Last Modified on Mar 05, 2015
Vitamin C is the Queen of health supplements, recommended to most everyone as a general health aid, immune system booster, and antioxidant. Scientific studies have indeed found that those who enjoy diets with an above average supply of Vitamin C are less likely to suffer from chronic illness and tend to live longer.
Humans are actually rare in their inability to produce their own supplies of Vitamin C, an ability shared by most plants, animals, and micro-organisms--an indication of the the importance this organic compound, chemically known as L-ascorbate. This water-soluble vitamin is one of the safest and most common dietary supplements. It is exceedingly difficult to consume a toxic dose, since the body will eliminate any excess supply of Vitamin C via the urine. For that reason, many people take Vitamin C supplements daily, even several times a day, especially during cold and flu season, or when they feel an illness coming on.
As you can see in the following Earth Clinic Video on how to make sodium ascorbate at home, we suggest this more alkaline form of Vitamin C as the best way to supplement your daily intake of this important antioxidant.
The below article was originally published in our June, 2011 e-newsletter.
by Daniel P. Kray, Senior Editor
Published June 22, 2011
We like Vitamin C for a lot of things, from prevention to post-infection treatment. That's why we're concerned about the popularity of certain hyped Vitamin C products. A natural cold and flu remedy would be great, but what sort of extra baggage is hitching a ride on these packs of Vitamin C supplements? Turns out, a pair of unnecessary ingredients, aspartic acid (or asparagine) and sucralose, are often tagging along. You may have to look into the fine print of the ingredients list, but you'll be surprised at how often they show up.
L-aspartic acid is one of our non-essential amino acids. The body makes it, so we don't need to get it from our diets. We definitely need it for energy creation, nerve function, and a host of other bodily activities. But like most good things, too much can be bad. In excess, aspartic acid becomes an excitotoxin, revving the neurons and nervous system up so high that nerve damage can be a result. In effect, excitotoxins cause our neurons to die from excitement!
In fact, if the facts behind Aspartame make you uncomfortable, aspartic acid is a large part (40%) of the reason. In our bodies, this artificial sweetener breaks down into phenylalanine, methanol, and aspartic acid. Methanol is just plain toxic, but the overdose of amino acids can likewise do great harm. Sucralose (Splenda) is of course much the same thing as Aspartame-an artificial sweetener. This one mostly passes out of the body without being metabolized, but some 15-20% does not pass out of the body immediately. Since sucralose is an organochloride (an organic chlorine compound), many of us are justifiably concerned about the possibility of introducing free chlorine molecules into our bloodstream and tissues. Makes you nostalgic for good old belly-expanding glucose!
Since the liver can produce aspartic acid whenever bodily levels are low, we never experience true aspartic acid deficiencies, so there is no need to get it through supplements. Easy then, we won't take aspartic acid supplements. That is, unless we don't know it's there in our other supplements! Now, weight lifting supplements often contain aspartic acid along with a medley of the other amino acids, so there is an issue there. However, for the Earth Clinic community we're more concerned about products like Ester-C (the brand) and Emergen-C, both of which add aspartic acid to their Vitamin C supplements. Just check out the Other Ingredients on the fine print on this ingredients list to see for yourself.
Products advertised as energy boosters frequently contain aspartic acid, as do whey powder products. Airborne and Super C Vitamin C products do not seem to use aspartic acid (please do not read that as a general endorsement); however, Airborne and Super C do contain sucralose as a sweetener, as do FRS Healthy Energy products.
Additionally, you're likely to find aspartic acid in these products:
- Various collagen formulas
- _____ Liquid Aminos
- Many potassium-magnesium supplements
- Many folic acid tablets
- Many lipoic acid supplements
- Many Nature's Plus products
- Some Solgar vitamin supplements
- Some Nutritech supplements
Now, plenty of foods naturally contain aspartic acid as well, and the body is happy to find it there. It is nature-made, not man-made (unlike sucralose). We don't want to alarm anyone, just let you know what you're potentially putting in your body. Toxic levels of this amino acid are definitely possible, so take a look at your supplement labels and make the best choice for your own health.
