- 1 Introduction
- 2 Health benefits of vitamin C
- 3 Vitamin C supplements
- 4 Processing/ sourcing of Geco Camu Camu
- 5 Conclusion
- 6 References
Health benefits of vitamin C
Vitamin C as a nutrient is well researched, and its benefits to the body are well understood.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, which means it is able to protect our cells from reactive chemicals which would otherwise react with proteins, DNA, carbohydrates and fats. By protecting our cells from these reactive species, vitamin C lowers the risk of developing all diseases which are associated with radical damage. This includes (but is not limited to) cancers, signs of ageing and cardiovascular disease (Padayatty SJ, 2003). In fact, high intakes of vitamin C is strongly associated with a low risk of developing cancer, (although if this is due to radical protection or another mechanism is unclear). In addition to directly reacting with harmful reactive species, vitamin C is able to reactivate the fat soluble antioxidant vitamin E, which is often found embedded in our cell membrane. By reactivating vitamin E, vitamin C allows cells to benefit from additional protection from oxidative species. The role of vitamin C as an antioxidant is thoroughly researched, and well understood.
– Enzyme co-factor
Vitamin C is also required for a number of important chemical reactions to take place. One such reaction is the formation of the protein collagen (Office of Dietary Supplements, 2013), which is responsible for the elasticity of skin. A deficiency of vitamin C is most commonly recognised as scurvy, which is caused by an inability to create collagen and can lead to weakened capillaries and in more sever cases, bleeding of gums. Vitamin C is also needed as a co-factor for variety of other reactions in the body such as thecreation of L-carnitine, and certain neurotransmitters.
– How much vitamin C do we need?
The RDA for vitamin C varies from country to country, and even in the UK the recommended amount is inconsistent, and varies from 40mg (NHS, 26/11/2012) to 90mg (Office of Dietary Supplements, 2013) for an adult. Even these values are up for debate by many health experts, and are often considered to be minimum values rather than target values.
There is a recommended upper limit for vitamin C consumption, which is 2,000mg (Office of Dietary Supplements, 2013). This value is only achievable through supplementation, and causes symptoms such as nausea and diarrhoea. So the ideal amount would seem to lie somewhere between 100mg and 2,000mg vitamin C, which is quite an expansive gap.
Research into absorption and retention of vitamin C has shown that dosages around 200mg were fully bioavailable, but anything above this amount showed reduced absorption in the digestive system; and dosages above 500mg was shown to increase the amount of vitmain C excreted in the urine (Levine M, 1996). Plasma concentrations of vitamin C increase rapidly with doses up to 400 mg/day, but increased much more slowly at higher doses, indication absorption above 400mg/ day is very poor (Linus Pauling Institute, 11/27/13).
This suggests that recommended level of vitamin C to be consumed in a day should lie between 200mg and 400mg. Consuming below 200mg will not cause illness or harm, but will not be able to offer the body the same level of radical protection as 400mg a day. Consuming above 400mg a day results in poor absorption and retention of the vitamin, which suggests the body is unable to effectively utilise this amount.
Vitamin C supplements
As a supplement, vitamin C is available in two categories: ‘food form’ and synthetic. There are significant nutritional differences between these two.
– Synthetic vitamin C
Synthetic vitamin C can be found in various forms, and the most common are:
– – Ascorbic acid
Ascorbic acid is the chemical name for vitamin C, and so any supplement which contains ascorbic acid alone will only be made up of synthetic vitamin C. I.E 100mg of ascorbic acid will be 100mg of synthetic vitamin C. Pure ascorbic acid in supplements is associated with causing stomach discomfort due to its acidity (Levine M, 1996), and so it is more common to find mineral ascorbates (below) in supplements than pure ascorbic acid. A typical pure ascorbic acid supplement will contain 1,000mg of pure ascorbic acid.
– – Various mineral ascorbates
(Such as calcium ascorbate, potassium ascorbates or sodium ascorbate). Mineral ascorbates are less acidic than pure ascorbic acid (Linus Pauling Institute, 11/27/13), and are made up of ascorbic acid molecule bonded to a mineral, meaning the entire supplement is not vitamin C, some is the bonded mineral, so the dosage can be misleading. For example, a supplement which contains 100 mg of sodium ascorbate only contains contains 88.9 mg of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and 11.1 mg of sodium. Some mineral ascorbates can provide unwanted levels of a mineral which can cause health concerns. Sodium ascorbate for example can cause a rise in sodium levels, which is undesirable for anyone in the western world, especially those who currently suffer from heart conditions (He J. 1999).
A typical mineral ascorbate (such as calcium ascorbate) will contain around 1,000mg of mineral ascorbate per serving, which equates to around 890-910mg of ascorbic acid, and is less likely to cause stomach discomfort than pure ascorbic acid.
– – Ester-C
Ester-C is a trademarked form of vitamins C, which is primarily made up of calcium ascorbate, with small amounts of various metabolites of vitamin C, including dehydroascorbic acid (oxidized ascorbic acid) and calcium threonate. The manufacturer claims that these various metabolites will improve the absorption of vitamin C, but there are no studies to confirm this claim for Ester-C (http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/ss01/bioavailability.html), and in fact, it has only been shown to be absorbed to the same level as pure ascorbic acid, however, Ester-C has been shown to accumulate in white blood cells better than pure ascorbic acid (Office of Dietary Supplements, 2013).
A product containing Ester-C will typically contain 650mg of the complex, 500mg of which will be vitamin C. Ester-C will possibly have a greater retention of vitamin C in the body, and is very unlikely to cause stomach discomfort.
