Health & Wellness

The Top-Rated Vitamin C Supplements of 2020

Peter Gold
Health Editor

Peter is a practitioner of naturopathic medicine, applying his craft in the Pacific Northwest. His passion is preventive care and self-healing. His philosophy is healthy habits help people live their lives to the fullest.

How We Found the Best Vitamin C Supplements

Vitamin C is a powerful micronutrient that is essential to our health and is considered by many as the go-to supplement to boost the immune system during the cold, flu, and virus season. However, many of us have begun supplementing with vitamin C all year round for the benefits it offers to brain, heart, and skin health.

While the human body requires vitamin C to perform many essential functions, it can’t produce it on its own. Thankfully, vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, can be found naturally in abundance in a variety of citrus fruits and even vegetables like broccoli. So, with all of these natural sources and even food being fortified with vitamin C, you may be surprised to know that a study of 16,000 Americans found that 33% are deficient in vitamin C.1 That is one out of every three people.

Even just moderate vitamin C deficiency can lead to a weakened immune system, fatigue, chronic pain, dry and rough skin, impaired wound healing, weight gain, and heart disease.2-5

How To Pick A Good Vitamin C Supplement & Avoid The Junk

There is little doubt that with the current flu and virus season upon us, the popularity has led to hundreds of vitamin C supplements flooding the marketplace. While these supplements all promise to deliver benefits, the reality is that many fall short. Some of the most popular brands use ineffective or insufficient doses of vitamin C, and many contain potentially harmful fillers and additives.

With so many options, it seems many of us might still be unclear about what to look for in a quality vitamin C supplement. To help cut through the clutter, we have compiled months of research into this short guide to help you know what to look for and what to avoid. We will also list out the top 5 vitamin C supplements sold today.

Vitamin C Benefits

Boosts Immunity

Keeping your immune system strong throughout the year is critical, but especially during times when viruses, the flu, and common cold are in full swing. Studies have confirmed that by getting the proper amount of vitamin C, one may be able to reduce the severity and duration of respiratory viral and flu infections.6

Powerful Antioxidant

Our bodies are constantly under attack by free radical scavengers, which cause damage to our cells and cause disease. These free radicals are brought on by oxidative stress caused due to our daily exposure to the sun, pollution, stress, alcohol, smoking, and diets high in trans fats and sugars.7 Vitamin C has been shown in studies to be a potent antioxidant that fights free radicals and even helps revive other antioxidants like vitamin E.8,9

Enhances Brain Function

A systematic review of 50 clinical studies looking at the link between vitamin C and cognitive function found that patients with Alzheimer's disease and dementia had lower plasma vitamin C levels.10
However, a study found that supplementing with vitamin C and other antioxidants can help slow cognitive decline by reducing the damage caused by free radicals.11

Improves Heart Health

A meta-analysis of 13 randomized controlled clinical trials found that supplementing with vitamin C may help improve heart health by significantly lowering LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.12

Improves Collagen Production

Your body needs vitamin C to hold cells together during the formation and storage of collagen. With sufficient vitamin C levels, your body can best produce healthy nails, hair, and skin.13

4 Things To AVOID
When Buying A Vitamin C Supplement

1. Soy Lecithin

Avoid vitamin C formulas that contain soy lecithin as it is sourced from genetically modified soybeans, which go through a harsh extraction method that uses hexane. This harmful chemical solvent is also used in glue and varnishes.14 Soy lecithin is also a cause of food allergies.15

2. Bioflavonoids

Many manufacturers claim that they can increase the absorption of vitamin C by formulating their products with bioflavonoids, which are nutrients found in the rinds of citrus fruits. While flavonoids are well known for their antioxidant benefits, there is a lack of scientific evidence backing the marketing hype that, when combined with vitamin C, it can increase the absorption rate.16,17

3. Relying on Amazon Reviews

Research showed that in March 2019, there were 1.8 million new unverified reviews, with an average of 99.6% of them being 5-star reviews.18 Most of these reviews are from people paid to write them. These fake reviews inflate the number and overall star rating of a product. When deciding on a product that can impact your health, don’t rely on Amazon reviews as they can be extremely misleading.

