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All About Vitamin C / Ascorbic Acid

Is Your Vitamin C Made In China?

Did you know that four Chinese producers now supply the majority of the global demand for Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) additive? Here's how it looks: DSM, BASF and 4 Chinese producers are the major suppliers throughout the entire world.

One early May/2005 report on NutraIngredients.com about the company DSM, formerly a major European supplier of Vitamin C, indicated: "The bulk ascorbic acid plant at Belvidere in New Jersey is expected to close in the third quarter, leading to around 150 job cuts. DSM has already axed 200 jobs at its Dalry plant in Scotland."

In fact, one of the biggest Chinese producers, North China Pharmaceutical Co (NCPC), claims that around 80 per cent of its 20,000 tons of vitamin C currently goes to the European market.

And industry reports have indicated that both BASF and DSM are entering into joint ventures with Chinese producers as a means of competing more evenly in the marketplace.

How Is Vitamin C Ascorbic Acid Made?

Vitamin C is generally made in a two-step process, beginning with a fermentation process followed by a chemical conversion step. The key raw materials for the initial fermentation process are glucose derivatives of crops like wheat or corn, both of which have surged in price in recent months owing to pressure on stocks. Another key cost for Vitamin C production, energy, is also at record prices.

What is Vitamin C and What are the Health Benefits of Vitamin C?

Vitamin C is a water-soluble, antioxidant (immune boosting) vitamin. It is important in forming collagen, a protein that gives structure to bones, cartilage, muscle, and blood vessels. Vitamin C also aids in the absorption of iron, and helps maintain capillaries, bones, and teeth.

Scurvy is a deficiency disease caused by lack of vitamin C (ascorbic acid). For early explorers in particular, scurvy was a very real problem. Polar exploration (amongst other exploits) resulted in scurvy as much as anything because it had been relatively rare since 1803 when the Royal Navy introduced citrus fruits, lemons and limes to combat it. By the end of that century it was such a distant problem that those who suffered from it in later days did not recognize the early stages that their grandfathers would have spotted straight away.

The body stores enough vitamin C for about three months, according to "Cool Antarctica".

What are Some Natural Sources of
Vitamin C?

A "good source" of vitamin C contains a substantial amount of vitamin C in relation to its calorie content and contributes at least 10 percent of the U.S. Adequate Intake (AI) for vitamin C in a selected serving size. The U.S. AI for vitamin C is 90 milligrams per day for men and 75 milligrams per day for women. The U.S. AI given is for adults ages 19–50, and the recommended changes are for pregnant and/or lactating women. Consult your healthcare provider for these differences. The AI is also increased for smokers. Smoking increases oxidative stress—as a result, it is recommended that smokers consume 35 more milligrams of vitamin C per day.

Good Sources of Vitamin C
Food Serving Size Milligrams Vitamin C % AI for men % AI for women
Guava 1 medium 165 183 235
Red Bell Pepper 1/2 cup 95 94.7 135
Papaya 1 medium 95 94.7 135
Orange juice, from frozen concentrate 3/4 cup 75 83.3 107
Orange 1 medium 60 66.6 85.7
Broccoli, boiled 1/2 cup 60 66.6 85.7
Green bell pepper 1/2 cup 45 50 64.2
Kohlrabi, boiled 1/2 cup 45 50 64.2
Strawberries 1/2 cup 45 50 64.2
Grapefruit, white Half 40 44.4 57.1
Cantaloupe 1/2 cup 35 38.8 50
Tomato juice 3/4 cup 35 38.8 50
Mango 1 medium 30 33.3 42.8
Tangerine 1 medium 25 27.7 35.7
Potato, baked with skin 1 25 27.7 35.7
Cabbage greens, frozen, boiled 1/2 cup 25 27.7 35.7
Spinach, raw 1 cup 15 16.6 21.4

It's important to note that the goji berry contains more Vitamin C (by weight) than oranges.

Products that Normally Contain
Vitamin C Additives

Some juices that are not normally a source of vitamin C have vitamin C added. Examples of these juices include apple and grape. A 3/4-cup (juice glass) serving of these fortified juices may provide 40 percent or more of the U.S. AI for vitamin C. Check the label for the exact amount. Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is added to frozen peaches to prevent discoloration. Most ready-to-eat cereals are fortified with vitamin C. Fortified ready-to-eat cereals usually contain at least 25 percent of the U.S. AI for vitamin C. Because cereals vary, check the label on the package for the percentage of the U.S. AI for that cereal.

The amount of vitamin C in a serving depends on the weight of the serving. For example, 1/2 cup of a cooked vegetable contains more vitamin C than 1/2 cup of the same vegetable served raw, because a serving of the cooked vegetable weighs more. Therefore, the cooked vegetable may appear on the list, while the raw form does not. The raw vegetable has vitamin C, just not enough in a 1/2-cup serving to be considered a good source.

Preserving Vitamin C Content
In Natural Whole Food Sources

Vitamin C can be lost from foods during preparation, cooking, or storage. To prevent loss of vitamin C:

  • Serve fruits and vegetables raw whenever possible.
  • Steam, boil, or simmer foods in a very small amount of water, or microwave them for the shortest time possible.
  • Cook potatoes in their skins. Be sure to wash the dirt off the outside of the potato.
  • Refrigerate prepared juices and store them for no more than two to three days.
  • Store cut, raw fruits and vegetables in an airtight container and refrigerate—do not soak or store in water. Vitamin C will be dissolved in the water.

Sidenote: No single food can supply all nutrients in the amounts you need. For example, oranges provide vitamin C but no vitamin B12; cheese provides vitamin B12 but no vitamin C. To obtain the nutrients and other substances needed for good health, vary the foods you eat.

Sources:

  • Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet - Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
  • NutraIngredients.com Report - "DSM makes last stand against Chinese vitamin C"
  • Kids Health - Vitamins
  • CoolAntartica.com - "Food in Antarctica - page 2"
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - Eat A Variety of Foods