Health Supreme by Sepp Hasslberger

Networking For A Better Future - News and perspectives you may not find in the media

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November 17, 2003

Ascorbic Acid is not Vitamin C

I just read an article by Tim O'Shea discussing vitamins and their inherent complexity. O'Shea says that vitamin C is not only Ascorbic Acid but rather a complex of substances that work in synergy. Taking ascorbic acid and calling it vitamin C is actually misleading, according to O'Shea, as it's only one part of the whole picture.

The article discusses not only vitamin C but a host of other substances and shows that what has been isolated and called "vitamins" is often but a fraction of the natural (phyto)complex that contains and in fact makes up these vital nutrients.

The article is posted here not because I believe isolated vitamins to be damaging (O'Shea may go too far in that respect) but because it does contain a quite valid message: The closer to the natural form a vitamin/mineral is, the better for our health.

Now look at the list of "allowed vitamin and mineral sources" in Annex II of the European Food Supplements directive, and see whether you can find any of the complex food-form vitamins or minerals listed there.

International legislation on supplements, which includes the European food supplements directive and the proposed Codex Guidelines on vitamin and mineral supplements, goes in the direction of not only favouring the pharmaceutical single compound synthetic nutrients but of imposing their use, by disallowing the more natural food-bound complexes as sources of vitamins and minerals.

- Tim O'Shea

This will be a short chapter, but after you're finished with it, you will know more about vitamins than 95% of clinical nutritionists, doctors, supplement sales force, or bodybuilders. If that sounds arrogant or overstated, it really isn't my fault. I'm just a messenger; a purveyor of information. Either I'm right or the 95% are right; can't be both.

Without further ado, here's the kernel: ascorbic acid is not vitamin C. Alpha tocopherol is not vitamin E. Retinoic acid is not vitamin A. And so on through the other vitamins. Vast sums of money have been expended to make these myths part of Conventional Wisdom. If you have several college degrees and all this is news to you, don't feel bad. Unless you think your education ended at Commencement. Which is generally true.


Vitamins are not individual molecular compounds. Vitamins are biological complexes. They are multi-step biochemical interactions whose action is dependent upon a number of variables within the biological terrain. Vitamin activity only takes place when all conditions are met within that environment, and when all co-factors and components of the entire vitamin complex are present and working together. Vitamin activity is even more than the sum of all those parts; it also involves timing.

Vitamins cannot be isolated from their complexes and still perform their specific life functions within the cells. When isolated into artificial commercial forms, like ascorbic acid, these purified synthetics act as drugs in the body. They are no longer vitamins, and to call them such is inaccurate.

A vitamin is
" a working process consisting of the nutrient, enzymes, coenzymes, antioxidants, and trace minerals activators."
- Royal Lee "What Is a Vitamin?" Applied Trophology Aug 1956


Dr. Royal Lee was the pioneer researcher in the field of whole food vitamins. For decades he documented the basic facts summarized in this chapter. His work has never been scientifically refuted. Anyone who seriously undertakes the study of vitamins today corroborates Lee's work. His story is a fascinating study in itself, a study of indomitable perseverance in the pursuit of true principles. Jensen tells us that Royal Lee's work will not be appreciated until the next century.

Hasn't happened yet.

Lee felt the full weight of organized drugs/medicine bearing down on him. Reading like something out of Schindler's List , we learn that the FDA not only persecuted Lee for challenging the economics of synthetic vitamins, produced by giant drug companies, but that he was actually ordered by a court to burn all his research of the past 20 years! Burn his research! When has that ever happened in this country? They didn't even do that to Larry Flynt.

Going off on a tangent, ever wondered how the FDA attained its present position as attack dog for the drug companies and food manufacturers? It's another whole story in itself. The precursor of the FDA was the Bureau of Chemistry. Up until 1912 the Bureau of Chemistry was headed up by a man named Dr. Harvey W. Wiley. Here's a quote from Dr. Wiley that illustrates where his interests lay:

"No food product in our country would have any trace of benzoic acid, sulfurous acid or sulfites or any alum or saccharin, save for medical purposes. No soft drink would contain caffeine or theobromine. No bleached flour would enter interstate commerce. Our foods and drugs would be wholly without any form of adulteration and misbranding. The health of our people would be vastly improved and the life greatly extended. The manufacturers of our food supply, and especially the millers, would devote their energies to improving the public health and promoting happiness in every home by the production of whole ground, unbolted cereal flours and meals."
-The History of a Crime Against the Pure Food Law ,1912

Now obviously we can't have a dangerous lunatic like this in charge of the public nutrition, can we? Dr. Wiley actually filed suit against the Coca-Cola company in an attempt to keep their artificial product out of interstate commerce, and off the market. Fortunately Wiley was eventually replaced by a saner individual, more attuned to the real nutritional needs of the American people, as determined by the experts who knew what was best for us: the food manufacturers. This was Dr. Elmer Nelson, and in his words we get an idea of the change in philosophy that marked the transformation of the Bureau of Chemistry into the FDA:

'It is wholly unscientific to state that a well-fed body is more able to resist disease than a poorly-fed body. My overall opinion is that there hasn't been enough experimentation to prove that dietary deficiencies make one susceptible to disease."
- Elmer Nelson MD
Washington Post 26 Oct 49

Bernard Jensen illustrates how the tobacco industry and the food giants like Coke were indirectly behind the legal persecution of Royal Lee. Cigarette ads in the 40s and 50s showed medical doctors promoting the digestive benefits of smoking Camels. Or the advertising of Coke and other refined sugar foods stating that "science has shown how sugar can help keep your appetite and weight under control." ( Empty Harvest)

During this same period, Royal Lee was kept in courts for years, fighting to keep the right to advertise his vitamin products, because he was a threat to the food manufacturers. Lee knew they were poisoning the American public. He proved that refined sugars and devitalized, bleached flours were destroying the arteries and the digestive system, causing heart disease and cancer.


