Nutritional Supplements: Identifying Vitamin C

Use this handy guide to discern how your vitamin C supplement is produced.


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Reading vitamin C ­ labels: A glossary

Vitamin C products are most popular when cold and flu season arrives. The body can’t manufacture vitamin C, so it must be obtained through the diet. When it’s time to shop for vitamin C, the following glossary may help you decipher labels.
Acerola: The fruit of the West Indian or Barbados cherry (Malpighia glabra), a natural source of vitamin C.
Ascorbic acid: Another term for vitamin C, which is a water-soluble antioxidant vitamin that fights against bacterial infections and reduces the symptoms of colds and flu.
Calcium and sodium ascorbate: Two buffered forms of vitamin C that are nonacidic to the teeth, gums, and stomach.
Carotenoids: Some vitamin C products include a range of antioxidant carotenoids that strengthen the immune system by fighting off free radicals. Specific carotenoids include capsanthin, found in red pepper, and zeaxanthin, found in corn.
Citrus bioflavonoid complex: This product contains a combination of bioflavonoids from fruit. Bioflavonoids help the body absorb vitamin C from the diet, protecting blood vessels, promoting circulation, lowering cholesterol levels, and fighting viral infections. Well-known bioflavonoids include hesperidin, rutin, quercetin, and catechin.
Electrolytes: These salts, which include potassium, chloride, and sodium, help the body regulate electrical currents and the flow of water molecules across cell membranes. Electrolytes are sometimes included in vitamin C products to prevent imbalances that can occur in cell walls during times of stress, such as when the body is hit with a cold or flu. When cell walls aren’t functioning optimally, nutrients may not be delivered efficiently to the body. Electrolytes can also improve the taste of vitamin C products, especially vitamin C drinks.
Ester-C: A patented form of vitamin C that is buffered with calcium for lower acidity than many other forms of vitamin C.
Magnesium: An essential mineral added to vitamin C products because it promotes absorption.
Metabolites: Any byproducts produced as a result of the metabolism of another substance. One byproduct that vitamin C metabolizes into is dehydroascorbate (DHA). Research has shown that metabolites added to vitamin C products can improve absorption.
Rose hips: The ripened fruits of the rose plant; they are very high in vitamin C.