Natural Vs. Synthetic Vitamin C

Now that I’ve discussed why antioxidants are important, I can talk about one of the more famous antioxidants: Vitamin C.

Vitamin C plays an important role in the immune system of humans and dogs.    Vitmain C has been shown to increase the amount of immunoglobulins in the blood.  Immunoglobins, also called antibodies, are enzymes in your body that are responsible for recognizing a disease in your body.  All mammals have very similar immune systems, so what has been discovered that helps with humans will also help with your dog.

One interesting difference between humans and dogs is that dogs can produce their own Vitamin C.  But this doesn’t mean that Vitamin C isn’t important.  Because of the chemical structure of Vitamin C, it dissolves very easily in water, which means that it can leave the body very easily.  So there is no harm in using too much, but the benefits to your dogs body and immune system are great.

However, it’s not as simple as just taking a pill.  Here is the structure for Ascorbic Acid:

This is the main form of Vitamin C, and the form that is most prevalent in Vitamin C pills.  However, the vitamin C in nature has another form that aren’t represented in the pill.  It looks like this:

It seems like a small difference (the Oxygen atoms in the lower part are double bounded), but to a dog’s cells this could make a big difference.  Studies have shown that vitamin C from a citrus extract is 35% better absorbed into the body.  It has also been shown to be absorbed better in red blood cells, which might mean that it is absorbed better in all cells.

This is another case of how synthetic vitamins are misleading – you aren’t really getting what you have paid for.  Vitamins from food sources seem to be better absorbed, and have better health benefits.  So what are good sources of vitamin C?

The best sources of natural Vitamin C are Citrus fruits like Oranges, but don’t feed these to your dog.  Oranges are very acidic and might cause stomach upset.  The best sources for a dog are from green leafy vegetables (but not spinach). I just chop up some lettuce or cabbage  very finely and add them to the meat that I am serving.


Thiel R.J. Natural Vitamins may be superior to synthetic ones.  Medical Hypothesis (2000) 55(6), 461-469

Vinson J.A., Bose, P.  Comparative bioavailability to humans of ascorbic acid alone or in a citrus extract.  The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (1988) 48, 601-604

Vinson J. Human Supplementation with different forms of Vitamin C.  University of Scranton,  Scranton PA

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