OK, natural vs. synthetic. Let's start with Vitamin C. Most sources equate vitamin C with ascorbic acid, as though they were the same thing. They're not. Ascorbic acid is an isolate, a fraction, a distillate of naturally occurring vitamin C. In addition to ascorbic acid, vitamin C must include rutin, bioflavonoids, Factor K, Factor J, Factor P, Tyrosinase, Ascorbinogen, and other components as shown in the figure below:

__________ A s c o r b i c A c i d ___________



Factor J
Factor K
Factor P

A s c o r b i c A c i d



In addition, mineral co-factors must be available in proper amounts.

If any of these parts are missing, there is no vitamin C, no vitamin activity. When some of them are present, the body will draw on its own stores to make up the differences, so that the whole vitamin may be present. Only then will vitamin activity take place, provided that all other conditions and co-factors are present. Ascorbic acid is described merely as the "antioxidant wrapper" portion of vitamin C; ascorbic acid protects the functional parts of the vitamin from rapid oxidation or breakdown. (Somer p 58 "Vitamin C: A Lesson in Keeping An Open Mind" The Nutrition Report)

Over 90% of ascorbic acid in this country is manufactured at a facility in Nutley, New Jersey, owned by Hoffman-LaRoche, one of the world's biggest drug manufacturers(1 800 526 0189). Here ascorbic acid is made from a process involving cornstarch and volatile acids. Most U.S. vitamin companies then buy the bulk ascorbic acid from this single facility. After that, marketing takes over. Each company makes its own labels, its own claims, and its own formulations, each one claiming to have the superior form of vitamin C, even though it all came from the same place, and it's really not vitamin C at all.


The word synthetic means two things:
- manmade
- occurs nowhere in nature

From the outset, it is crucial to understand the difference between vitamins and vitamin activity. The vitamin is the biochemical complex. Vitamin activity means the actual biological and cellular changes that take place when the stage is set for the vitamin complex to act.

Think of it like gas and a car. Pumping the gas into the tank doesn't necessarily mean the car is going anywhere. Other conditions and factors must be also present, in order for Activity to occur. The gas line to the carburetor must be clear, the carburetor jets must be set, there must be an exact mixture of air flow, the ignition must be turned on, the spark plugs must be clean, the exact amount of gas must reach each spark plug right before it fires, no gas must be left over in the cylinder after the plug fires Getting the idea? If any of this stuff is missing, there's no Activity: the car doesn't run, or at least not very well.

Amazing as it may sound if you're hearing this for the first time, vitamins are more than the synthetic fractions we are commonly taught they are. The ascorbic acid you buy at the grocery store every few weeks, thinking you are buying Vitamin C, is just a chemical copy of naturally occurring ascorbic acid, which itself is still only a fraction of the actual Vitamin C. Real vitamin C is part of something living, and as such, can impart life. Your synthetic, fractionated chemical ascorbic acid never grew in the ground, never saw the light of day, never was alive or part of anything alive. It's a chemical, a cornstarch derivative, a sulfuric acid by-product. In your body it's just another drug. Synthetic vitamins have toxic effects from mega-doses and actually can increase the white blood cell count. Vitamins are only necessary in minute quantities on a daily basis. Whole food vitamins, by contrast, are not toxic since the vitamin is complexed in its integral working form, and requires nothing from the body, and triggers no immune response.


Scurvy is a disease caused by vitamin C deficiency. Scurvy is characterized by bleeding gums, slow wound healing, softening bones, loose teeth, ulcerations of the mouth and digestive tract, general weight loss and fatigue. From 1650 to 1850 half of all seamen on transoceanic voyages died of scurvy. It was discovered by ship surgeon Thomas Lind in the early 1800s that British sailors were spared the disease altogether simply by a diet rich in citrus fruits. Since limes travelled well, they were the common choice during the early years, and thus the expression "limeys" was coined to describe British sailors. It was later found both at sea and in prison fare that potatoes were equally successful in preventing scurvy, and much cheaper to obtain. ( Lancet . 1842)

We find that there is less than 20 mg of ascorbic acid in a potato. Yet this small amount, since it is complexed in a food source, is all the body needs not only to prevent scurvy, but also to cure it, even in its advanced state. Such a remedy is described in detail in Richard Dana's amazing journal Two Years Before the Mast, written in 1840.

Whole food vitamin C as found in potatoes, onions, and citrus fruits is able to quickly cure any case of scurvy. By contrast, the fractionated chemical ascorbic acid has been shown to be insufficient in resolving a scurvy condition, simply because it does not act as a nutrient. ( Lancet 1842)

Ascorbic acid simply cannot confer vitamin activity, as taught by the discoverer of vitamin C himself, another Nobel Prize laureate, Dr. Albert Szent-Georgi.

Szent-Georgi discovered vitamin C in 1937. In all his research however, Szent-Georgi found that he could never cure scurvy with the isolated ascorbic acid itself. Realizing that he could always cure scurvy with the "impure" vitamin C found in simple foods, Szent-Georgi discovered that other factors had to be at work in order for vitamin activity to take place. So he returned to the laboratory and eventually made the discovery of another member of the vitamin C complex, as shown in the diagram above: rutin. All the factors in the complex, as Royal Lee and Dr. Szent-Georgi both came to understand, ascorbic acid, rutin, and the other factors, were synergists: co-factors which together sparked the "functional interdependence of biologically related nutrient factors." ( Empty Harvest p120) The term "wheels within wheels" was used to describe the interplay of co-factors.

