Vitamin C from a chemical point of view
is L-Ascorbic Acid, so belonging to the levorotatory organic compounds and it is why it is popularly called “left-handed”. Ascorbic Acid belongs to compounds having different forms of their molecules – seemingly identical, but being one to another as reflected in a mirror, or as a right hand to the left. This causes the rotation of the plane of the polarized light – one form to the right and the other, “mirror” to the left. These forms also have different properties in terms of their impact on living organisms. In the case of amino acids (basic building blocks of protein), for example, only the “L” forms are used. We have the same situation in case of the real Vitamin C, which has the appropriate biological functions only in its L form. Only this form of Vitamin C is present in biological processes and only such is obtained from natural sources, e.g. from plants; and only this one should be eaten. However, what is interesting, L-enantiomer (or D-enantiomer) does not mean the actual rotation of the light. In the case of Vitamin C, it is actually exactly the opposite – its L form is clockwise, that is, it rotates the plane of the light to the right – which is marked with a “+” sign (the above is also a simplification because Ascorbic Acid has two places where mirror molecules can be formed, and in addition there is another system for determining the forms of these molecules R and S). Therefore, the customary term “left-handed” can be misleading.
Proper and unambiguous name of vitamin C is L- (+) Ascorbic Acid (in fact dextrorotary, which is basically irrelevant). Worth emphasizing is the fact that good Vitamin C is not a pure compound – it should be associated with other compounds naturally occurring in living organisms, especially flavonoids. Pure Ascorbic Acid, (although of course always in the L-form), in most cases has a much weaker effect on the body.
Vitamin C – natural or artificial?
According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) – these are so-called health claims – Vitamin C affects the following physiological processes: Vitamins are a very diverse group of organic compounds that is widely used in our body and are necessary for its proper functioning. The basic feature, which distinguishes them from other molecules, is that they are exogenous – they must be delivered to the body from the outside, because we cannot synthesise them. Vitamin C can be found under many names: Ascorbic Acid or L-Ascorbic Acid. As humans, we belong to a minority of organisms that cannot produce Vitamin C on their own. Vitamin C takes part in many enzymatic reactions that take place in our body. It is an indispensable element in almost every cell that builds our body. As previously mentioned, it is needed in many enzymatic reactions. It acts as a cofactor – a non-protein component that allows the enzymatic reaction to take place.
Thanks to this, in our body a huge amount of reactions and biochemical processes necessary for proper functioning happen. Vitamin C takes part, among others in the processes of collagen biosynthesis and maintenance of normal functions of connective tissue. The daily dose of Vitamin C advised by doctors has been established on the basis of the amount of Vitamin C that prevents scurvy – the effect of Vitamin C deficiency, manifested by spontaneous bleeding, bone, joints and muscles pain, and even tooth loss, which is the indirect result of a collagen synthesis disorder. As we all know, the recommended dose varies depending on sex, body weight, age, and amount of fluids consumed. The daily dose for a healthy person is 100 mg ascorbic acid.
Vitamin C is also known for its antioxidant properties. It is one of the most important antioxidants found in living cells. This organic substance is responsible for the neutralisation of free radicals, which are responsible for damaging the proteins, lipids and DNA that make up our cells.
- Protection of proteins and lipids from oxidative stress;
- Proper functioning of blood vessels, bones, skin, teeth, cartilage and gums;
- Acquisition of non-heme iron;
- The proper functioning of nervous and immune system;
- Maintaining proper energy metabolism.
The thing that consumers should pay attention is the division into L-Ascorbic Acid and D-Ascorbic Acid. The difference between these two molecules results from which side of the molecule, and specifically on which side of the penultimate carbon in the molecule chain, in a three-dimensional configuration, there is a hydroxyl group (made up of an oxygen and hydrogen atom). In the case when it is on the left side we deal with the L form, while when it is on the right it is the D form. Both of these forms are mirror images. Vitamin C, able to participate in enzymatic reactions, and therefore essential for our body, is only L-Ascorbic Acid. D-Ascorbic Acid is not a Vitamin C, because it does not spatially fit to the enzymes of living organisms, so that it cannot normally perform its biological functions. The second thing is the optical properties of Vitamin C. Each molecule has the ability to rotate plane-polarised light. Particles are divided into clockwise and left-handed ones, depending on which direction the polarised light passing through the substance rotates. There is a misconception that the only good Vitamin C is a left-handed vitamin. However, this is confused with the above-described division into L and D isomers. In fact, every Vitamin C molecule is dextrorotary and there is no such thing as left-handed Vitamin C, it is just a marketing trick used by other companies. It can even be said that they sell a useless “Vitamin C” because the D-isomer is the left-handed one – the previously mentioned biologically inactive one.
LEFT-HANDED VITAMIN C IS A MYTH USED AS A MARKETING TRICK BY A BUNCH OF COMPANIES FOR YEARS!!!