The following Earth Clinic reader contributions (and a note from Ted) should help you make the decision that is right for you.
Vitamin C and Excitotoxins
Catherine from Seattle, WA writes: "I was fighting a sinus infection last week after landing in California and went to a Whole Foods to get some Vitamin C. I decided to get Emergen-C to add to water because it had a really tempting fruity flavor. Immediately after taking my first packet (which was delicious), I felt a weird sensation in my head and then I got really edgy (as in bad mood edgy). I read the ingredients on the box and sure enough, the vitamin C used in this brand is Aspartic acid, an excitotoxin. The Emergen-C also contained "natural flavors", aka MSG. I waited 24 hours and tried again to see if I would have the same side effects. Again, within a minute of drinking the packet, I got the same sensation in my head. My question is, are you doing more good or harm to the body when you take this form of vitamin c?!!"
Ted from Bangkok, Thailand replies: "Aspartic acid is a well known excitotoxin and so is monosodium glutamate or MSG. In the long run it's going to destroy the immune system through a neurodegenerative disorder. Once the excitotoxin is destroyed the immune system is down. Now in a pharmaceutical formulation adding this results in the need to take that since you get sicker and so you might feel some relief, the long term is it's going to make a person sicker, which result in greater sales for product with excitotoxins added. Now imagine a child who is a borderline autism, ADHD, these can result in many other neurodegenerative disorders and metabolic acidosis. As for me decades ago I took accidentally soft drinks with aspartame resulting in deafness, but also a permanent partial macular degeneration of the eyes. So the systematic destruction is almost wholesale if given long term use. Luckily Emergen C is not sold in Thailand, although some friends of mine have given me this, I don't take it. I prefer to buy bulk vitamin C and mix them myself. There are other excitotoxins, but aspartic acid, aspartame, monosodium glutamate, and glutamic acid are the most well known...
Therefore most effervescent products sometimes they are not labeled so I ended up calling the factory sometimes. One easy way to measure excitotoxin poisoning is that the urinary pH suddenly become very acid, such as pH 5.5 or lower and even taking more baking soda barely raise the pH long enough to be satisfactory. Such as it can't raise the pH for the entire day. It also takes weeks for the pH to be near normal after taking b complex and baking soda for a week or two. A long term taking of this can also resulted in higher urinary sugar and damaged pancreas, besides damaging the brain. One of the worse advertisement I have seen is Michael J. Fox supporting Diet Pepsi, which contains aspartame, and he himself has Parkinson's disease, which will make such conditions much worse. The remedy is not to take aspartame for Parkinson's disease or to undergo stem cells, since it's not yet legal at the moment and stem cell research has been blocked for at least 8 years. Methylene blue taken at 2 drops at 0.1% concentration might reverse some of the effects of excitotoxins as it is one of my remedies for Parkinson's disease also.
Taking excitotoxins is a long term damage that may lead to degenerative disorders, metabolic acidosis, and lowered immune system. Therefore I would avoid them as best as I can.
Supplements Brought on Rage
Wes from Webster, TX writes: "I'm 220 and work out almost everyday. I started taking 2000mg of vitamin C. Ester C tablets. A few days later I noticed I was very easily enraged. I did this for about 4 weeks and decided it wasn't worth it. I recently started taking and animal pack vitamin package. After taking for several days I noticed the same effect. Read the ingredient 2000 mg Vitamin C. So I stopped taking it. Is there anyway to counteract the aggressiveness. IE some other vitamin."
Christine replies: "This afternoon, I visited your site and noted a comment by a reader who said that Ester C made him enraged. It's not the Vitamin C, it's the aspartic acid in the Ester C product. I verified this with an aspartame activist. Aspartic acid is an excitotoxin, a poison that kills brain cells. Yep, it's the same stuff as in aspartame. All of the studies done on Vitamin C were done with sodium ascorbate, which is a type of chemically buffered Vitamin C. It's best to take it as a powder in water, because you can get gastritis if you take too many pills."
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