Each of the other synergists in the C complex has a separate function:
- P factors for blood vessel strength,
- J factors for oxygen-carrying capacity of red cells,
- tyrosinase as an essential enzyme for enhancing white blood cell effectiveness.

Ascorbic acid is just the antioxidant outer shell ñ the protector of all these other synergists so that they will be able to perform their individual functions.

Now I can hear you asking, what about Linus Pauling, double Nobel Prize laureate, and his lifetime espousal of megadosing on ascorbic acid - up to 10 grams per day? He lived to be 93. Are we saying that he took a synthetic vitamin all that time? Yes, that's exactly right. Bernard Jensen suggests that ascorbic acid has an acidifying effect in the body, making an unfriendly environment for viruses, Candida , and pathogenic bacteria. "Most infectious pathogenic bacteria thrive in an alkaline pH." Pauling's good health was not the result of synthetic vitamin activity. Good genetics and the acidifying effect are likely what brought longevity to Linus Pauling. He eventually died of cancer.

Dr. Royal Lee's phrase "biological wheels within wheels" always comes up in any discussion of whole food vitamins. Essentially it means that individual synergists cannot function as a vitamin in a chemically isolated form, like ascorbic acid. Vitamins are living complexes which contribute to other higher living complexes - like cell repair, collagen manufacture, and maintenance of blood circulation. Ascorbic acid is not a living complex. It is a copy of a part of a living complex known as vitamin C. Ascorbic acid is a fractionated, crystalline isolate of vitamin C.

Why are you a high school graduate or a college graduate or a doctor, and you don't know this? Because drug manufacturers like things clean and simple and cheap to produce. To this simple fact add the politics which always comes into play when anyone mentions the word "billions," and you are beginning to get the idea about where to begin your investigation. Burned his research???


Most vitamins cannot be made by the body. They must be taken in as food. The best sources then are obviously whole foods, rich in vitamins. Because of soil depletion, mineral depletion, pesticides, air pollution, and erosion, it is common knowledge that foods grown in American soil today have only a fraction of the nutrient value of 50 years ago. That means a fraction of the vitamins and minerals necessary for normal human cell function. Royal Lee described the American diet as the cultivation and production of "devitalized foods." Dr. Weston Price describes these empty products as the "foods of commerce." Think it's gotten better or worse since their time? Thus the necessity for supplementation.

Vitamins and minerals are not functionally separable. They make each other work. Example: vitamin D is necessary for the body to absorb calcium. Copper is necessary for vitamin C activity. And so on. Mineral deficiencies can cause vitamin deficiencies, and vice versa. Epidemic mineral deficiency in America is a well-documented result of systematic soil depletion. (See Minerals chapter:

So that is the other prime difference between whole food vitamins and synthetics: whole food vitamins contain within them many essential trace minerals necessary for their synergistic operation. Synthetic vitamins contain no trace minerals, relying on, and depleting, the body's own mineral reserves.


Following the German agricultural methods of Von Leibig in the mid-1800s, American farmers found that NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) was all that was necessary for crops to look good. (Frost p7) As long as NPK is added to the soil, crops can be produced and sold year after year from the same soil. They look OK. But the other necessary trace minerals vital for human nutrition are virtually absent from most American soil after all these years. Many of these minerals, such as zinc, copper, and magnesium, are necessary co-factors of vitamin activity. Depleted topsoil is one simple, widespread mechanism of both vitamin and mineral deficiency in American produce today. This doesn't even take into account the tons of poisonous herbicides and pesticides dumped on crops. According to the UN, two million tons of pesticides are used worldwide annually. (Jensen, p69)

American agri-business has one motive: profit. Such a focus has resulted in an output of empty produce and a nation of unhealthy people. The earth's immune system is its soil. To be vital and capable of growing vital foods, soil must be rich in both minerals and soil-based organisms - life forms. Healthy produce naturally resists insects. Insects are like bad bacteria in the body: they are attracted to diseased tissue, though they do not cause it.


And we're still only talking about people who actually eat raw fruits and vegetables, which is a minority. Processed food composes the majority of what most Americans eat. The only nutrients in most processed foods are "enriched" and "fortified" as described below.

When a doctor says that food supplements are all unnecessary because we can get everything we need from our food, that doctor is lacking basic information published and agreed upon by his own peers. Whether or not we need supplementation is no longer an issue, except for one who is totally out of touch. The issue is what kind and how much. Vitamin and mineral deficiency can be tagged to practically ANY disease syndrome known to man. DW Cavanaugh, MD of Cornell University actually concluded that
"There is only one major disease, and that is malnutrition." (Jensen, p8)

Malnutrition of the affluent is the natural result of the foods of commerce.


The best vitamins are called whole food vitamins. It will be difficult finding this out on the Internet, however, because the Web is dominated by mainstream nutritional theory. In the area of vitamins, the Internet is 99% marketing; 1% actual information.

But then again, this isn't Mission Difficult. This is Mission Impossible, Mr Hunt.

There are about 110 companies who sell vitamins in the US. Less than 5 of them use whole food vitamins. The reason is simple: whole food vitamins are expensive to make. A few of the largest pharmaceutical firms in the world mass produce synthetic vitamins for the vast majority of these 110 "vitamin" companies, who then put their own label on them, and every company claims theirs is the best! It's ridiculous! Americans spend over $9 billion per year for synthetic vitamins. (Frost p2)

Whole food vitamins are obtained by taking a vitamin-rich plant, removing the water and the fiber in a cold vacuum process, free of chemicals, and then packaging for stability. The entire vitamin complex in this way can be captured intact, retaining its "functional and nutritional integrity." (DeCava p.23.) Upon ingestion, the body is not required to draw on its own reserves in order to complete any missing elements from the vitamin complex.

