Vitamins, Are They Enough?

Any biologist knows that roses don't have hips because they are not vertebrates. Ha! Okay, back on task:

Rose hips are the fruit of a rose bush. All flowers give rise to fruits, and the rose is no exception. When I hike (just got back from another one), I look for wild or feral rosebushes and munch out on the "hips" as soon as they are ready (usually early autumn). They are often found on the bushes throughout the entire winter, just waiting for you to come along. Eaten fresh or dried, they are high in vitamin C.

Rose hips are a rich source of bioflavinoids. Bioflavinoids improve uptake and utilization of vitamin C. Albert Szent-Gyorgyi won the Nobel prize for his research with vitamin C and related factors back in the 30's. He actually proposed the term "Vitamin P" for the ("protective"?) phytochemicals in bioflavinoids. In a rather adorable, unplanned bit of research, Szent-Gyorgyi was feeding pure vitamin C to his lab animals. One evening, some of them snuck out of their cage and ate his dinner when he wasn't looking: the meal consisted of stuffed green peppers. Szent-Gyorgyi observed that the animals that ate the peppers seemed to require considerably less pure ascorbic acid than did the less lucky critters. Peppers, along with many fruits and vegetables, are high in bioflavinoids.

Many folks would do well to note this next section: there is so very little rose hips powder in most "rose-hips C" tablets that it is a waste of money to pay extra for what amounts to nearly zilch. I (in agreement with Linus Pauling) recommend that people buy the cheapest vitamin C they can find, and take a lot of it. This means moderate amounts very frequently. The only reason to pay more for "C" is if you have a sensitive tummy and need a buffered form, and rose hips have essentially nothing to do with that.

I recommend that people take cheap C, AND eat right. Foods are a lousy source of vitamin C but an excellent source of bioflavinoids.  Vitamin C tablets are a lousy source of bioflavinoids, but a good source of C.  Good match. The same story goes for all other vitamins, its better to take vitamins than not to, but eating a varied diet full of fruits and vegetables will enhance their effect and give you great health as a result.

And by the way, a green or red pepper IS a fruit. So are pumpkins, green beans and squash. They all come from flowers. A rose by any other name?


Hughes R.E. and Jones P.R. (1971) Natural and synthetic sources of  vitamin C. J. Sci. Food. Agric. 22 551 552.

Jones E. and Hughes R.E. (1984) The influence of bioflavonoids on the absorption of vitamin C. IRCS Med. Sci. 12 320

Vinson J A, Bose P. (1983) Comparative bioavailability of synthetic and natural vitamin C in Guinea pigs. Nutr Rep Intl  27(4):875.

Vinson J A, Bose P. (1988) Comparative bioavailability to humans of ascorbic acid alone or in a citrus extract. Am J Clin Nutr 48:6014.

-Andrew Saul