4. Insufficient Return Policy

A reputable vitamin C supplement brand will demonstrate they have faith in their product by offering a 100% money-back guarantee policy. Some try to complicate their refund policies by placing limitations on what kind of returns they will take. Avoid any brand that does not have at minimum a no questions asked 90-day money-back guarantee.

Why Vitamin C Is
NOT Easily Absorbed

Our bodies have a difficult time absorbing vitamin C when consumed orally through food or supplements.

Not Fat-Soluble

Vitamin C is water-soluble, and so it can make its way in and between cells. But it is not fat-soluble, which means it can’t get into the essential part of the cells, which consist of fatty tissue and membranes.

Limited Transporters

Once vitamin C is consumed, it enters the gut and requires the use of transporters to bring it across the gut wall lining. This process uses up energy, and there is a limited number of transporters available to do this job. If not enough transporters are available, then the remaining vitamin C will proceed through the digestive tract and get excreted as waste.19

Quickly Excreted

The vitamin C that makes it across the gut lining gets rapidly circulated by the blood to the essential organs like the heart, brain, and muscles. What can’t be absorbed by the cells will get excreted by the kidneys within a matter of a few short hours. To keep a consistent level of vitamin C in the body, one would need to take a dose every few hours, which is very inconvenient and unrealistic for most people.

Which Form of Vitamin C Is Best

Standard Vitamin C Supplements

The most common form of vitamin C found in supplements is water-soluble ascorbic acid, which has been traditionally sold in tablets or powders. Standard vitamin C is generally inexpensive because it uses the most basic delivery system, which has a relatively low absorption rate. If you take a 2,000 mg dose of “standard” ascorbic acid supplement, you will end up only absorbing approximately 50% or as little as 1,000 mg.20 Not exactly the bargain you thought you were getting.

Keep in mind that taking a mega-dose of standard ascorbic acid can be harmful and lead to a higher risk of kidney stones, increased uric acid levels, diarrhea, and other digestive issues.21

Liposomal Vitamin C Supplements

Liposome technology is a relatively new method used by a few high-quality brands to increase the absorption of vitamin C. Compared to standard ascorbic acid pills, studies have demonstrated that liposomal vitamin C offers better absorption and maximum effectiveness.22

The manufacturing process takes a high-quality vitamin C and injects it into microscopic spheres, resembling tiny bubbles. Studies have shown that the spheres act as a protective envelope safely transporting the nutrients through the harsh digestive elements, helping to prevent oxidative damage, and delivering it directly into the bloodstream.23

Each sphere has two layers and is made from phospholipid fats, the same kinds of fats that make up human cell membranes. Your body sees the liposome sphere just as it does any other dietary fats, and it gets easily absorbed by the lymphatic system.

Studies have shown that phospholipid fats are almost entirely absorbed, usually over 90%, and quickly show up in blood plasma.24 While liposomal may cost a bit more than standard ascorbic acid tablets or powders, the health benefit of increased absorption of this essential nutrient is most often worth it. After all, your health is important.

Top 3 Criteria For A Quality
Liposomal Vitamin C Supplement

We spent months researching vitamin C supplements and gathering user feedback. The dosage and delivery system help differentiate high-quality vitamin C supplements from generic ones. Below are the three most essential aspects to consider before deciding on which vitamin C brand is best for your needs.

2020’s Top Five Vitamin C Supplements

Our review encompassed 84 different vitamin C supplements, putting each through our rigorous Review Scout assessment process. To determine 2020’s Top 5 Vitamin C Supplements, we look for predicted effectiveness, supporting studies, safety, pricing, return policy, and overall customer satisfaction.

#1 Stonehenge Health Dynamic Liposomal Vitamin C

A+

Overall Grade

#1 Stonehenge Health Dynamic Liposomal Vitamin C

  • OVERALL RATING9.7/10
  • Predicted Effectiveness9.8/10
  • Ingredient Quality9.7/10
  • Value9.5/10
  • Return Policy9.8/10
  • User Rating9.6/10
PROS
  • Liposomal Technology
  • Phosphatidylcholine from Sunflower
  • Potent 1,500 mg daily dose
  • Endorsed by a Doctor
  • Vegetarian Capsules, Non-GMO, No Gluten, Lactose, Antibiotics, artificial ingredients, or fillers
  • Verified 90-day 100% money-back return policy
CONS
  • Often out of stock due to high demand
Why We Chose It

Stonehenge Health's Dynamic Liposomal Vitamin C is Review Scout's top choice. This formula contains a potent dose of 1,500 mg of Vitamin C. It uses a high-quality liposomal delivery system using phosphatidylcholine sourced from non-GMO sunflower.