Mainstream marketing of vitamins and minerals has successfully created the myth that vitamins and minerals may be isolated from each other, that correct amounts may be measured out, and then we can derive total benefit from taking these fractionated chemical creations. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Vitamins and minerals, and also enzymes, work closely together as co-factors for each other's efficacy. If one part is missing, or in the wrong form or the wrong amount, entire chains of metabolic processes will not proceed normally. Result: downward spiralling of health, probably imperceptible for long periods of time.


What is the marketing philosophy behind the prevalence of the type of synthetic vitamins available in the supermarket and mall vitamin stores? Simple: profit above all else. Once the public is shown that vitamin supplementation is necessary, the rest is marketing. Marketing is the art of persuading by suspending logic and twisting data into junk science. Example: what's the actual difference in composition between Wheaties and Total, two cereals put out by the same company? Total is advertised as being much more nutrient-rich than "ordinary" Wheaties. Look at the labels. What justifies the extra $1.30 for a box of Total? Answer: 1.5¢ worth of synthetic vitamins sprayed over the Wheaties. That's it! That's what "vitamin enriched" always means. The other trick word is "fortified." Generally that means that the food itself is devoid of nutrients or enzymes, so they tried to pump it up a little with some "vitamins." Cheap synthetic vitamin sprays are all that is required for the manufacturer to use labels like "enriched" and "fortified." These words are red flags ñ if a food needs to be fortified or enriched, you can bet it was already dead.

The mega-vitamin theory doesn't really hold when it comes to synthetics: If A Little Is Good, More Is Better. Macro doses of vitamin E, and also vitamin D have been shown to decrease immune function significantly. (DeCava.) It stands to reason. Vitamins by definition are necessary in phenomenally small doses. The discoverer of thiamine, a B vitamin, and the man who came up with the word vitamin , Dr. Casimir Funk, has this to say about synthetics:
"Synthetic vitamins: these are highly inferior to vitamins from natural sources, also the synthetic product is well known to be far more toxic."

Nutrition authority DeCava describes it:
"Natural food-source vitamins are enzymatically alive. Man-made synthetic vitamins are dead chemicals. "
-- The Real Truth About Vitamins p 209

Oxymorons: military intelligence, rap music, synthetic vitamins.

The marketing of fractionated crystalline synthetic vitamins has been so successful that most nutritionists and doctors are unaware that there is something missing from these "vitamins." Vitamin manufacturers compete for customers with identical products - they all bought their synthetic vitamins from the same couple of drug companies. To differentiate their product, each makes claims of "high potency." Our vitamins are higher potency than theirs, etc. The point is, the higher the potency, the more the druglike effects are present. Natural whole food vitamins are very low potency. Remember the 20mg of vitamin C in a potato that was able to cure a patient of scurvy? That was low potency. Low potency is all we need. Low potency is enough to bring about vitamin activity. High potency overshoots the mark ñ the chemical is very pure and refined, like the difference between white sugar and the type of sugar that's in an apple.


Generally speaking, if milligrams are being discussed at length, the author has no clue about vitamins. Synthetic vitamins are refined, high potency chemicals, and therefore may be accurately measured in milligrams, just like drugs. This has nothing to do with vitamin activity or nutrition, except in a negative way.


The same type of incomplete action can be seen with any synthetic vitamin. Let's take beta carotene for a minute, which the body can turn into vitamin A. Now you'll remember that vitamin A is necessary for good eyesight, DNA synthesis, and protects cells from free radicals. A study reported in Apr 94 in the NEJM of some 30,000 Finnish subjects showed conclusively that synthetic vitamin A had no antioxidant effect whatsoever. A true antioxidant helps to protect heart muscle, lungs, and artery surfaces from breaking down prematurely. In this study, the subjects who received the synthetic beta carotene actually had an 8% higher incidence of fatal heart attacks, strokes, and lung cancer than those who got the placebo (sugar pill). Stands to reason: the synthetic brought no vitamin activity to the tissues that needed it. As a dead, purified chemical introduced into the body, the synthetic further stressed the immune system, the liver, and the kidneys which all had to try to break down this odd chemical and remove it from the body. It would be bad enough if they were harmless, but synthetic vitamins actually have a net negative effect.

Vitamin A

was first discovered in 1919. By 1924, it had been broken down and separated from its natural whole food complex: "purified." By 1931, LaRoche - one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, even today - had succeeded in "synthesizing" vitamin A. That means they had created a purely chemical copy of a fraction of naturally occurring vitamin A. Naturally occurring vitamin A is found associated with an entire group of other components:
- Retinols
- Retinoids
- Retinal
- Carotenoids
- Carotenes
- Fatty acids
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin B
- Vitamin D
- Enzymes
- Minerals

Vitamins and Minerals Somer 1992

Isolated from these other factors, vitamin A is a fraction which cannot perform its biological functions. Taken as a synthetic, it must then draw on this list of resources already in the body in order to complete its make-up. Whole food vitamin A, by contrast, is already complete and ready to go.

Most synthetic vitamin A consists only of retinal, retinol, or retinoic acid. The well-publicized potential for toxicity with mega doses of vitamin A involves one of these three. Vitamin A toxicity, known as hypervitaminosis, always results from an excess of synthetic, "purified" vitamin A, and never from whole food vitamin A. (DeCava, p 86) Effects of vitamin A toxicity include:
- tumor enhancement
- joint disorders
- osteoporosis
- extreme dryness of eyes, mouth and skin,
- enlargement of liver and spleen
- immune depression
- birth defects

Beta carotene

is a precursor the body can convert to vitamin A. Unfortunately, as a supplement, synthetic beta carotene is usually "stabilized" in refined vegetable oils. In this trans fatty acid form, oxidation occurs and the chemically "pure" beta carotene can no longer act as a nutrient, because it was changed. Almost all synthetic beta carotene is produced by the Swiss drug giant Hoffman-LaRoche. This form can no longer be converted to vitamin A. The best it can be is worthless, and at the worst is toxic.

