If you’ve looked at a list of ingredient for, say, orange juice or food coloring, you have probably come across the words ‘ascorbic acid’ or ‘ascorby palmitate’. These are highly technical words and they probably didn’t make sense to you, but they are merely referring to the different forms of a very common chemical. It is one that you have been hearing about since you were a toddler: Vitamin C.
Vitamin C provides a great many benefits, which is why it is constantly being touted by health specialists. It also has an interesting history. Scurvy, a disease which caused the softening and bleeding of the organs and was characterized by bleeding gums, was the bane of British sailors around three hundred years ago. It was said that a sailor had a higher chance of dying of scurvy than of being killed by pirates or being swept away by a storm. Later on, it was discovered that sailors with lime, orange or lemon juice in their diet did not succumb to the disease. Thus began the practice of carrying lime juice on board all ships, and British sailors were nicknamed ‘Limeys’. Today, we know that it was the Vitamin C in the juice that protected the sailors from scurvy. Vitamin C is an important component in the production of collagen, a protein which is the building block of the human body. Without it, the structure of the organs becomes loose and damaged, and leads to diseases like scurvy.
Another interesting thing about Vitamin C is that it is easily damaged by normal cooking processes. Found in citrus fruits and a great many vegetables, it can be lost due to chopping, exposure to air, cooking and being submerged in water. So from the washing to the cooking, these foods are losing some vitamin C, yet there is still enough left to supply the body’s needs. The Vitamin C content is so high; people do not really need to worry about getting enough Vitamin C as long as they are eating fruits and vegetables regularly.
There is only one flaw: Vitamin C cannot be produced by the human body, and it stays in the body for a very short time. The recommended dosage for vitamin C is about 60 to 90 mg daily. You would need even more if you’re older, pregnant, or have a cold.
The problem with the natural form of vitamin C or ascorbic acid is that it is highly soluble aoin water. It can be absorbed very quickly by the body, but is washed away again by the water before it can penetrate all the cells.
So ascorbic acid is processed into another form: Ascorbyl Palmitate, an ester of ascorbic acid. In this form, Vitamin C is both water-soluble and fat-soluble. The membranes of the body’s cells contain a great deal of fat, and fat soluble ascorbyl palmitate allows the Vitamin C to be absorbed into all the cells and retained longer for ascorbic acid.
Ascorbyl Palmitate is an ingredient of a number of skin creams. Vitamin C is an antioxidant, but in the water-soluble form it is too irritating to the skin and often causes rashes or inflammation as a side effect. Ascorbyl Palmitate, however does not irritate the skin, and that, combined with its collagen-strengthening and antioxidant properties makes it particularly effective for skin care.
It is also taken orally, and works in conjunction with Vitamin E as an antioxidant inside the body cells. It also supports platelets in the healing of wounds, and is involved in the formation of red and white blood cells. Other functions include regulating hormone activity and secretion.