Whole Food Vitamin C vs Ascorbic Acid

The Root Cause Protocol places high value on supporting the body the way Mother Nature intended; which means consuming real, high quality food, and using real, whole food derived supplements for additional support. 

Many who read this would probably agree that real, whole food derived nutrients are both superior and safer than isolated, man-made nutrients that are not found anywhere in nature. However, there is still a lot of confusion (and some debate) with regards to whole food vitamin C and ascorbic acid.

The fact of the matter is that ascorbic acid is not vitamin C; it is only part of the vitamin C complex. Those who say otherwise are either misinformed, and/or they have a vested interest in ascorbic acid (such as those who sell ascorbic acid supplements).

It is important to know that the vast majority of the ascorbic acid being used in “vitamin C” supplements comes from genetically modified corn, oftentimes from China. GMO beets, tapioca or cassava can also be used. Genetically modified products are typically tainted with glyphosate, among other issues.

Here are some quick questions you can ask yourself to help you find your footing with regards to this topic:

  • Do you believe that complete is superior to isolated?
  • Do you believe natural is superior to synthetic?
  • If you have come across someone who adamantly defends and/or promotes ascorbic acid use, are they selling an ascorbic acid supplement?

Please continue to read to learn more about the benefits of whole food vitamin C and how it differs from isolated ascorbic acid. If you are still considering using ascorbic acid after reading this, you might want to at least consider reaching out to the manufacturer(s) with the following questions:

  • Can you tell me where the ascorbic acid in this product was manufactured? 
  • Has it been made from genetically modified ingredients? 
  • Is it glyphosate free?


Whole food vitamin C is a remarkable compound that consists of several cofactors. This includes the copper containing tyrosinase enzyme at the center, followed by J factors, K factors, and P factors (rutin), ascorbigen, and finally ascorbic acid. Ascorbic acid acts like a shell around the entire complex. 

Here is a great analogy: Whole food vitamin C is a fully functional vehicle with a well running engine. We can view all of the different cofactors as the frame, wheels, tires, seats, steering wheel and engine (view tyrosinase as the engine and the copper within the tyrosinase enzyme as the pistons). 

Isolated ascorbic acid on the other hand is just the outer metal frame of the vehicle. No tires, no steering wheel, no engine…very different from a complete and functional vehicle. 

Whole food sourced vitamins, as recommended in the RCP, consist of whole food complexes that work synergistically with the body and benefit all systems, as nature intended. This is not just the case with vitamin C, but also with vitamin E and the B vitamins!


Albert Szent-Györgyi: “A vitamin is a substance that makes you ill if you do not eat it.”

Quick internet searches on vitamin C will typically yield results on vitamin C and ascorbic acid being the same thing (again, they are not). During these searches you might find mentions of scurvy, and possibly even mentions of Dr. Szent-Györgyi. 

Dr. Szent-Györgyi won the Nobel Prize in 1937 for his work with hexuronic acid, also known as ascorbic acid, and this is the origin for much of the confusion around this topic. Dr. Szent-Györgyi was actually studying hyaluronic acid, a copper dependent enzyme that is essential for wound repair; yet somehow he won the Nobel Prize for hexuronic acid, better known today as ascorbic acid…

In Dr. Szent-Györgyi’s biography, he recalls the testing that he did on paprika in his lab, where he discovered that it was a “treasure chest of vitamin C.” 

On July 4th, 1936, and 18 months before winning the Nobel Prize for his work with ascorbic acid, Dr. Szent-Györgyi wrote a letter to the editor of Nature Journal. In this letter he stated that: “In certain pathological conditions characterized by increased permeability or fragility of the capillary wall (scurvy) ascorbic acid is ineffective, while the condition can readily be cured by the administration of Hungarian red pepper (‘vitapric’) or lemon juice.” 

18 months after Dr. Szent-Györgyi made this statement of ascorbic acid being “ineffective”, he won the Nobel Prize for ascorbic acid. Confusing, right? And the obvious point to highlight here is that foods like peppers and lemons provide real, whole food vitamin C, which is very different from isolated ascorbic acid. Isolated ascorbic acid does not exist in nature. 

This is the origin of much of the confusion that exists around whole food vitamin C and ascorbic acid, and unfortunately, this confusion (and misinformation) is still rampant today.


The RCP strives to achieve proper mineral balance in the body, and the relationship between copper and iron is of utmost importance in this regard. Achieving a healthy balance between copper and iron is only possible if we take steps to build and protect ceruloplasmin. Ceruloplasmin is a key protein that expresses many different enzymatic functions and manages both copper and iron. 

Structure & function of Ceruloplasmin:

Bento, I., et al. (2006). Ceruloplasmin revisited: structural and functional roles of various metal cation-binding sites.

Please read more here:

Iron Toxicity Post #11: If the Sun is the ‘center’ of our Universe, I’m coming to regard Ceruloplasmin as the ‘Sun’ of our universe of metabolic activity.

Click here to view all of the Iron Toxicity Posts! 

When ceruloplasmin is in its active form, it can be referred to as having bioavailable or functional copper. It is the master antioxidant in the human body! In the RCP community it is often referred to as a “Swiss Army Knife” due to its incredible diversity and capacity to help us in our day to day life. One of the main functions of ceruloplasmin is that it manages iron in the body; meaning it helps to keep iron properly circulating in the blood where it should be, and helps to keep it from being stored away and building up in our tissues, where it should not be. 