Natural vitamin A and beta carotene are well known as immune boosters and cancer fighters, in their role as antioxidants. Synthetic vitamin A by contrast has actually brought about significant increases in cancer. A study done in Finland provided smokers with large doses of synthetic beta carotene. Lung cancer incidence increased 18%! ( NEJM Apr 94 " The Alpha Tocopherol Beta Carotene Cancer Prevention Study Group")

These findings were corroborated two years later in another study written up in Lancet . Pharmacologic doses of syntheric beta carotenes were found to block the antioxidant activity of the other 50 naturally occurring carotenoids in the diet. Anti-cancer activity was thus blocked by the synthetic. ( Lancet 1996)

With the vast outpouring of wrong information about vitamins A and C, the findings of a 1991 article in Health Counselor are no surprise: 50% of Americans are deficient in vitamin A and 41% are deficient in vitamin C. Synthetic vitamins cannot prevent deficiencies.


In one experiment, synthetic vitamin B (thiamine) was shown to render 100% of a group of pigs sterile! 100% would be considered a significant finding. (Dr. Barnett Sure, Journ Natr 1939) Perhaps the fact that synthetic vitamin B comes from coal tar, maybe that has something to do with it, you think? Then there's vitamin B12, which comes from activated sewage sludge. (Frost p 60) Been shooting blanks since you started on those multi's?

For the licensed dieticians and clinical nutritionists reading this in disbelief because it is too "unscientific," consider the way Theron Randolph MD delineated between natural and synthetic:
"A synthetically derived substance may cause a reaction in a chemically susceptible person when the same material of natural origin is tolerated, despite the two substances having identical chemical structures. The point is illustrated by the frequency of clinical reactions to synthetic vitamins ñ especially vitamin B1 and C- when the [same] naturally occurring vitamins are tolerated."


According to Los Angeles naturopath, Dr. Jack Singh, all commercial lecithins in supplements, as well as most vitamin D, comes from irradiated vegetable oils. That's rancid, oxidizing trans fatty acids! A birthday party of free radicals. This is the precise mechanism for arterial wall breakdown prior to plaque deposits, then arteriosclerosis, then heart disease. I thought we were supposed to be taking vitamins to stay healthy!


Why is this information so difficult to find? It's in none of the "alternative" health 'zines, or any of the mainstream media. Alternative-Lite guru Julian Whittaker, in his summer 1998 newsletter actually had the temerity to state outright "Synthetic vitamins and whole food vitamins are identical." I'm sure his synthetic vitamin company and all its retailers were reassured by this incredibly arrogant and flagrantly inaccurate pronouncement. But who is objecting? Only those clients of the 5 companies who know enough to take whole food vitamins, because they have become educated to realize the difference. These are the vast minority, having no control of the media.

Royal Lee and Harvey Wiley lost. Nobody knows who they are today, except we few. This is no accident. What everybody does know is Pepsi and Viagra and Wonder Bread and prednisone and Double Whoppers with Cheese and Zantac and Baskin-Robbins and Long's Drug Store. And grocery store vitamins: synthetic vitamins. That's America, today as the product of yesterday. Control of information in America today is one of the most sophisticated systems of influence ever devised. The simple ideas contained in this chapter are simply not available to the mass consciousness. The documentation is out there, but you really gotta dig.

100 years ago if a medical doctor saw a case of cancer he would call all his colleagues to come and have a look, telling them it was unlikely they would see another case, as cancer was so rare. People rarely died of heart attacks; in fact the term heart attack itself didn't even exist. There was no incidence at all of atherosclerosis. Diabetes was practically unheard of. What did they eat? Fruits, vegetables, meat, butter, and lard. But none of it was processed with drugs and chemicals.

Today one in three dies of cancer. One in two dies of heart disease. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. ( Vital Statistics ) Is that progress? If you are a food manufacturer it is, and especially if you are a drug manufacturer. In the 1980s the WHO ranked the US as #22 in the world in infant mortality. Male sperm count is less than 20% of what it was in 1929. (1981 University of Florida report, Natural vs. Synthetic ) Infant mortality is up; birth defects are up. We spend $1.5 trillion per year for health care, most of which goes for administration and executive salaries. Who are the largest advertisers for TV and the printed media? Right: drug companies and food manufacturers. Do they want to keep the ball rolling? You bet. Will they kill you to do it? You bet. Do they want people to take charge of their own health by natural inexpensive foods and supplements? Negative. A cure for cancer has been "right around the corner" since Nixon. People are starting to ask questions; they're less inclined to believe the slick ads coming every 10 minutes on TV and in Newsweek

Perhaps Hippocrates did not envision doctors as detail men or drug reps. He most likely thought like Henry Bieler, MD:
"Nature, if given the opportunity is always the greatest healer. It is the physician's role to assist in this healing, to play a supporting role."
-Finding the Right Cure for You

So what do you do? Well, you now have some insight that your vitamin needs are not being met by the Safeway generics. Wallach used to talk about expensive urine from these unmetabolized grocery store synthetic placebos.

The water soluble vitamins are best obtained through organic produce grown in mineral-rich soil. The best supplements in this category are the top-shelf green foods, like David Sandoval's Best of Greens, and its equivalents.

The fat soluble vitaimins, A, E, and D are best obtained through fish, raw dairy, avocado, raw nuts, raw coconut, and clean meats. High end supplements like Udo's Choice and a ton of clean algae can round out your EFA requirements

Beyond this it's MLM marketing roulette, and if you can't spot the mark in the first 5 minutes, baby, it's you.