In reviewing dozens of vitamin C brands, we found that most use the basic water-soluble form of vitamin C, which tends to have absorption challenges. Stonehenge Health uses ascorbyl palmitate to increase its absorption power. Ascorbyl palmitate is a form of ascorbic acid that is fat-soluble and highly bioavailable.

Dynamic Liposomal Vitamin C also uses phosphatidylcholine and not bioflavonoids to maximize absorption. We were able to verify that Stonehenge Health's formula does not contain any synthetic fillers, artificial ingredients, and is not using the dangerous chemical Hexane.

Stonehenge Health backs its products with a no-questions-asked, 90-day money-back guarantee and is one of the few brands to be endorsed by a board-certified doctor. We also like that they offer customers discounts on bundles. Click on the link below to see their current specials.

*Results are based on user-generated experiences with these products, and individual results may vary. Please refer to the manufacturer’s product website for detailed information.

#2 LivOn Laboratories Lypo–Spheric Vitamin C

A-

Overall Grade

#2 LivOn Laboratories Lypo–Spheric Vitamin C

  • OVERALL RATING8.7/10
  • Predicted Effectiveness9.4/10
  • Ingredient Quality9.3/10
  • Value7/10
  • Return Policy9.8/10
  • User Rating8.2/10
PROS
  • Liposomal Technology
  • Contains Phosphatidylcholine
  • Potent 2,000 mg daily dose
  • Non-GMO, no Gluten, dairy, sugar, artificial ingredients, or fillers
  • Lifetime return policy
CONS
  • Very expensive
  • Made from Soy Lecithin
  • Not appropriate for those limiting their salt intake
  • Requires to be mixed with water
  • User complaints related to product taste, headaches & digestive discomfort
Why We Chose It

LivOn Laboratories Lypo–Spheric® Vitamin C is a quality liposomal product that uses a patented delivery system. The product contains a daily dose of 1,000 mg of vitamin C and 1,000 mg of phosphatidylcholine. While we were happy to see that LivOn Laboratories uses phosphatidylcholine as its phospholipid source, we were disappointed to see that it is sourced from soy lecithin. The company states that the soy is non-GMO, but it still may not be suitable for those who have soy allergies or trying to eliminate soy from their diets.

The product comes in individual serving packets containing a gel that needs to be squeezed into cold water. The gel does not dissolve, and users have complained it tastes like salty Vaseline. The salt taste likely comes from LivOn’s uses of sodium ascorbate, a form of ascorbic acid. Some feel that sodium ascorbate can reduce the acidity of vitamin C. However, it may not be appropriate for users who are needing to reduce or eliminate salt from their diet. LivOn Laboratories ingredients come in at a close second to the top-ranked brand on our list.

*Results are based on user-generated experiences with these products, and individual results may vary. Please refer to the manufacturer’s product website for detailed information.

#3 American Health Ester-C ®

B

Overall Grade

#3 American Health Ester-C ®

  • OVERALL RATING8.2/10
  • Predicted Effectiveness8.5/10
  • Ingredient Quality8.8/10
  • Value8.7/10
  • Return Policy7.5/10
  • User Rating7.6/10
PROS
  • 1,000 mg daily dose
  • Vitamin C as Ester-C®
  • Contains Bioflavonoids
  • Veggie capsules, Non-GMO, and gluten-free
CONS
  • Lower than an optimal amount of vitamin C
  • Contains Gelatin
  • Large capsules are difficult to swallow
  • Quality concerns regarding empty capsules
  • Return policy limited to point of purchase
Why We Chose It

American Health’s vitamin C uses Ester-C® with added citrus bioflavonoids. The daily dose is 1,000 mg, which is a bit lower than our recommended 1,500 mg dose. This formula uses Ester-C® , which is calcium added to ascorbic acid to help to reduce the acidic feeling some users experience when taking basic ascorbic acid. Various manufacturers claim that Ester-C® offers better absorption, but to date, there is no reliable evidence to support this claim. American Health also uses bioflavonoids to claim better absorption. However, as we previously noted, there is a lack of scientific evidence backing marketing claims regarding bioflavonoids and absorption.

