The health benefits of vitamin C are well documented and you can now pick up a supplement for next to nothing in your local pharmacy or supermarket. So why would you bother to go to the time or trouble of ordering one that costs a bit more? Here we explain what the different forms of vitamin C are and what you get for your money when you spend a bit more.
Different forms of vitamin C
• Ascorbic acid is basically the proper name for vitamin C. This is vitamin C in its simplest and often most reasonably priced form, however some people find that it upsets their stomach, and may need to choose a different form that is gentler on the gut, or a time-release version which releases the vitamin C over a couple of hours, reducing the risk of an upset stomach.
• Vitamin C with bioflavonoids – Bioflavanoids are polyphenolic compounds found in vitamin C-rich foods. They increase the absorption of vitamin C when they are taken together.
• Mineral ascorbates – also known as ‘buffered’ vitamin C, mineral salts (mineral ascorbates) are less acidic and are often recommended to people who experience gastrointestinal upset with plain ascorbic acid. Most common mineral ascorbates include sodium ascorbate, calcium ascorbate, potassium ascorbate and magnesium ascorbate. Mineral ascorbates are usually more expensive than ascorbic acid and much gentler on the gastrointestinal system.
• Ester-C®– This version of vitamin C contains mainly calcium ascorbate (buffered vitamin C) and vitamin C metabolites, which increase the bioavailability of vitamin C. Ester C is usually more expensive than mineral ascorbates.
What do you get when you spend more?
• Effective form of vitamin C – The more you spend, the more bioavailable and effective the supplement is likely to be.
• Added ingredients to enhance bioavailability – There is little point taking any product if it cannot easily be absorbed. Some forms of vitamin C such as Ester-C® have been shown to be particularly bioavailable. The addition of bioflavonoids to a vitamin C product also enhances its bioavailability so these are important features to look out for.
• No fillers, sugars, sweeteners or colourings – Many cheaper products add unnecessary ingredients either to bulk up the product or to enhance the taste. A more expensive, higher quality product will be free from any nasty additions.
• High dosage – 1000mg vitamin C per day is often recommended; a more expensive product will usually deliver a higher dose. Many cheaper products deliver a low dose in a form which may not be absorbed by the body, and may well cause gastrointestinal upset. These are best avoided.