DeCava, Judith --- The Real Truth About Vitamins and Antioxidants 1996

Jensen, Bernard, DC --- Empty Harvest 1990

Frost, Mary --- Going Back to the Basics of Human Health 1997

Bieler, Henry MD --- Finding the Right Cure For You 1998

Lee, Royal --- "What Is a Vitamin?" Applied Trophology Aug 1956)

Wiley, Harvey W., MD --- The History of a Crime Against the Pure Food Law

Robbins, John --- Reclaiming Our Health 1996

Nelson, Elmer, MD --- Washington Post 26 Oct 49

Somer, Elizabeth --- "Vitamin C: A Lesson in Keeping An Open Mind" The Nutrition Report

Lancet . 1842

Dana, Richard --- Two Years Before the Mast, p 444 ff. 1840.

Lind, James --- "A Treatise of the Scurvy in Three Parts. Containing an inquiry into the Nature,
Causes and Cure of that Disease, together with a Critical and Chronological View of what has been published on the subject."
A. Millar, London, 1753.

Woodall, A --- Caution with b-carotene supplements Lancet 347:967, 1996

Heinonen O MD --- The effect of vitamin E and beta carotene on the incidence of lung cancer and other cancers in male smokers" The Alpha Tocopherol Beta Carotene Cancer Prevention Study Group --- NEJM 14 Apr 1994 330;15:1031

Barnett Sure, MD --- Journ Natr 1939

University of Florida report --- "Natural vs. Synthetic" 1981

Randolph, Theron MD --- Human Ecology and Susceptibility to the Chemical Environment 7th ed. 1980

Price, Weston --- Nutrition and Physical Degeneration Keats Publ. 1997

CDC --- National Vital Statistics Report Vol. 47, no.19, June 1999.

Tim O'Shea takes a somewhat radical view on the usefulness of synthetic vitamins, which is not universally shared. Here is a comment, received by a friend from the UK, giving a diverse view on the subject of the article:

... thank you for sending out this truly fascinating article. I found both the nutritional information and the historical snippets concerning the FDA to be very thought-provoking. Clearly, and as many of us know already, there is a lot more to optimum nutrition and health than the marketing and contents of the average dietary supplement capsule.

However, if one were to take Dr. O'Shea's article at face value, one could easily be forgiven for thinking that synthetic vitamins cannot cure or prevent any disease states or biochemical imbalances, which they clearly can and do. I personally know people who have cured themselves from cancer, heart disease and other illnesses through the use of high-dose factory-made nutritional supplements. I myself fell ill with a very bad case of chronic fatigue syndrome in 1991, and although I radically changed my diet and began consuming copious amounts of fruit and vegetables almost at once, I didn't begin to recover until I began to regularly take high dose nutrients 18 months or so later. I have now been using high-dose factory-made nutritional supplements for over a decade, and have continued juicing and consuming large amounts of fruits and vegetables every day. More importantly, I am in better health now than I was in my mid-twenties. (I will be 43 in January). For me at least, the best 'recipe' is clearly high dose supplements AND wholesome, natural food.

Drs. Linus Pauling, Ewan Cameron, Robert Cathcart and others have established that very high doses of factory-made ascorbic acid vitamin C are extremely effective against viral and bacterial illness. Dr. Matthius Rath has shown that very high doses of factory-made ascorbic acid vitamin C, when accompanied by high doses of the amino-acids l-lysine and l-proline, are very effective against cancer and heart disease. Call me ignorant (I am not a scientist), but there is far too much evidence that synthetic factory-made supplements can have significant health benefits for me to suddenly abandon everything that I have seen and experienced with regard to their efficacy. Nevertheless, I would readily concede that some nutrients are undoubtedly superior in their natural forms; vitamin E being a good case in point. Our bodies were clearly not designed to utilise right-handed forms of molecules, and for this reason alone the natural form of vitamin E is undoubtedly far more useful to the body than is the synthetic form.

Looking at the issue from another angle, whilst I am aware that the mineral content of our soil has been falling for at least seventy years now (and probably for even longer) we are NOT facing serious restrictions upon our freedom of choice to buy foods. Here in the EU however we ARE facing very serious restrictions on the supplements that we can purchase, brought about by a dangerous combination of lobbying pressure from powerful special-interest groups, regulatory ignorance, and outright corruption. In the EU, at least, I think our energy needs to be focused upon this for the time being.

- - -

For more clarity on my personal view on vitamin C, I add a question from a reader, a bit alarmed about what he read here, and my answer...

On 17/may/10, at 07:56, Antony wrote:

Hello Mr/Herr Hasslberger,

The above article came up on google during a search for ascorbic acid outlets. Its contents amazed me. Quite frankly I feel I've been rather misled all these years. In addition it may well put a different perspective on an article by a qualified chemist concerning dental hygiene and obtained at the following address:

Having at last found an outlet selling glycerin-free soap for cleaning my teeth (you'd be astonished how hard this stuff is to come by, references to 'simple bar-soap' notwithstanding) I turned my attention to ascorbic acid, only to find it condemned by Tim O'Shea as artificial and as such potentially ineffective.

Might I prevail upon you for an opinion please? I realize the dental advice may strike you as bizarre but I'd be grateful if you could give me your thoughts on the matter.


Antony (Manchester, England)

- - -

Hello Anthony,

thank you for your email, which by chance I caught and fished out of the spam filters.

Although I did republish the article by Tim O'Shea on my blog, I must say that I do not agree with him. Tim's view on vitamin C is somewhat radical when he says that it should only be consumed as it occurs in nature, and that ascorbic acid is not vitamin C.

