailability when taken in smaller doses throughout the day. A time-release formula aims to solve this problem without taking multiple tablets, by releasing the vitamin C slowly throughout the day.

Pureway C ™ is a unique and innovative type of vitamin C, which has been developed to support increased absorption.

Vitamin C - A powerful immune-support nutrient

The health benefits of vitamin C are well documented. Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for many aspects of your everyday health, including immune system function.

Why do we need vitamin C?

“An inadequate vitamin C intake is already more widespread than many people realize.”4

Humans are in a small minority of mammals that can’t produce their own vitamin C; it’s also water soluble and can’t be stored in the body.  This means it must be regularly supplied by the diet.1,2

Severe deficiency leading to scurvy is rare in the developed world,3 but there are times when our daily needs for vitamin C are likely to increase, such as pollution exposure and during times of chronic stress, illness and infection.4

Learn More

 • MORE DETAIL:  Taking A Closer Look At Vitamin C
 • FACTS:  Vitamin C Facts & Health Benefits

What the science says:

In a 2020 review article on the role of micronutrients in the immune system, the authors explain,

“The body may lose micronutrients when exposed to pathogens, which causes the immune system to become increasingly active. The loss is exacerbated during an active infection (including vitamins A, C, and E, calcium, zinc, and iron), and plasma levels only return to normal once symptoms improve. An adequate micronutrient intake is essential to aid recovery from infection, made more difficult by the fact that food intake may decrease during illness, and that antibiotic use can also deplete certain micronutrients.

For example, levels of vitamin C in plasma rapidly fall to half their original concentration during an infection, to levels indicative of a suboptimal status with a risk of deficiency (i.e., ≤50 μmol/L).

However, the high intake of vitamin C required to counteract the fall in concentration after infection (gram doses), or even simply to help reduce the risk of infection…/… may be difficult to achieve when the data show that people already often fail to reach the current RDA for vitamin C (25–90 mg/day), depending on age, and that an inadequate vitamin C intake is already more widespread than many people realize.”4

Adding a bit more vitamin C when we need it most sounds simple enough, however there are so many different supplements on the market, it’s easy to feel confused about which is the best to take. Here we take a look at the different types of vitamin C, to help you decide what’s right for you.

Types of vitamin C

Ascorbic acid

Many people ask, ‘is ascorbic acid bad for you?’ On the contrary! This is actually the proper name for vitamin C and the form found naturally in foods. This is also the type of vitamin C that you’ll find in most food supplements.

Synthetic ascorbic acid found in supplements has been found to have similar bioavailability to that of naturally occurring ascorbic acid in foods, such as broccoli and citrus fruit (it's important to note however that whilst synthetic and food-derived vitamin C are chemically identical, the vitamin C in fruits and vegetables is packaged up with various additional nutrients and phytonutrients which may influence its health benefits and how it is used by the body).  Research to date also seems to suggest that the bioavailability of ascorbic acid appears to be the same whether it is given in powder or tablet form. 5-13 

Some people find however that vitamin C given in the supplemental form of ascorbic acid upsets their stomach14, and may better tolerate different forms that are gentler on the gut,15 or time-release versions which release the vitamin C more slowly and may also reduce the risk of gastrointestinal upset.

Vitamin C with bioflavonoids

Bioflavonoids (or flavonoids) are polyphenolic compounds found in plants, and are especially plentiful in vitamin C-rich plant foods.  There are around 5,000 different varieties of flavonoids and they are made by plants in response to microbial infection. You will often find vitamin C and bioflavonoids together in a synergistic supplement formula.  This is because some research has found that the addition of flavonoids may help to increase the absorption of vitamin C from supplements; other studies however have found there to be no difference.16-21

Aside from the possible benefits of increasing bioavailability of vitamin C however, flavonoids have demonstrated significant health benefits in their own right.    In plants, flavonoids help to reduce harmful oxidative stress and regulate growth.  And when flavonoids are consumed in the diet they have been shown to have significant antioxidant and free radical scavenging abilities.  In addition, they have demonstrated anti-inflammatory activity and offer cardiovascular, metabolic, neuroprotective, anti-cancer, hepato-protective, potential anti-viral benefits and more.22-23

Mineral ascorbates

Also commonly referred to as ‘buffered’ vitamin C, mineral salts (mineral ascorbates) are less acidic and are often recommended to people who are sensitive to acidic foods.  Whilst there is only limited scientific evidence to support this claim,15 anecdotal reports are that mineral ascorbates (‘buffered’ vitamin C) are often better tolerated.

Most common mineral ascorbates include sodium ascorbate, calcium ascorbate, potassium ascorbate and magnesium ascorbate.  It is important to note however that both the ascorbic acid and the mineral are typically well absorbed so the dose of the accompanying mineral needs to be taken into account alongside the ascorbic acid, especially when taking a higher dosage.24

Time-release vitamin C

Research has found that single doses of vitamin C greater than 200 mg have lower relative bioavailability, indicating that taking several smaller doses through the day may be more effective than a single large dose.

Time-release versions aim to solve this problem by releasing the vitamin C more slowly throughout the day.  A number of studies have also evaluated the relative bioavailability of vitamin C from different tablet formulations and found that slow-release versions provide improved vitamin bioavailability.25-29

Pureway C ™

PureWay-C™ is an innovative type of vitamin C which has been developed to support increased absorption. In a 2007 study published in Medical Science Monitor, researchers investigated the cellular absorption rates, antioxidant and free radical scavenging activity of vitamin C-lipid metabolites (PureWay-C™).
They found that PureWay-C™ was more rapidly taken up and absorbed by cells than other forms of vitamin C including ascorbic acid, calcium ascorbate and calcium ascorbate-calcium threonate-dehydroascorbate (Ester-C).

They found this increased rate of absorption correlated with increased cellular protection from toxic pesticides and concluded that vitamin C-lipid metabolites (PureWay-C) have potent antioxidant and significant free radical scavenging capabilities.30

Further studies carried out on PureWay-C have demonstrated the potential for this form of vitamin C to have cellular protective and immune-supportive effects.31-33

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