– – Ascorbyl palmitate
Ascorbyl palmitate is a vitamin C molecule bonded with a fatty acid molecule. Being bonded to a fatty acid allows this molecule to be fat soluble, and it is often wrongly claimed that this allows the vitamin C to become incorporated into our cells. In reality, when ascorbyl palmitate is consumed orally, digestive enzyme hydrolyse the bond between ascorbic acid and palmitic acid. This results in the ascorbic acid being no different to supplements which contain ascorbic acid with regards to bioavailability. This form of vitamin C is more commonly found in skin care products where it is more easily incorporated into skin cells, and by-passes the digestive system.
A vitamin C supplement containing ascorbyl palmitate is typically 500mg per serving, of which 200mg is ascorbic acid.
– ‘Food form’ Vitamin C
Food form vitamin C simply means vitamin C from food, such as you would obtain by eating a bell pepper or some broccoli. This vitamin C in this food form is still ascorbic acid, but also contains various metabolites (similar to Ester-C) and additional nutrients such as bioflavinoids, carbohydrates, proteins, minerals and other vitamins which vitamin C is naturally found alongside in nature. These additional nutrients have been shown to provide the body with higher serum, leukocyte, heart, liver, and kidney levels of vitamin C than purified vitamin C does. (Anitra C. Carr, 2013).
A typical camu camu supplement will contain 300-600mg of camu camu per serving, of which approximately 60 – 120mg is ascorbic acid. This ascorbic acid will have much greater retention in the body than other forms due to the additional nutrients, offers additional health benefits, and has had no reported side effects (such as stomach cramps).
Processing/ sourcing of Geco Camu Camu
This camu camu is grown organically in Peru, and is harvested in canoes during the rainy season. Once picked, the camu camu fruits are washed, pealed and juiced. The juice is then placed into a dehydrator to remove water, and the temperature of the dehydrator does not exceed 45 degrees Celsius. Once all the moisture has been removed, the camu camu is milled into a fine powder and tested for any harmful microbes. Once the tests come back clear of microbes, the powder is then packed and ready to be processed into capsules.
Gently dehydrating the camu camu pulp at no more than 45 degrees Celsius is an important part of the processing. Vitamin C is heat unstable, and so maintaining a low temperature prevents the vitamin from denaturing. High temperatures will cause vitamin C to react with the oxygen in the air, and at 70 degrees celsius all the vitamin C will denature. A temperature of 45 degrees is used to minimise the risk of losing vitamin C (as well as other nutrients), yet ensure that the juice dries out quick enough before nutrients are lost through natural decomposition.
Testing the dried camu camu powder for bateria after processing is also a key part of the processing. This test ensures that the product is safe for consumption, but also eliminates the need for heat sterilization which is often used to kill microbes (but will also denature the vitamin C). As the camu camu juice is not heated over 45 degrees, it provides a safe environment for bacteria to grow, so these tests are essential if low temperature processing is needed. These steps ensure that the vitamin C content is preserved in the powder.
Vitamin C is an essential vitamin which has numerous health benefits, and needs to be consumed on a daily basis. From the research looked at, the ideal amount of vitamin C to be consuming on a daily basis is between 200mg and 400mg. This ensures the maximum absorption/ utilisation of the vitamin. With this in mind, there is large amounts of vitamin C lost when consuming dosages of 500mg-1000mg in one supplement, especially when you consider that vitamin C is obtained from additional dietary sources (fruits/ vegetables etc). This waste, coupled with the stomach discomfort and additional side effects of consuming large amounts of vitamin C make it undesirable as a supplement.
Supplemental vitamin C is only needed in relatively low quantities for the majority of people in order to reach the 200mg-400mg level, and so rather than taking large dosages of pure vitamin C or mineral ascorbates, it’s proposed that a more natural and beneficial form is used to top up the amount of vitamin C obtained from your diet. Taking dried camu camu powder meets this requirement, with offering significant amounts of vitamin C, which are unlikely to be excreted/ unabsorbed, will be fully utilised in the body, and offer additional nutrient/ benefits.
It is the conclusion of this research that the most beneficial form of vitamin C is ‘food form’ followed by mineral ascorbates (not including sodium ascorbates), ascorbyl palmitate and lastly, pure vitamin C.
Anitra C. Carr. (2013). Synthetic or Food-Derived Vitamin C—Are They Equally Bioavailable?. Nutrients. 5 (11), 4284-4304.
He J. (1999). Dietary sodium intake and subsequent risk of cardiovascular disease in overweight adults. JAMA. 282 (21), 2027-34.
Justi KC. (2000). Nutritional composition and vitamin C stability in stored camu-camu (Myrciaria dubia) pulp. Arch Latinoam Nutr. 50 (4), 405-8.
Levine M. (1996). Vitamin C pharmacokinetics in healthy volunteers: evidence for a recommended dietary allowance.. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 93 (3), 2704-9.
Linus Pauling Institute. (11/27/13). The Bioavailability of Different Forms of Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid). Available: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/vitamins/vitaminC/vitCform.html. Last accessed 06/01/2015.
Padayatty SJ. (2003). Vitamin C as an antioxidant: evaluation of its role in disease prevention.. J Am Coll Nutr. 22 (1), 18-35
NHS. ( 26/11/2012). Vitamins and minerals – Vitamin C. Available: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/vitamins-minerals/Pages/Vitamin-C.aspx. Last accessed 06/01/2015.