It is true, that in Nature vitamin C occurs together with other substances, such as bioflavonoids, and it is often found bound to minerals. So there is a vitamin C complex, that has a varied mix of several other substances associated with the vitamin, and one could make an argument that it is better to consume the whole complex, rather than the pure ascorbic acid.

However ... it is my view that if the choice is between not consuming vitamin C at all, or consuming it in amounts that are too small and consuming it as ascorbic acid, the latter is vastly preferable. This is especialy true because somewhere along the line of historical development, humans (along with a few other mammals) have lost the enzyme needed to manufacture vitamin C in the body, so we are entirely dependent on getting vitamin C from external sources. What's more, the official recommendation of vitamin C, the RDA, is woefully inadequate.

So please do not give too much weight to the article by Tim O'Shea. It expresses an opinion that is not shared with many in the natural health field. Vitamin C as ascorbic acid, especially if it is combined with a mineral (sodium bicarbonate in the case of the dental recommendation, turning the C into sodium ascorbate) is very beneficial.

And about the dental recommendation, no, I am not finding it bizarre, as a matter of fact, I have that same article on my blog as well.

I hope these lines clarify my position on vitamin C for you and I wish you the best of success with the recommendations for your teeth.

Kind regards

p.s. I shall append your email and my reply to the Vitamin C article on my site, for the benefit of other readers.

See also other related articles:

More than 50 genetic disorders can be successfully treated

Pharmaceuticals deplete the body of nutrients

Conventional Medicine far riskier than supplements

Vitamin C Can Boost the Immune System - 03-02-2005
DENVER — People who take daily doses of Vitamin C can boost their immune system, potentially protecting themselves from viruses and colds, according to a study presented at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).

Are mineral supplements a waste of money?

Natural vs. synthetic vitamins


posted by Sepp Hasslberger on Monday November 17 2003
updated on Friday December 10 2010

URL of this article:


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Readers' Comments

A comment received by e-mail from a friend in the Netherlands who read the article:

" . . . when 2 americans found (1936) how they could synthesize the ascorbic acid molecule which was defined by Szent-Gyrgyi a few years before, ascorbic acid was initially primarily used as a food preservative, i.e. as an antioxidant. It was put in beer, canned foods, etc., not as a vitamin, but as a preservative. This fits with the opinion that C is a good antioxidant but not a true vitamin.

Posted by: Josef Hasslberger on November 19, 2003 09:31 PM


I agree with your comments on whole food vitamins. Where do I find these vitamins? Thanks Margaret

Posted by: margaret gregory on December 17, 2003 07:35 PM


Dear Margaret,

unfortunately I cannot give you a direct pointer, but there are several companies which manufacture vitamin supplements that contain the whole food factors, in addition to whatever vitamins they supply. Apparently it is important to have the natural co-factors.

Google has many pages of links to possible suppliers, but please do your own evaluation. If you have a health food store you like, you might also ask them.

Posted by: Josef on December 17, 2003 08:22 PM


You are right as well as being wrong (its ok to be both) i never get sick when i use vitaim c and i get less sore after very intense exercise sessions (very very intense). Whenever i get off the "c", i get sick and literally cannot walk after my workouts (explain that....PLACEBO EFFECTS ONLY WORK FOR SO LONG, AND AT A VERY SMALL PERCENTAGE OF THE TIME). Also, there are doctors in California who prescribe "c" in supplemental form for 35 years or better (dr. robert cathcart i believe is his name), there is such a massive amount of research on "c" you just cannot dispute its effects (ill challenge you any day to the research, but i am sure you allready are aware of this research more than myself.....but oddly ignore it, WHY?) YOUR OPINION?

Posted by: BRIAN ADAMS on November 30, 2004 04:25 PM


I am glad you ask this question, Brian.

I myself am of two minds about the article, which was written by Tim O'Shea.

I posted it, not to tell people they should not take the "normal" vitamins, but to give space to a view that is making a valid point: The human body is used to vitamins not in isolated form but in "food form", that is, the vitamins and minerals have historically been part of what we eat, coming with all kinds of "associated" substances, and in all kinds of "mixed" forms. So it makes sense to look for the form that is closest to the one that our bodies have developed with.

But certainly this is NOT to say that the pure forms don't have their use or shouldn't be taken. I myself am taking three/four grams of vitamin C a day, and I could never obtain that from foods, so I do take the supplements. I also eat fruits...

So my intention was not to see this as an imperative, but to air the point that vitamins and minerals do normally come in complex forms and are best utilized when in such a form, and the article by O'Shea makes that point very well.

Posted by: Sepp on November 30, 2004 06:05 PM


I read your article with interest as I have been taking mega doses of ascorbic acid for years to help with multiple chemical sensitivity. It has been very helpful for me - keeps me from having allergic reactions and shuts off a reaction when I do have them. I have been wanting to switch to whole food c but am confused. Is there something about the ascorbic acid form that clears allergic reactions that wouldn't happen with the whole food c? Any help or insight would be appreciated.

Posted by: Anita on October 16, 2005 06:53 PM


Generally whole food C would be ascorbic acid with some co-factors that make it work better, such as bioflavonoids or minerals forming an ascorbate.

That said, I believe that on a cost-benefit comparison, the much cheaper ascorbic acid is not that much less effective than the whole food kind would be, so probably mega doses of ascorbic acid are fine, unless you have the extra money to spend to take a more expensive kind of supplement...

Posted by: Sepp on October 20, 2005 05:08 PM


The recommended upper limit for vitamin c from most scientific bodies is 2000 mg or 2 grams. Exceeding this limit may result in negative physiological effects. So sepp may I ask why it is your taking 3-4 grams a day? do you metabolize twice as much food as the average person?

