Why does vitamin C have citric acid

Natural medicinal active ingredient vitamin C

What is ascorbic acid?

The term means something like "anti-scurvy acid". The reason for this was the discovery that the typical seafaring disease scurvy could be contained by certain acidic foods, such as sauerkraut and lemons. Today this vital substance, which the seafarers lacked, is called vitamin C.

Vitamins are chemical compounds that are vital, i.e. essential, for the human organism, but which it cannot produce itself. He is dependent on their intake through food. This is where the name comes from, because Vita means life. A distinction is made between fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins. While fat-soluble vitamins can be stored in the body, water-soluble vitamins can hardly be stored and must be taken in daily. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin.

Vitamin C is not only called L-ascorbic acid itself, but also other biologically active forms that can be converted in the body. This applies to dehydroascorbic acid (DHA), for example.

Ascorbic acid is a chemical compound that is very similar to glucose. There are other forms of ascorbic acid. They differ only minimally chemically, but the differences are serious for our body: It can only use L-ascorbic acid as a vitamin. But that is not a problem for us, because the stated value in food, dietary supplements and pharmaceuticals always refers to the biologically active L-ascorbic acid. The others hardly play a role in nature.

In 1928 the Hungarian scientist Albert Szent-Györgyi succeeded for the first time in isolating pure ascorbic acid. But it wasn't until 1932 that the American researchers Waugh and King realized that the substance discovered by Szent-Györgyi was vitamin C, which heals scurvy.

Ascorbic acid in the fight against scurvy

Reports of scurvy epidemics during ship expeditions, expeditions and armed conflicts have existed since the Middle Ages. In the 16th century it was slowly realized that the occurrence of this disease could be prevented by eating citrus fruits and fresh vegetables. However, it took over 2 centuries for this knowledge to prevail. In 1795, the Scottish ship's doctor James Lind carried out the first controlled study in medical history. He realized that citrus fruits could cure scurvy in sailors. However, it took another 42 years until this life-saving finding was implemented and the British Admiralty ordered that all sailors had to receive a daily ration of fresh lime juice. The exact testing of numerous foods for their anti-scorbutic effect and the proof of a causal connection with a vitamin C deficiency did not take place until the 20th century.

Is Ascorbic Acid the Same as Citric Acid?

No! Both are organic chemical compounds that taste sour and both acids are found in lemons. Beyond that, however, these two compounds don't have much in common.

How much vitamin C do people need a day?

Since ascorbic acid cannot be stored, it has to be constantly supplied through food.
The DGE (German Society for Nutrition) recommends around 100 mg per day (men: 110 mg, women: 95 mg). Smokers, pregnant women and nursing mothers, on the other hand, have a significantly higher need.

It is very important with these values: They relate to healthy people. With many diseases, the vitamin C requirement increases enormously. This is also evident from the fact that many animals significantly increase their body's own production of ascorbic acid during stress and illness.

Which foods contain a lot of vitamin C?

Fresh fruits and vegetables are the most important sources of vitamin C. Above all the fruit of the camu camu bush and the acerola cherry. But also local fruits such as rose hip, sea buckthorn and black currant are very rich in vitamin C. Citrus fruits also play a major role as a source of vitamin C. They all also contain phytochemicals, so-called flavonoids, which can strengthen the immune system and thus also support the body's defense mechanisms.

Why do animals produce vitamin C but humans don't?

In the course of evolution, humans have lost the ability to produce vitamin C themselves. This is due to a genetic enzyme defect. Enzymes are protein molecules that, among other things, enable certain substances to be built up and broken down. Other primates, but also guinea pigs, some birds and fish have also lost the ability to synthesize themselves. In all other animals, the vitamin is built up in the liver from sugar (glucose). It is interesting that the animals themselves can increase their vitamin C production in stressful situations and with many diseases. This suggests that the vitamin C requirement is actually significantly increased in such situations.

How is vitamin C absorbed?

Humans are dependent on the intake of this vitamin through food. In the small intestine, there are special transport molecules that are responsible for vitamin C absorption. However, this process is saturable. This means: When all transport molecules are occupied, the ascorbic acid remaining in the intestine is excreted from food, from powders or tablets through the stool.