Consumers have voiced concerns about receiving bottles with some capsules either unfilled or only partially filled. Additionally, some users have found that the large 1,000 mg capsule is too difficult to swallow. Lastly, American Health does not offer any product guarantee or return policy on their website.

*Results are based on user-generated experiences with these products, and individual results may vary. Please refer to the manufacturer’s product website for detailed information.

#4 Emergen-C

C+

Overall Grade

#4 Emergen-C

  • OVERALL RATING7.7/10
  • Predicted Effectiveness7.7/10
  • Ingredient Quality7.4/10
  • Value7.8/10
  • Return Policy7.5/10
  • User Rating8.3/10
PROS
  • 1,000 mg dose of Vitamin C
  • Contains Zinc, Vitamin E, and Manganese
  • Non-GMO and Gluten-Free
CONS
  • Lower than an optimal dose of vitamin C
  • Uses standard ascorbic acid
  • Contains maltodextrin and silicon dioxide
  • Contains Sugar
  • Return policy limited to point of purchase
Why We Chose It

Emergen-C is a popular product that combines vitamin C and B with other vitamins and nutrients. Each dose comes in an individual packet of powder that needs to be mixed with water. The vitamin C used in this formula is standard ascorbic acid with a daily dose of 1,000 mg. The dosage is lower than other brands we evaluated, and there is little in this formula to help with absorption. However, Emergen-C does include zinc ascorbate, which some studies have shown can be beneficial for the immune system.30 Unfortunately, those studies used a minimum of 75 mg of zinc, and Emergen-C only has 2 mg. So, you may not want to rely too heavily on the zinc in this formula to offer much immune support. This brand has done a good job marketing its product over the years but found itself having to settle a class-action lawsuit in 2014 because they could not substantiate the claims they made. We found Emergen-C to be similar to Airborne in the fact that they don’t pack a potent and highly bioavailable dose of vitamin C but have elements that are like a low-dose multi-vitamin.

*Results are based on user-generated experiences with these products, and individual results may vary. Please refer to the manufacturer’s product website for detailed information.

#5 Whole Family Naturals

C-

Overall Grade

#5 Whole Family Naturals

  • OVERALL RATING7.0/10
  • Predicted Effectiveness6.6/10
  • Ingredient Quality7.1/10
  • Value6.9/10
  • Return Policy7.2/10
  • User Rating7.2/10
PROS
  • 500 mg dose of Vitamin C
  • Contains Bioflavonoids
  • Uses stevia leaf extract instead of sugar
  • Non-GMO, Gluten and Soy Free, Vegan
CONS
  • Lower than optimal dose of vitamin C
  • Low potency sources of vitamin C
  • Powder form can be inconvenient
  • Return policy limited to point of purchase
Why We Chose It

Whole Family Naturals Vitamin C uses a blend of acerola cherry, camu camu, and kiwi to derive it's 550 mg dose of vitamin C. It also includes a mixture of bioflavonoids to increase absorption. The supplement comes in a powder form, which requires mixing with water. We were happy to see that they use stevia leaf extract instead of sugar, and consumers seem to enjoy the taste. The problem with this product is that acerola cherry, camu camu, and kiwi in powder forms are notorious for offering tiny amounts of actual vitamin C. Acerola cherry in the powder form is only about 1.5% vitamin C. Camu camu is a bit better at about 3% vitamin C. With an already small 500 mg dose, the actual amount of vitamin C contained in this product is somewhat questionable. As with other products containing bioflavonoids, there is a lack of scientific evidence backing marketing claims asserting increased absorption. Whole Family Naturals appears to be a brand created for the sole purpose of selling on Amazon. As is such, their website has no mention of any available money-back guarantee, and so consumers are stuck relying on Amazon's limited return policy.

*Results are based on user-generated experiences with these products, and individual results may vary. Please refer to the manufacturer’s product website for detailed information.

Citations
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