From a chemical and functional point of view, there is no difference between natural and synthetically obtained vitamin C.
In other words, whatever the source or the method of synthesis or extraction used, L-ascorbic acid maintains its biological activity and bioavailability unchanged regardless of its origin.
Prefer the Natural One
The differences, therefore, are not to be found on vitamin C itself, but on the substances associated with it; for example if we consider a particularly generous source of vitamin C such as acerola (Malpighia glabra L. fruits), we cannot forget the very important role of the phytocomplex: a more or less broad set of molecules that determines the overall biological activity of a drug , modulating the action of the characterizing active ingredients.
In other words, taking 100 mg of synthetic vitamin C and taking the same amount through an acerola extract standardized in L-ascorbic acid is not the same thing, not because the vitamin C itself has a different biological activity, but because there are several substances associated with it.
While in the first case we have a pure and isolated vitamin C, in the acerola extract we also find substances that modulate its biological activity and bioavailability; acerola fruits, in particular, contain other molecules with antioxidant activity, such as flavonoids and vitamins (carotenoids, B1, B2, PP); the high concentration of tannins, thanks to the astringent action, counteracts the potentially laxative action of vitamin C in high doses and sugars (fructose, dextrose).
The example, of course, can also be extended to common foods; on the other hand, the differences between eating an orange or a kiwi and taking a tablet that provides the same amounts of vitamin C are evident even to inexperienced eyes. All this proves that food supplements cannot and will never - no matter how complete and effective - replace a healthy and balanced diet.
If a specific supplement of ascorbic acid is required, the choice between natural vitamin C and synthetic vitamin C depends on the functional significance of the supplement: for example, if you simply want to enrich your diet with ascorbic acid for various reasons, it is worthwhile. focus on the cheapest synthetic vitamin C, while if the intent is to increase the intake of antioxidants it is good to focus on plant extracts rich in vitamin C or on more complex supplements, containing - for example - also lipoic acid, resveratol, tocopherols and tocotrienols.
Among the most generous sources of natural vitamin C - in addition to the classic foods (citrus fruits, kiwi, peppers and chillies, berries, broccoli, fresh fruit and vegetables in general) - we mention:
- Acerola (Malpighia glabra L.) fruits, 1000-4500 mg of vitamin C per 100g
- Rosehip (Rosa canina L.) fruits,, 300-1700 mg of vitamin C per 100g
- Baobab (Adansonia digitata L.) fruit, 150 - 499 mg of vitamin C per 100 g
- Camu Camu (Myrciaria dubia (Kunth) McVaugh) fruit, 2000-3000 mg of vitamin C per 100g
- Kakadu Plum (Terminalia ferdinandiana Exell) fruits, 3200-5000 mg of vitamin C per 100g
The vitamin C content, referring to 100 g of fresh fruit, varies in relation to the climate, the soil and the cultivated varieties, and decays considerably with the passing of the days after harvesting.
As for the aspects of safety and side effects, many people are - naively - convinced that natural vitamin C is safer than synthetic vitamin only because it is awarded the adjective "natural". In fact, we must not forget that in order to extract vitamin C from a plant source, chemical substances must still be used, which can remain in the finished product in small quantities. If the pulverized and dried whole vegetable source is used (or the dried fruit juice), in the phytocomplex together with natural vitamin C, unwanted substances could also be found for some particular categories of patients, especially for those who manifest multiple allergies.