Since human's chemically isolated vitamin C (ascorbic acid), it has been one of the most widely used compounds on the planet. Vitamin C used to be derived naturally from rose hips but we soon discovered a more cost effective way of developing this vitamin which involved the use of corn.
To create a concentrated form of vitamin C using corn takes a lot more processing than you might think. Melanie Werner describes the production of ascorbic acid in her book about the food industry.
'It starts not with corn kernels or even corn starch but with sorbitol, a sugar alcohol found naturally in fruit and made commercially by cleaving apart and rearranging corn molecules with enzymes and a hydrogenation process. Once you have sorbitol, fermentation starts, a process that tends to muck up surrounding air less than chemical synthesis (although it's been known to cause problems with water pollution). The fermentation is done with bacteria, which enable more molecular arrangement, turning sorbitol into sorbose. Then another fermentation step, this one usually with a genetically modified bacteria, turns sorbose into something called 2-ketogluconic acid. After that, 2-ketogluconic acid is treated with hydrochloric acid to form crude ascorbic acid. Once this is filtered, it is purified and milled into a fine white powder. It is then ready to be shipped off as finished ascorbic acid, mixed with other nutrients and added to your corn flakes'.
The question is, does our body recognise this synthetic, albeit 'chemically correct' form of vitamin C the same as what we find in nature? It is easy to associate chemical names of vitamins (like ascorbic acid) with the vitamin as a whole but the reality is usually very different. Vitamins are more than just chemical structures, in nature they are found with a variety of cofactors like bioflavonoids that aid assimilation.
One of the problems with taking synthetic ascorbic acid, or indeed ascorbate forms of minerals is that they inhibit a key enzyme in the body known as ferroxidase. The activity of ferroxidase plays a key role in our iron regulation and therefore taking anything that inhibits this pathway may contribute to iron dysregulation in the body.
We believe that vitamin C should always be in its wholefood form as nature intended. Next week we have our natural vitamin C supplement launching, derived solely from organic camu camu berries. These berries contain one of the highest concentrations of vitamin C on the planet and really pack a punch in the antioxidant department.