Why I stop taking vitamin C supplements

Commercial vitamin C supplements off the shelf

Have you even been told to take vitamin C supplements to prevent falling sick or catching a cold? I used to do that, but not any more!

Ever since I started to adopt a whole food plant based diet, I became more critical of the food and supplements that I take. A little research online into vitamin C has led me to the conclusion that:

Consuming vitamin C in the form of dietary supplement is totally unnecessary.

I am not saying that we don’t need vitamin C in our body. In fact, vitamin C or L-ascorbic acid is an essential nutrient for humans. We must have vitamin C to stay healthy. Vitamin C deficiency in human will cause Scurvy, a disease that was once common among sailors whom did not have fresh fruits and vegetables for months [1]. Vitamin C also plays a critical role in helping the body to absorb a very important mineral, iron, from plant sources.

The recommended daily intake (RDI) of Vitamin C ranges from 45 (WHO) to 95 mg/day (United States’ National Academy of Sciences). Fresh fruits and vegetables contain plenty of vitamin C, for example [2]:

  • A single Kiwi fruit already has 84 mg,
  • An orange gives you 83 mg,
  • A medium size papaya has 188 mg,
  • A cup of broccoli gives 81 mg.

Oranges: an excellent source of vitamin C.

Therefore, for one who takes fruits and vegetables daily, there is no reason to worry that there isn’t enough intake of vitamin C.

Please do not take vitamin C supplements in place of fresh fruits and vegetables, thinking that they are the same. As pointed out by Prof. T Colin Campell in “The China Study” [3]:

“Because nutrition operates as an infinitely complex biochemical system involving thousands of chemicals and thousands of effects on your health, it makes little or no sense that isolated nutrients taken as supplements can substitute for whole food.”

Therefore,

Fresh fruits and vegetables are the best sources for your daily vitamin C requirements.

Commercial vitamin C supplements often come in much higher dose than what our body requirement daily. For example, the popular Redoxon® Vitamin C Tablets contain 1000mg in every single dose. If you believe that taking a high dose of this vitamin C tablet will help you to prevent catching a cold like I used to, then I can tell you it will not. In fact, in one study published in The Medical Journal of Australia, the researchers concluded that [4]:

“Doses of vitamin C in excess of 1 g daily taken shortly after onset of a cold did not reduce the duration or severity of cold symptoms in healthy adult volunteers when compared with a vitamin C dose less than the minimum recommended daily intake.”

Simply put, there is no use to take excessive vitamin C supplement if you are starting to catch a cold.

However, the main reason that put me off vitamin C supplements is not about health. It is its commercial dark side:

The production of commercial synthetic vitamin C is highly polluting; and it is controlled by a small number of major industry players.

Image source: http://fxanimation.com/clip/item/photos/15/RAW83YNXUA9Y/Pollution

Consider the following facts:

  • Vitamin C supplements are made from industrial synthesis process that produces vitamin C from glucose through a 2-step fermentation process. The process creates pollution in the air. Today, the world production of synthesized vitamin C is concentrated in China. It is one of the most polluting industries in the country. Two major synthesized vitamin C plants near Beijing were ordered to shutdown during the period of 2008 Olympics in Beijing. [5]
  • With the world production of synthesized vitamin C controlled by China, in March 2011, a U.S. court has found powerful evidence that 4 Chinese companies colluded to limit production and fix prices of vitamin C. The evidence was so convincing that the defendants have not even contested the allegations! [6]

I made my choice. I will not support such an industry! How about you?

References

  1.  “Scurvy “, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scurvy
  2. “Top 10 Foods Highest in Vitamin C”, http://www.healthaliciousness.com/articles/vitamin-C.php
  3. T. Colin Campell & Thomas M. Campbell II, “The China Study”, pg 228
  4. “Mega-dose vitamin C in treatment of the common cold: a randomised controlled trial.”  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11700812
  5. “Vitamin C: Disruptions to Production in China to Maintain Firm Market”, http://www.flex-news-food.com/console/PageViewer.aspx?page=17441
  6. “U.S. courts confront China’s involvement in price fixing”, http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/11/us-china-vitaminc-idUSTRE72A4XH20110311
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