The more vitamin C that is swallowed at once, the lower the percentage absorbed. After taking 180 mg, between 80 and 90% can be absorbed. After taking 1000 mg, it is 60-75%. If 12 g of vitamin C are swallowed, only about 16% of it can be absorbed.

For this reason, it makes sense to take the intended amount of vitamin C in small doses throughout the day. This increases the organism's capacity to absorb. Based on the available studies, an amount between 100 and 200 mg per serving appears to be the most effective.

The amount of vitamin C that can be supplied to the organism via the gastrointestinal tract remains limited. In addition, many people suffer from inflammation of the gastrointestinal mucous membranes. This additionally hampers the recording. If individually different amounts of vitamin C are exceeded, diarrhea can occur.

If it makes sense from a therapeutic point of view to take in very high doses, high-dose vitamin C intake in the form of injections or, better still, infusions is recommended.

The vitamin C solution for infusion should be free of preservatives and stabilizers, otherwise there is an increased risk of allergies. An infusion solution that contains only sodium hydrogen carbonate in addition to vitamin C is best tolerated. Sodium hydrogen carbonate is important to maintain a near neutral pH. Otherwise the solution is too acidic for an infusion and not well tolerated. Your doctor or alternative practitioner will advise you on the possibilities of high-dose vitamin C infusions.

Which organs need a lot of vitamin C?

In humans, the adrenal gland, pituitary gland (pituitary gland), brain, spleen, liver and lungs are the organs with the highest vitamin C content. But the retina and white blood cells (leukocytes) are also very rich in this vitamin.

Interestingly, the vitamin C concentrations in the tissues and organs of animals, which can produce vitamin C themselves, are much higher than in humans.

What does ascorbic acid say in urine?

That actually just means that enough of this vitamin has been absorbed in the last few hours. Perhaps you are wondering why test strips, with which you can check certain properties of the urine, usually also determine the vitamin C content? This is because a lot of ascorbic acid in the urine can falsify the detection methods for other parameters. If a lot of vitamin C is excreted in the urine, this means that it is no longer possible to reliably measure glucose in the urine, for example. Incidentally, this also applies to blood withdrawals and blood sugar measurements directly after an infusion: The high vitamin C concentrations in the blood can falsify the detection methods for other blood parameters.

Natural vitamin C or man-made vitamin C?

Our body and its cells cannot distinguish whether the ascorbic acid that is available has a natural origin or was produced in a laboratory. Of course, a healthy and natural diet with lots of fruit and vegetables is always better than the intake of artificial substances.

However, if vitamin C is used to treat certain diseases and is injected or infused for this purpose, the ascorbic acid must be completely pure. Contamination in the form of other plant ingredients could be very problematic. Therefore, the ascorbic acid used has to be manufactured in the laboratory. Sugar compounds, which are obtained from natural raw materials, serve as raw material. With the help of microorganisms, ascorbic acid is synthesized from this.

Such a highly pure ascorbic acid also has the advantage that no allergies can be triggered to the naturally occurring accompanying substances: The widespread citrus fruit allergies are not allergies to ascorbic acid, but to other typical ingredients of citrus fruits. The often fatal scurvy in particular shows that we would not be viable with a vitamin C allergy.

What is ascorbic acid important for?

Vitamin C was best known at the end of the 1970s through the Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling. At that time he recognized the therapeutic benefits of this versatile vitamin. The Linus Pauling Institute in the United States carried out fundamental studies in the early 1980s that justified the use of this particular vitamin in serious illnesses. Intensive research has been carried out in the field of vitamin C therapy since the early 1990s.

Today we know: ascorbic acid is to be seen as an activator of the entire cell metabolism. It is thus involved in innumerable metabolic reactions in the human body. Here is an excerpt from the variety of functions:

Vitamin C contributes

  • to normal collagen formation for normal function of
    • Blood vessels
    • Bones and cartilage
    • Teeth and gums
    • Skin and hair
  • to a normal function
    • of the immune system, especially during and after intense exercise
    • of the nervous system
    • the psyche
  • to protect cells from oxidative stress
  • to reduce tiredness and fatigue
  • to regenerate the reduced form of vitamin E.
  • Increase in iron absorption
The talking compass of active ingredients

Find out more about vitamin C in a short clip with doctor and pharmacist Dr. Peter Reinhard.

Vitamin C - expert knowledge simply explained