However, ceruloplasmin is only effective at carrying out its various functions when it is properly loaded with copper. Ascorbic acid will denature ceruloplasmin to the point of copper leaking out of this critical protein. When this happens ceruloplasmin loses functionality and lifespan. Ceruloplasmin properly loaded with copper lasts 5.5 days. Ceruloplasmin void of copper is known as apoceruloplasmin and only lasts 5 hours! The result is metabolic dysfunction, which leads to symptoms, labels, and “disease”. This can also lead to copper appearing elevated on a HTMA or blood test, which often leads to the unfortunate diagnosis of “copper toxicity”. 

When ceruloplasmin was discovered in 1948 by Holmberg & Laurell, 8 copper ions were identified within this key protein, and then in the 70’s a shift occurred; the number of copper ions dropped to 6-7, and now today it is recognized as only having 6 copper ions. How low the copper will continue to drop is anyone’s guess, but we believe many modern day factors, including the usage of high dose ascorbic acid supplementation are key factors. 

Holmberg & Laurell (1948): Investigations in Serum Copper

The RCP stands firm in its recommendations of avoiding isolated ascorbic acid because it is toxic to ceruloplasmin and hinders copper absorption, which has been well established in the research: 

Jacob et al. (1987): “Effect of varying ascorbic acid intakes on copper absorption and ceruloplasmin levels of young men”

Van den Berg GJ, Beynen AC. (1992): Influence of ascorbic acid supplementation on copper metabolism in rats

Hunt et al. (1969): Interrelationships between copper deficiency and dietary ascorbic acid in the rabbit

Finley EB et al. (1983): Influence of ascorbic acid supplementation on copper status in young adult men

Hill C, Starcher B. (1965): Effect of Reducing Agents on Copper Deficiency in the Chick

DiSilvestro RA, Harris ED. (1981): A Postabsorption Effect of L-Ascorbic Acid on Copper Metabolism in Chicks

Structure & function of Ceruloplasmin:

Bento, I., et al. (2006). Ceruloplasmin revisited: structural and functional roles of various metal cation-binding sites.

Please read more here:

Iron Toxicity Post #11: If the Sun is the ‘center’ of our Universe, I’m coming to regard Ceruloplasmin as the ‘Sun’ of our universe of metabolic activity.

Click here to view all of the Iron Toxicity Posts!


What has been well chronicled in the research is the fact that ascorbic acid increases iron absorption while reducing copper absorption in the gut. There is also increased oxygen uptake in the tissue in the presence of ascorbic acid. Some might think that more oxygen and iron is a good thing…but is it? 

Oxygen is the second most reactive element on the planet after only fluorine, and iron is a very reactive metal. What many are not aware of is the fact that iron does not manage iron. Copper is what manages iron. Hemoglobin, ferrochelatase, the proper loading of ferritin, and many other aspects of proper iron metabolism are all dependent on bioavailable copper.  As it relates to oxygen (yes, iron carries oxygen) but it is copper that actually activates the oxygen and turns it into an energy source for the body. If we are unable to properly activate oxygen due to a lack of bioavailable copper, then we will be producing reactive oxygen species at an accelerated rate, which will lead to DNA damage and oxidative stress. Think rust! 

Again, isolated ascorbic acid consumption has a negative impact on ceruloplasmin, so it is creating the perfect storm of mismanaged iron and mismanaged oxygen. Talk about a perfect recipe to create more oxidative stress, symptoms and labels.

See also:

Mineral and vitamin deficiencies can accelerate the mitochondrial decay of aging


This is a very common question that we receive and we understand the confusion. Our understanding is that these products have been mandated to include and label ascorbic acid, but Morley has stated that the amount of isolated ascorbic acid in these products is very small – less than 2%.

The rest is quality, whole food ingredients, whereas many vitamin C supplements on the market are simply high amounts of pure ascorbic acid. Morley, and many others in the community still use and highly recommend these products, but if you are more comfortable going with one of the other recommended vitamin C products that do not contain any isolated ascorbic acid there are many options for you in our RCP Product Directory: https://therootcauseprotocol.com/rcp-product-directory/


While checking supplement labels for ascorbic acid is important, it is also important to know that the processing techniques of whole food C supplements is also very important. This is because the vitamin C complex will degrade and deteriorate when it is exposed to high temperatures. 

Vitamin C begins to denature with exposure to temperatures as low as 86 degrees Fahrenheit, according to a study done by N.C. Igwemmar, S.A. Kolawole, and I.A. Imran at the International Journal of Scientific and Technology Research. The negative effects of heat increase significantly at 140 degrees and even more so at 170 degrees Fahrenheit. In fact, pasteurization was blamed for the dramatic increase in infantile scurvy in the late 19th century, as naturally occurring vitamin C in milk is destroyed through pasteurization. 

Degradation of Vitamins And Probiotics Caused By Exposure to Heat, Water and Sunlight, June 2018

When high temperatures are used during the processing of these supplements the more fragile cofactors of the complex degrade. This can leave you with a product that contains a disproportionately high amount of ascorbic acid compared to the rest of the cofactors, despite the product appearing to be whole food based. All of the recommended products in the RCP Product Directory have been vetted to ensure that proper processing techniques have been used to preserve the entire complex as much as possible. 

Retention of Vitamin C in Drying Processes of Fruits and Vegetables—A Review, June 2010


Taking large amounts of ascorbic acid will create large amounts of hydrogen peroxide in the body, which will in fact kill pathogens. But do you think there could be a residual impact of all this hydrogen peroxide on the rest of the body? Of course there is. The RCP is all about strengthening the host, and not just focusing on attacking the guest.



Please see the links below for more information. Also, please search this website for additional posts, FAQs and past webinars for more information regarding ascorbic acid, ascorbates, liposomal C and more!

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