For both you and BRIAN ADAMS, calling ascorbic acid and other non-bioactive vitamins "pure", is like calling and egg shell a pure egg. Ya its pure, but a pure PART of the egg. The micro nutrients we get from food have a certain negative or positive charge, and a certain atomic grouping that make it about 6 times more available then non bio active nutritents. To top it all off, nutrients processed by nature are much less toxic and much better for you then nutrients process by people. VITAMIN C CONTENT OF FOODS

Posted by: nic on January 3, 2010 07:19 PM


The recommended upper limit for vitamin c is a compromise, nic. There is really no known toxicity to vitamin C. When taking large amounts, a tolerance factor kicks in, telling you you have too much. The signal is a slight diarrhea, which reverses when lowering the dose. The diarrhea, which in some people starts at a dosage as low as 2 grams, was taken as an undesired side effect and that is what resulted in the 2 gram max dose recommendation. Basically this is taking the most sensitive of people and telling everyone else to behave as if they were that type of person. There is much research on how to use vitamin C and how much one can take on sites such as or Robert Cathcart's but also googling 'vitamin C megadose' will bring more information. Of course then there is the other side of the philosophical divide where the Germans are an example of the more restrictive disposition. They will tell you that anything more than the recommended 60 mg of vitamin C a day (which barely will keep scurvy away) is a waste of your money and might ( - might - ) be dangerous... So the question is who to believe. You'll have to make up your own mind. Mammals, other than humans, some of the great apes and guinea pigs, make their own vitamin C as part of their metabolic processes. If you take the amount of vitamin C produced by a dog or a goat, for instance, and convert to human weight, you'd have a production of vitamin C of several (I believe it's 8 to 12) grams a day. In that sense, I think that taking more than the recommended amounts of vitamin C may be justified - at least I personally have no qualms about it. The difference between vitamin C from fruits and veggies and the isolated kind is not very well documented. Can you cite a reference for your statement that seems to imply a 6 times better bioavailability of natural (extracted?) nutrients over the pure chemical molecule? You wrote: "The micro nutrients we get from food have a certain negative or positive charge, and a certain atomic grouping that make it about 6 times more available then non bio active nutritents."

Posted by: sepp on January 6, 2010 02:16 PM


We all lack the L-gulonolactone oxidase (GULO) enzyme, which is required in the last step of vitamin C synthesis in the liver. So reading the Tim O'shea article I was immediately asking myself which food co-factors are attached to the ascorbic acid made in a dog's or goat's liver ? There are non, it's just the molecule ascorbic acid. IMHO, we need ascorbic acid, and we need the cofactors too, not because they come with "natural" vitamin C, but because they're part of a wholesome diet. Maybe vitC is not really a vitamin, but rather a "hormone", just like vitamin D, because we used to make it ourselves a long time ago. But that's just my own theory ... I take 10 gr vitC/day and it makes me feel sooo much better ...

Posted by: Louis on January 17, 2010 02:09 PM


Ascorbic acid is cultured from a mould. I am sensitive to it. As it is in most processed foods, including organic foods, this is a problem for me. (I live in a remote area in a cold climate and do not have easy access to home grown food or grocery stores. if you are interested.)
I have come across others who are sensitive to it as well.

Posted by: chris czajkowski on May 3, 2011 11:55 AM


"Ascorbic acid is cultured from a mould" Do you have a reference for that, Chris? I've never heard of a mould involved in ascorbic acid production.

Posted by: Sepp on May 4, 2011 04:17 AM


I like Dr. Bob Marshall's theory synthetic vitamins will work for a while but eventually they stop working and change your DNA, so natural is always better.
My problem with synthetic Vitamin C is that it is derived from corn starch. That sends up a red flag to me. Especially since I have been considering injecting large quantities of Vitamin C. So has Vitamin C always been derived from cornstarch or this something new? I am basing my understanding of this from G.N.C. (even though their bottle lists no starch) which will be happy to tell you all their Vitamin C products are from Corn and I suspect so does everyone else.

Posted by: EDWARD LOH on June 22, 2011 01:47 PM


There are apparently various starting materials for the chemical transformations that end up as crystals of vitamin C. It would be good if someone could do an in-depth research on this. I've heard of at least one instance of vitamin C having been derived from another starch (sago palm) rather than corn. Corn, being by far the cheapest source of starch, would be the logical choice for vitamin makers ... as long as no one finds out and specifically demands that they be provided vitamin C made from a certain source material. It would be fun to get something like that going. But someone needs to do the basic research - what's available and who makes/sells it?

Posted by: Sepp on June 22, 2011 05:35 PM


It is not only true that ascorbic acid is NOT vitamin C, but taking ascorbic acid and drinking a soda can be deadly! Mixing ascorbic acid and benzoate of soda used as a preservative makes BENZINE in the liver. This is a deadly chemical! The complete complex of vitamin C includes ascorbic acid and contains ascorbinogen, bioflavonoids, rutin, tyrosinase, Factor J, Factor K, and Factor P. In addition, mineral co-factors must be available in proper amounts. If any of these parts are missing, there is no vitamin C, no vitamin activity. When some of them are present, the body will draw on its own stores to make up the differences, so that the whole vitamin complex may be present. Provided that all other conditions and co-factors are present, the vitamin activity will take place. Ascorbic acid is described merely as the "antioxidant wrapper" portion of vitamin C; ascorbic acid protects the functional parts of the vitamin from rapid oxidation or breakdown.

Posted by: John on March 10, 2013 03:45 PM


John, if ascorbic acid is just a wrapper then I'd ask why animals create such large amounts of it without the co-factors? Why would their livers be wrapper manufacturers? Also, if animals get their co-factors from their diet while making their own ascorbic acid why can't we just take ascorbic acid and do the same (get them from our diet)?

Posted by: Enrique on November 10, 2014 01:58 PM


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